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January 19, 2009

danah boyd is very, very close to becoming dr. danah boyd

danah boyd has posted her doctoral dissertation online. Here is the abstract. (I haven’t yet read the dissertation, but I’m pretty confident it’s great.)

“Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics”

Abstract: As social network sites like MySpace and Facebook emerged, American teenagers began adopting them as spaces to mark identity and socialize with peers. Teens leveraged these sites for a wide array of everyday social practices – gossiping, flirting, joking around, sharing information, and simply hanging out. While social network sites were predominantly used by teens as a peer-based social outlet, the unchartered nature of these sites generated fear among adults. This dissertation documents my 2.5-year ethnographic study of American teens’ engagement with social network sites and the ways in which their participation supported and complicated three practices – self-presentation, peer sociality, and negotiating adult society.

My analysis centers on how social network sites can be understood as networked publics which are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined community that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice. Networked publics support many of the same practices as unmediated publics, but their structural differences often inflect practices in unique ways. Four properties – persistence, searchability, replicability, and scalability – and three dynamics – invisible audiences, collapsed contexts, and the blurring of public and private – are examined and woven throughout the discussion.

While teenagers primarily leverage social network sites to engage in common practices, the properties of these sites configured their practices and teens were forced to contend with the resultant dynamics. Often, in doing so, they reworked the technology for their purposes. As teenagers learned to navigate social network sites, they developed potent strategies for managing the complexities of and social awkwardness incurred by these sites. Their strategies reveal how new forms of social media are incorporated into everyday life, complicating some practices and reinforcing others. New technologies reshape public life, but teens’ engagement also reconfigures the technology itself.

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May 14, 2008

Zenzuu: The social network with a one-track mind

So, I was chatting with the driver of the limo my hosts in Las Vegas kindly supplied for me. When I said that I write about technology, he told me about his startup. It’s a social network that he’s confident will knock FaceBook and MySpace off the map. So, when I got back home tonight, I took a look. The Zenzuu explanatory page consists of a 6-minute video right off of late-night cable.

The pitch is that if you check into Zenzuu 30 times per month, they’ll give you 80% of the ad revs. And if you sign other people up, you’ll get a cut of their ad revs. All of which is fine, and reminds us of the absurd amounts of money we users generate for the social networks we use. But Zenzuu is so focused on the revenues that the video doesn’t mention a single feature of the site.

The fact that all the ads on the site are for Zenzuu itself pushes it over the edge into self-parody.

By the way, would you surprised to learn that Zenzuu’s privacy policy seems to suck, although I’m not sure because it’s in a font designed by and for squirrels.[Tags: ]

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