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

Technorati Tags: , ,


JP Paulus said...

Classism in the US is very intertwined with racism, so it's almost impossible to compartmentalize the two.

But you're right -- classism (especially for whites) needs to be addressed---that's how the Ku Kux Klan has been able to recruit for their "cause"