The latest issue of Australia’s The Knowledge Tree leads with Social Networks Sites: Public, Private, or What? by danah boyd. It’s just the right length and covers the major issues around teenagers and web social networks (MySpace, Facebook) that should interest most educators. The article discusses how mediated social networks have changed all the rules:
Social network sites are yet another form of public space. Yet, while mediated and unmediated publics play similar roles in people’s lives, the mediated publics have four properties that are quite unique to them.
- Persistence. What you say sticks around. This is great for asynchronous communication, but it also means that what you said at 15 is still accessible when you are 30 and have purportedly outgrown those childish days.
- Searchability. My mother would’ve loved the ability to scream “Find” into the ether and determine where I was hanging out with my friends. She couldn’t, and I’m thankful. Today’s teens’ parents have found their hangouts with the flick of a few keystrokes.
- Replicability. Digital bits are copyable; this means that you can copy a conversation from one place and paste it into another place. It also means that it’s difficult to determine if the content was doctored.
- Invisible audiences. While it is common to face strangers in public life, our eyes provide a good sense of who can overhear our expressions. In mediated publics, not only are lurkers invisible, but persistence, searchability, and replicability introduce audiences that were never present at the time when the expression was created.
Pass this on to any educators who think that technology is the devil or that they can hide until all this Internet stuff is gone. Following danah boyd’s advice might actually encourage critical thinking and learning.