13 July, 2007

MyBook and Facespace

The essay Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace by Danah Boyd caught my eye a short time ago when it appeared on Boing Boing. Since reading it, the piece has been featured on BBC and through that, gained a modest notoriety.

She has spent quite a significant amount of time on this project. She has been "engaged in ethnographic research on social network sites since February 2003." Considering the fact that she probably knows more about these sites than I ever will, I feel slightly smug knowing that she has made some of the same discoveries that I have had about MySpace and Facebook. Her observations are far more nuanced than mine, but I think we share a fundamentally similar view.

So, the college-bound networking kids flock to Facebook and the kids working out of highschool or connected to community colleges mob MySpace. Facebook was only open to colleges (specifically Harvard) when it first started in 2004 and then later opened itself up to high schools and then anyone in order to compete for advertising revenue with the wide open MySpace. This initial collegiate focus remains its modus operandi. I only used MySpace to remain connected to my friends who had either remained back home or had gone to colleges not initially accepted into Facebook. My school was first accepted to Collegefacebook.com, an early and unsuccessful competitor. I joined it as soon as possible but when we were admitted to the "regular Facebook," I never looked back. (till now, and every once in a while I get birthday announcements from them.)

I think it's a fascinating beginning to a larger discussion on class in America. As Danah so apologetically reiterates time and again, we have little acceptable language for discussing American Class. The terms we now use like "middle class, blue collar, white collar, lower class and upper class" are reproachfully vague and utterly lacking in nuance. They smack historically of Marxist class divisions in society, and simply relate everything to annual household income. Boyd references Nalini Kotamraju in her defense of the terms she chose: "Hegemonic teens" and "Subaltern teens." These terms are by no means objective, but I feel they do broadly fit into the realities of American society.

Overall this interests me because it further illuminates the weaknesses in the current terms used to demarcate class distinction. I am exploring the connections and disconnections between racism and classism. Both are at work in the structures of our lives, but how they continue to influence us and each other is the answer to a lifetime of work (or more). While I am committed to the biblical call to end racism, I can't help but wonder if classism is being ignored to the detriment of us all.

Citation: Boyd, Danah. 2007. "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace ." Apophenia Blog Essay. June 24 . http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html

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10 July, 2007

I'm still alive

I just took my final exam in Choral Conducting on Friday. I'm surprised to be writing about it actually. I'm working on that cumulative post about how I got into the city, but there are some nuances still to be addressed.

I haven't concentrated honestly on my musical skills since my senior recital. I have been very fortunate to work with Dr. Robert Harris, the head of the Choral department at Northwestern. The classes were very personal and engaging, and my fellow students were there for their masters, which meant that the topics of discussion were always in depth. Even over a 3 week period, my skills and conception of choral conducting have grown.

4th of July made my neighborhood sound like a warzone. I was in Pilsen for most of the evening, visiting Mark Tao and old friends. When I got home around 11, the entire area was shrouded in a noxious cloud of saltpeter and ash. Perhaps a new volcano had pushed its way up at cermak and pulaski.

Nothing essentially hilarious has happened to me except that I was given a poetic love note on the El. I suppose it's not as hilarious to her...