Monday, January 19, 2009

Dissertation: Taken Out of Context : American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics / danah boyd

Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics / by danah michele boyd

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Information Management and Systems and the Designated Emphasis in New Media in the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley / Fall 2008 / 406 pp.


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.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1. My Project
1.1.1. Dissertation Organization

1.2. The Social Construction of Teenagers
1.3. Technology and Change
1.4. Locating Networked Publics
1.4.1. Public and Publics
1.4.2. Teenagers and Publics
1.4.3. Publics, Networked
1.5. The Structure of Networked Publics
1.5.1. Properties of Networked Publics

1.5.2. New Dynamics Resulting from Networked Publics

Chapter 2: Choose Your Own Ethnography

2.1. Ethnography in Context
2.1.1. Ethnography and the Internet

2.1.2. Networked Ethnography
2.2. My Field Site in and of Networks
2.2.1. From Youth to American Teenagers
2.2.2. From Networked Publics to MySpace and Facebook
2.2.3. From the United States to Teens’ Homes and IHOP
2.2.4. Locating Myself in My Field Site......

2.2.5. An Imperfect Field Site
2.3. My Data
2.3.1. Online Data and Observation

2.3.2. Interviews
2.3.3. Fieldwork in Less Structured Environments

2.3.4. External Data
2.3.5. Complexities of Online Data
2.4. Analyzing Relationships and Technology

Chapter 3: Social Network Sites and Social Media

3.1. The Rise of Social Network Sites
3.1.1. MySpace and Teens
3.1.2. Facebook and Teens
3.1.3. By the Numbers and in Practice
3.2. Participation in Context
3.2.1. Negotiating Multiple Communication Channels

3.2.2. Teen vs. Adult Social Media Practices

Chapter 4: Writing Oneself into Being

4.1. Locating Identity
4.2. Writing Identity into Being Online

4.3. The Art of Profile Creation and Management
4.3.1. Techniques for Self-Presentation
4.3.2. Bedroom Culture and Fashion

4.3.3. Varying Degrees of Participation
4.4. Self-Presentations in Context
4.5. Performing Falsehoods—Deception, Play, or Control?
4.5.1. Motivations for Providing Inaccurate Information

4.5.2. Legal and Technical Limitations
4.5.3. Safety through Inaccuracy
4.6. Controlling Access: Public or Private?
4.7. Managing Identity in Networked Publics

Chapter 5: Friendship, Status, and Peer Worlds

5.1. Peer Relations and Teen Friendship
5.2. Pressure to Participate: Signing Up and Opting Out
5.2.1. Pressure to Join
5.2.2. Failure to Engage
5.3. MySpace vs. Facebook: Social Categories and Networked Turf
5.3.1. Adoption Practices
5.3.2. Distinctions and Social Categories
5.3.3. Reinforcing Offline Social Categories
5.3.4. Status and Digital Fashion
5.4. Public Displays of Connection and Status

5.4.1. Strategies for Friending
5.4.2. Hierarchies of Friends
5.5. Status Battles and Peer Dramas

5.6. Peer Sociality in Networked Publics

Chapter 6: Power and Control

6.1. Social and Structural Controls
6.2. Contemporary Adult-Teen Dynamics
6.2.1. Household Dynamics
6.2.2. Engaging with Teachers, Youth Pastors, and Other Trusted Adults
6.3. Fears and Moral Panics
6.3.1. The MySpace Moral Panic
6.3.2. Teen Responses to a Culture of Fear

6.4. Access, Privacy, and Control
6.4.1. Restricting Access and Mobility

6.4.2. Limiting Privacy
6.4.3. Network Effects of Control
6.5. In the Pursuit of Freedom

Chapter 7: Lasting Impressions

7.1. Lessons from the Everyday Lives of Teens
7.2. The Significance of Publics
7.3. The Future of Networked Publics


Appendix 1: Brief Descriptions of Teens
Appendix 2: Features and Functionality
Appendix 3: Creative Commons License



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