Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Networked Public



Cultural researcher Danah Boyd explains some of the more subtle motivations of social networking in "Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites". In the essay she expands on the concept of "public" spaces, impressions and attitudes to reveal the effects social networking may be having on today's youth. With social networking sites, youth are able to create a 'profile' for themselves and post 'comments' on each other's profiles. As Boyd puts it,

"Friends are publicly articulated, profiles are publicly viewed, and comments are publicly visible"
She focuses specifically on myspace, but the implications of a "networked public" carry on to other sites. (The above picture is a typical example of a picture posted as a comment on myspace)


The term, "Networked Public" in this case is used to distinguish it from our usual understanding public. It's further broken down into four 'properties': Persistance, Searchability, Replicatbility, and Invisible audiences. In light of these potential consequences of the onlline public, the picture above starts to make more sense. From a youthful perspective there's a lot at stake. So an image, especially an idealized cartoon, can be a mask for future public reception and thereby a guard against the four properties. It would be a short jump to turn that into an art project in that it could incorporate a visual style, and purpose students are familiar with.


From a different point of view, the movie, "Catfish" shows a very different manifestation of this networked public. It turns out to be a story of desperation in a deceptive guise. The movie attempts to highlight how one's impression on the internet can be subtly manipulated to create an entirely perception than that of reality. The movie in particular likes to play on those paranoias, but I think it would be misleading for a teacher to attempt to instill that paranoia into students under the auspice of making them 'aware'. Suffice to say, it's a fine line and one that should be tread carefully, as is the majority of properties of the networked public.


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