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Self-segregation on social networks?
September 29, 2009 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Are social networks becoming segregated by choice?
"MySpace is no longer cool. As a matter of fact, its number of users is now one-half the size of rival Facebook. Is this because MySpace is too black for the rest of America? Teenage Internet users may hold the answer. High-schoolers report their use of the social-networking giants along racial lines—MySpace is seen as “black,” while Facebook is “white.”
posted by Marky (252 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always just saw MySpace as "a crappier Geocities."
posted by kmz at 12:30 PM on September 29, 2009 [64 favorites]


Yeah, that's why no one uses MySpace!
posted by battlebison at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Justine Larbalestier blogged about listening to a talk from boyd as well has her experiences with teenagers using Myspace and Facebook.

Larbalestier is a white Australian YA author who is very conscious of making sure there is diversity in her novels.
posted by sugarfish at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The primary background color of myspace.com: #000000.
The primary background color of facebook.com: #FFFFFF.

QED.
posted by Plutor at 12:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [56 favorites]


I've also heard that the reason hiphop isn't popular in mainstream American culture is because of this same issue. It's seen as "black." No wonder Beyonce didn't win :(
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:38 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one uses Twitter
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, I think this comes down to socioeconomics.

From the beginning, Facebook was a college thing, and I think some of that still carries over. Sadly, more whites than blacks attend college in America.

It would be interesting to see how this breaks down across gender AND ethnicity. For example, if Facebook membership does correlate with college attendance, there would be more black females on Facebook than black males.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


Justine Larbalestier blogged about listening to a talk from boyd

Just go straight to danah herself. I saw her give that talk at PDF. It was excellent. Oh, and here's the video.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 12:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's just say they both cheapen our collective existence, turn users into voyeuristic and self-centered ninnies, spawn all sorts of weird normative relations ("facebook friends"), and generally turn our network of relations into an achievement and commodity. Call it a wash.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:41 PM on September 29, 2009 [34 favorites]


Y'see, Facebook users type like this ; clickety clickety click click

while MySpace users, they type like this; clickety clickety click click

uh ... y'see actually, both keyboards make the same sound ... but like, some of those hands is black!
posted by mannequito at 12:41 PM on September 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


Dannah Boyd's work is interesting. From her previous stuff, I'd wonder if it's not so much blackness as poor-ness that has lost MySpace its cachet --- it's anarchic and often ulgy and broken, a bit sleazier and not as well organized as Facebook. Facebook's neat and clean and sans-serif and upwardly mobile. It started as a site for elite college kids; then it spread out to college kids; now it's the site for middle- and upper-class peeps.
posted by Diablevert at 12:42 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Myspace and Facebook have absolutely been divided by class, and thus by race. Up until very recently, Facebook contained all my upper-middle-class college friends, while Myspace had all my lower-middle to lower-class high school friends.

It's getting a bit "better" in that all my rural white friends have started to join FB.

I've only scanned danah boyd's talk, but she is spot-on in pointing out that white liberals don't really do enough to reach out to the "non-FB" demographic. I think this was clearly seen in the Prop. 8 battle, when all the EqCA advertisements were targeted to white, upper-middle-class voters.
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Facebook's neat and clean and sans-serif and upwardly mobile.

Yeah, I mean Facebook probably wins because it has a professional white background.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:43 PM on September 29, 2009 [17 favorites]


And... the half-a-clue award goes to...

1. Of course school officials paint their school as integrated happy land to outsiders.
2. Of course kids are just as segregated in their social networking online as they are offline.

And of course, it's easy to paint it as "self segregation". I'm sure no kids have parents who have spoken down about other people, or carefully groomed their own social networks in the same way that have influenced how they associate.
posted by yeloson at 12:44 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought I'd seen this before, but it's a common theme in Dannah Boyd's work. Here's a thread from a few years ago: Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace.
posted by pb at 12:44 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is precisely the reason why sociologists aren't taken seriously in the scientific community.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [22 favorites]


Let's just say they both cheapen our collective existence, turn users into voyeuristic and self-centered ninnies, spawn all sorts of weird normative relations ("facebook friends"), and generally turn our network of relations into an achievement and commodity.

True, but MySpace does all that and it's ugly!
posted by diogenes at 12:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember MySpace as having pages so full of crap (Flash, I'm looking at you!) that my old Mac would crawl to halt if I ever made the mistake of clicking on a link to one of them. Of course, old Macs are Stuff White People Like.
posted by tommasz at 12:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The primary purpose of Facebook appears to be for my wife to use it to get into weird one upmanship contests with people who she went to school with 20 years ago and half a state away, and who are now all conservative Christians or whatever and who she has basically nothing to do with other than these weird intense online dramas, and at the end of the day someone gets unfreindsed and it's all very dramatic. I do not like Facebook. Twitter, on the other hand, is like a serious tool, used for important stuff. Yay Twitter.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


This is precisely the reason why sociologists aren't taken seriously in the scientific community.

danah boyd is an ethnographer. An anthropologist, really. And also an incredibly insightful and tuned-in person. It's critical to take what she says seriously.
posted by muddgirl at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Since I have neither a MySpace nor Facebook account, I have transcended race.
posted by ardgedee at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2009 [32 favorites]


When will Americans learn the difference between class and race? I think Boyd known what's actually going on but the "The Root" is casting their own biases very heavily on this interview.
posted by GuyZero at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


White people use gmail. Gangbangers use yahoo or hotmail. But they should use gmail.
posted by snofoam at 12:51 PM on September 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


The problem with describing Myspace as "ghetto" and Facebook as "preppy" is that Myspace was a crappy mess before Facebook ever existed. Facebook took off primarily because it was the first competitor with a clean, neat aesthetic that didn't buckle under server loads (I remember Friendster gaining some traction, but then having continuous server problems).

Facebook has always courted the college crowd. It started at Harvard, spread to other colleges, and eventually made its way to corporate networks and then the mainstream. High-schoolers are involved only because of their older siblings. It's definitely a high-school/college divide more than a racial divide. Unfortunately in America, college education is still a pretty accurate indicator of racial differences.

And of course, it's easy to paint it as "self segregation". I'm sure no kids have parents who have spoken down about other people, or carefully groomed their own social networks in the same way that have influenced how they associate.

Humans naturally self-segregate to a certain degree. In absence of racial lines, or even along with them, they'll divide into jocks, nerds, emo kids, goths, et cetera. I'd be willing to bet half the parents couldn't pick out the punks from the emo kids or goths, so this segregation is definitely not parent-influenced.
posted by explosion at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


I finally figure out how to make facebook work for me. I joined under a pseudonym and only connected to people I actually want to be connected to. I locked down my privacy settings so only my friends can see anything, and I updated my main page so that nothing posted by anybody else displays. Now I use it as a blog with a built in audience. I post whatever stupid crap amuses me, and I chuckle that people are actually going to read it.
posted by diogenes at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's critical to take what she says seriously.

Seriously?
posted by fixedgear at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I work at a middle school is for all intents and purposes an entirely black. For what its worth, my kids are all on Bebo.
posted by john m at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is precisely the reason why sociologists aren't taken seriously in the scientific community.

danah boyd is an ethnographer. An anthropologist, really. And also an incredibly insightful and tuned-in person. It's critical to take what she says seriously.

Goddamn it, Metafilter, you've finally done it. You've finally killed my ability to distinguish sarcasm on the internet. I don't even fucking know anymore.
posted by Caduceus at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009 [46 favorites]


How can Facebook be racist if I have black Friends™?

(That said, this is a facet of social networks that I have noticed many, many times. It makes me feel squicky, but not squicky enough to resurrect my MySpace profile.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:57 PM on September 29, 2009


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters. Names like ee cummings and k.d. lang are in the public consciousness. If that's how someone spells their name, that is how you should spell their name.

I don't care if you think it's dumb, you probably also think other names are dumb, like "misspellings" of common names. You may even be correct. At the same time, "correcting" that "misspelling" is wrong.
posted by explosion at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't understand what's so controversial about what boyd is saying, or my support for her.

I am a scientist and an engineer, for the record. I take boyd's research very seriously.

White people use gmail. Gangbangers use yahoo or hotmail. But they should use gmail.

This was probably a joke by boyd actually addresses this:
Social network sites are not like email where it doesn't matter if you're on Hotmail or Yahoo. When you choose MySpace or Facebook, you can't send messages to people on the other site. You can't Friend people on the other site. There's a cultural wall between users. And if there's no way for people to communicate across the divide, you can never expect them to do so.
posted by muddgirl at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The primary background color of myspace.com: #000000.
The primary background color of facebook.com: #FFFFFF.


MySpace is a leather jacket.
Facebook is a wedding gown.
Poor orkut, always the color of a bridesmaid's dress.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


MySpace is Wal-Mart.

Facebook is Target.

End of analysis.
posted by flarbuse at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [38 favorites]


MySpace is seen as “black,” while Facebook is “white.”

No, Myspace is white trash while Facebook is for everybody else. I'm half serious.

Really, the divide doesn't even seem to have to do with how much money you have as much as how literate you are and how good/bad your taste is. Myspace allows for more customization, but that generally means you have a bunch of kids *~~~TypinG liKe ThIs~~~* filling their page with so much (oh so personal) horrible commercial Flash content that it burns your eyes, whereas Facebook is a bit more formal and in my experience more literate.

But no, I don't buy the racial theory. I think it's got a lot more to do with whether communicating in an intelligent manner was valued in your family or not.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2009 [25 favorites]


Facebook is Target.

Is that a soft 'g' or a hard one?
posted by gman at 1:03 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters. Names like ee cummings and k.d. lang are in the public consciousness. If that's how someone spells their name, that is how you should spell their name.

I disagree. Cummings, for one, prefered the uppercase spelling of his name. Secondly, it's pretentious and I can't stand it when people lowercase their names, or when they refuse to capitalize in general, and, in my own writing, I am not bound by their typographic whimsy, even when referring to them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2009 [95 favorites]


White people value communicating in an intelligent manner like this.

Black people value communicating in an intelligent manner like this.
posted by explosion at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is precisely the reason why sociologists aren't taken seriously in the scientific community.


When biologists attempt social theory, they aren't taken seriously by us social scientists either. Stephen Pinker, I'm looking at you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I didn't stop using MySpace because of the ethnicity of its users. I left MySpace because:

1) Its more or less owned by Rupert Murdoch.
2) Facebook is easier to use and had more interesting features.
3) MySpace Music and Comedy requests bugged the heck out of me.

Indeed, if anything, white musicians, comedians and business moguls drove me away from MySpace and into the arms of Facebook.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Didn't Facebook, at least until recently, restrict membership first to college students, then to other verifyable organizations versus myspace where anyone could join?

The Target in Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn is full of black people.
posted by snofoam at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2009


I don't understand what's so controversial about what boyd is saying, or my support for her.

Perhaps because her logic is seriously wanting?

For instance…
At the end of the day, their choice ultimately comes down to: Where are my friends? They’ll marry it across other lines—I like the aesthetics of this more, or the bands that I listen to are on this one, or this is the ‘cool hip’ one, this is the ‘new one’—but if their friends weren’t there, they wouldn’t be there.
So it's friends following friends. But why would their friends be on one but not the other? Not because of aesthetics, or bands, or the "coolness," apparently, but because their friends are on one but not the other. Circular reasoning, how I love thee. And how does this correlate with black/whiteness? At all?
I’m trying to more deeply theorize the elements around white flight, but part of it is dealing with that social messiness. And while that term certainly has racial connotations, there is much more to what is happening around “white flight” than that.
So… it's not about race? And what the fuck is social messiness?

Psuedo-scientific navel-gazing. With a sample size of 94. Oh, sorry, I forgot about the 300 unofficial interviews, whatever in the hell that means (chatrooms? message boards? her kid's friends stopping by for some Sunny D? christ…)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


I think this is more of a class issue. Facebook is more appealing to transient populations because it helps them find people from each of the places that they lived. The people who used facebook first were kids who went to college out of state, moved away from their home town, or went to a different country, all of that usually requires money. I went to a 99% white highschool. I recently tried to track down some classmates. The kids who stayed in my old town and didn't go to college were on myspace, very few were on facebook. There were a few "no college" people on facebook, one was a cheerleader and the other one was a semi-professional wrestler. Both of them move around a lot as part of their job, therefore having a facebook account makes sense. The college kids were on facebook and myspace, I got the impression that they used facebook more.
posted by Procloeon at 1:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, it was the visual and auditory assault that MySpace permitted users to inflict on other users that made me move to Facebook. Now I prefer Twitter because it has the same strict rules that Facebook once had. And now Facebook has subjected me to learning which Disney princess, which Golden Girl and which sexual fetish all my friends are because of those goddamned quizzes.

Eventually, Twitter will allow crappy embedded audio and video and sparkles and other coding and I'll move on to Poof or Clatter or Scintillate or whatever the next awkwardly named social networking website is.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Guys guys... it doesn't matter if you are #000000 or #FFFFFF.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters.

Please tell me you're joking.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:10 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's critical to take what she says seriously.

I thought we should seriously take what she says critically.
posted by mazola at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2009 [17 favorites]


Myspace is for artists. Facebook is for office workers.
posted by carfilhiot at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


My monitor is black.
I am white.

WHERE DO I LOGIN?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


facebook is "college".
posted by plexi at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009


Windows Live Spaces is mostly Asian.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If that's how someone spells their name, that is how you should spell their name.

Thank you for the clarification, {{eXplOSion}}
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Twitter, on the other hand, is like a serious tool, used for important stuff.

Please tell me this is a joke.

Twitter is considered a very important thing by people who basically missed out on every single other popular internet application... when they realized they had missed out on everything else, they discovered twitter and insisted that they weren't going to let this one pass them by.

I really would like to know when Danah became danah. Anyway, as others have pointed out, we've been over this issue before. It might be that people have some kind of internal set of priorities of "self expression" vs. "communication" and MySpace leans more towards those whose big priority his self expression combined with both an inability to understand their aesthetic limits as well as technical shortcomings preventing them from running their own blog while facebook users are interested almost purely in communicating with others and having little interest in using the forum to showcase their aesthetic precious snowflakeness, either because of lack of interest or because they have other forums and outlets for this sort of thing.

My big frustration with MySpace was that it became such a center for bands to promote their music... this seemed like a neat idea, but it got to the point where lots and lots of bands just had a myspace page rather than a proper web presence, and MySpace is not exactly the best forum from a usability perspective to check the tour schedule, listen to music samples, and order t-shirts.
posted by deanc at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


It isn't like there is a lack of black people on myspace. Would imagine most black people under 45 in the U.S. have facebook accounts at this point. In April 16th, more then half of the U.S had accounts.

Maybe at this particular high school, kids have a different view, but that's probably unusual. In fact generalizing from this particular HS is pretty ridiculous.

Myspace is a shithole. And the same way social networking sites become a victim of their success, myspace became a victim of their failure. Everyone with even a tiny bit of aesthetic sensibility left for facebook, leaving only people not only who loved garish backgrounds and sparkly animated gifs, but only people who the majority of friends were the same way.

Anyway I think it's great because fuck Rupert Murdoch. To bad he only paid $500 million for it. It's probably still worth more today.
Social network sites are not like email where it doesn't matter if you're on Hotmail or Yahoo. When you choose MySpace or Facebook, you can't send messages to people on the other site. You can't Friend people on the other site. There's a cultural wall between users. And if there's no way for people to communicate across the divide, you can never expect them to do so.
Actually that's ridiculous because people can have accounts on both sites
The problem with describing Myspace as "ghetto" and Facebook as "preppy" is that Myspace was a crappy mess before Facebook ever existed. Facebook took off primarily because it was the first competitor with a clean, neat aesthetic that didn't buckle under server loads (I remember Friendster gaining some traction, but then having continuous server problems).
Actually friendster was around before Myspace. In fact you could say myspace took off because it was a version of friendster that wouldn't crash (probably because they ditched the whole 'circle of friends' thing -- everyone was in everyone elses 'extended network')
posted by delmoi at 1:17 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Twitter is considered a very important thing by people who basically missed out on every single other popular internet application... when they realized they had missed out on everything else, they discovered twitter and insisted that they weren't going to let this one pass them by.

That's silly. People who post a lot on Twitter probably have other social media accounts too. How does Facebook pass someone by?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:18 PM on September 29, 2009


wikipedia sez:

Once she reached college though, she chose to change to her maternal grandfather's name, Boyd, as her own last name and eventually settled on giving her name as danah boyd, "to reflect my mother's original balancing and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization."
posted by snofoam at 1:18 PM on September 29, 2009


So it's friends following friends. But why would their friends be on one but not the other? Not because of aesthetics, or bands, or the "coolness," apparently, but because their friends are on one but not the other. Circular reasoning, how I love thee. And how does this correlate with black/whiteness? At all?

Did you read this talk at all? It was the first link in the post. It explains why certain demographics moved to Facebook (it is seen as "more mature" to some demographics that welcome interactions with older students and adults, and conversely as "too old" to other teen groups that feel less comfortable with those perceived as authority figures).
posted by muddgirl at 1:19 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, given the heavy use of myspace by indie rock bands, one of the whitest subcultures around, it's pretty hard to claim that the facebook vs. myspace division was primarily racial in nature.
posted by deanc at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2009


Forgot to add that at the end of the linked talk, she provides a link to an interesting quantitative study. For those of you who prefer surveys to ethnographic studies.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really would like to know when Danah became danah.

It looks like she started out that way:
Boyd grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Altoona, Pennsylvania,[7] and attended Manheim Township High School from 1992–96. According to her website, she was born danah michele mattas, "spelled all funky because my mother loved typographical balance"[1]. But after her mother's divorce and subsequent remarriage, her family changed their names to Beard. Once she reached college though, she chose to change to her maternal grandfather's name, Boyd, as her own last name and eventually settled on giving her name as danah boyd, "to reflect my mother's original balancing and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization."
Also Hipster Alert
posted by delmoi at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Agreeing with those above that are saying this is mainly a socioeconomic thing, but also a maturity issue.

What drove me away from MySpace is clicking on my Ivy league educated friends (of all colors) websites and having my eyes and ears burned out by the horrible choices of background and whatever teenybopper piece of garbage music is popular on the radio these days. I much prefer the sterelity of Facebook when I'm stalking random people online thank you very much.

/old man rant over
posted by slapshot57 at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


How timely - I just saw that Richie Rich uses Facebook, not MySpace, on Ars Technica. The article notes that while the origins of Facebook as a college-only social site, it is also used for some networking, whereas MySpace is not (unless you're a musician).

High-schoolers are involved only because of their older siblings.

Also because it was an exclusive college-only club (you got admission by way of college email address) that expanded to high schoolers in 2005 or so, and then became an open system. For another slant, a different focus group found High Schoolers leaving FB, while grandparents joined.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really, the divide doesn't even seem to have to do with how much money you have as much as how literate you are and how good/bad your taste is.

Because "good taste" is an objective and meritocratic metric and is never used to mark social class, as we all know.
posted by enn at 1:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


You guys are all tiptoeing around it, but on Facebook you're supposed to use your real name and black people sell drugs so they need to use their "street" names. Also, myspace design is the social networking equivalent of gold grillz.
posted by snofoam at 1:25 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


what, nobody remembers Campushook?
posted by mockjovial at 1:25 PM on September 29, 2009


"Indeed, if anything, white musicians, comedians and business moguls drove me away from MySpace and into the arms of Facebook."

Just another piece of black culture ruined by white people.
posted by klangklangston at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because "good taste" is an objective and meritocratic metric and is never used to mark social class, as we all know.

When the item in question is a free membership to a website rather than $30/$300 jeans or a $50/$500 coat, it seems like the assessment's a bit fairer.
posted by explosion at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, Friendster is for Hispanics, Orkut is for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and then Friendspace is the one made up by Law and Order. Hope I've cleared this up.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2009


When the item in question is a free membership to a website rather than $30/$300 jeans or a $50/$500 coat, it seems like the assessment's a bit fairer.

For much of its formative period Facebook was only free with the purchase of an Ivy League, and then with any, college education. But that had nothing to do with class at all, right?
posted by enn at 1:30 PM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Friendster is for Hispanics

Actually, quite a few SE Asians use Friendster.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:31 PM on September 29, 2009


Forgot to add that at the end of the linked talk, she provides a link to an interesting quantitative study.

Which shows black people made up 7.4% of the sample, while making up 7.9% of facebook users, meaning they are slightly over represented, at least among this dataset, 18-19 year old college students. Interestingly, it was Hispanics, not African Americans who were more likely to use myspace users then facebook users, The only group with a statistically relevant larger share of the myspace pie then their share of the facebook pie. Asians dropped the most, while Whites and blacks had similar figures for both sites.

(there was a slight change with blacks going from 7.9% to 8.2, and whites going from 44.9% to 44.0%)

(Also, check out the distribution of Asians using friendster. They make up 93% of the users, probably due to the popularity of frienster in the Philippines and asia in general. Here's a map from 2007, I know this has been updated since then)
posted by delmoi at 1:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The difference between this and, like, ghettoization and white flight is that anybody who wants can join any social network they want.

Well, *now* they can. For a long time, Facebook's "college only policy" did enforce some degree of class and race segregation. Things like that persist through inertia even after the mechanisms that originally instituted them are gone.
posted by edheil at 1:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because "good taste" is an objective and meritocratic metric and is never used to mark social class, as we all know.

That's an interesting point, but I would argue that the essential marker of higher social status is that one eschews that which is garish and loud, because the higher your actual social class, the fewer attention-attracting, garish displays you need to make. In that sense, you can come up with an objective metric of "good taste"-- do your social indicators need to be loud and visible to all, even at the sacrifice of simplicity, or do they need to be merely subtle enough for those knowledgeable enough to see them?

In the online (and offline) world, once you have mastered and understood basic principles of design and communication (and have friends who understand the same), then your need for such garish, poorly designed, distracting displays is no longer necessary.
posted by deanc at 1:35 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


About a year and a half ago we were deluged with "friended" messages. My wife fell for it. She joined and proceeded to friend the total population of N.Y., N. J. and Fl. (How do you know you haven't been friended by her?) Not me though. I don't want people for friends who would like to have someone like me for a friend.
posted by notreally at 1:36 PM on September 29, 2009


Did you read this talk at all?

Yep! Five minutes I'll never get back.

It explains why certain demographics moved to Facebook

That it does. The part I'm having difficulty with is the correlation with race. For instance, she positively latches on to this comment by a 14 year-old (it appears to be the singular basis for her supposition):
I'm not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever, and Facebook is all... not all the people that have Facebook are mature, but its supposed to be like oh we're more mature. … MySpace is just old.
Which leads to…
In fact, if we want to get to the crux of what unfolded, we might as well face an uncomfortable reality... What happened was modern day "white flight."
…say wha?…
Those who deserted MySpace did so by "choice" but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic.
Funny, I saw plenty of people talking about features, ease-of-use, and a perceived adultness of Facebook v MySpace.
This dynamic was furthered by the press, an institution that stems from privilege and tends to reflect the lives of a more privileged class of people.
Brother, could you spare a fucking break?
They narrated MySpace as the dangerous underbelly of the Internet while Facebook was the utopian savior. And here we get back to Kat's point: MySpace has become the "ghetto" of the digital landscape.
Well, I'm no ethnographer, but I'm pretty the word and usage of ghetto by the 14 year-old quoted is not the same as (small d)anah (small b)oyd's.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:36 PM on September 29, 2009 [23 favorites]


"and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization"

I'm sorry, life is too short for that kind of bullshit.
posted by Naberius at 1:39 PM on September 29, 2009 [24 favorites]


Ah, here we go: World Map of Social Networks from June 2009.

Also, Friendster is for Hispanics, Orkut is for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders

Orkut is for Indians and Brazillians. Friendster is for Filipinos. And of course Nasza-Klasa for those Poles.
posted by delmoi at 1:44 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I joined Facebook to keep tabs on my kids. Therefore, I conclude that genetics drives Facebook membership.
posted by genefinder at 1:48 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes. It's racism, not the eye-stabbingly horrible design and auto-playing music.
posted by chairface at 1:50 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


You guys are all tiptoeing around it, but on Facebook you're supposed to use your real name and black people sell drugs so they need to use their "street" names.

Wow.
posted by naju at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2009


This dynamic was furthered by the press, an institution that stems from privilege and tends to reflect the lives of a more privileged class of people.

Brother, could you spare a fucking break?


So you disagree that the media portrayed MySpace as a site full of dangerous predators? That had to be "cleaned out"? Sure, Facebook got a little of the same treatment, but as a closed and yes, idyllic-looking space, it did not face the same unreasonable criticisms.

I saw plenty of people talking about features, ease-of-use, and a perceived adultness of Facebook v MySpace.

Which is in no way similar to how upper-middle-class white couples describe the reasons why they move to a gated, predominatly white community. Participants in white flight argue that they move because of the safety, the easy access to a pool and golf course, the neighborliness and barbecues.
posted by muddgirl at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I think Danah is overbilling the whole "white flight" issue, she does have a point with racial separations on the Internet. There is _something_ there. Check the trending topics on Twitter sometime; http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23haveuever is one that's running right now. A quick glance at the user icons will let you jump to your own conclusions about race.

The real question is, is this really an issue? It's essentially like saying "white people like FTP, and black people like HTTP." I don't think it's so much of a self-segregation as much as it is you go where your friends are. I don't think people are saying, "oh, HTTP, black people like that, so I'm going to choose FTP" as much as they're saying "well my buddies at school like FTP, so I'm going with that."
posted by mark242 at 1:56 PM on September 29, 2009


When biologists attempt social theory, they aren't taken seriously by us social scientists either. Stephen Pinker, I'm looking at you.

I think Stephen Pinker is a Psychologist.
posted by BoatMeme at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also Hipster Alert
posted by delmoi at 1:22 PM on September 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


I guess using that Blackberry/IPhone (not sure what it is) makes your wrists sweat like the dickens. Nice wrist bands, girly. (Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night....)

I think MySpace sucks because of the rampant usage of unicorns, HTML glitter effect, and bad midi files. I rather deal with the clean design of Facebook.

They both suck as of late though. FB is constantly having errors.
posted by stormpooper at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2009


But can anyone explain to me why Brazil took over Orkut?
posted by ymgve at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2009


OK, I read the paper, read her bio and perused her blog. After careful deliberation, there's nothing of any probative value this "boyd" person's research offers me. Next.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Check the trending topics on Twitter sometime; http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23haveuever is one that's running right now. A quick glance at the user icons will let you jump to your own conclusions about race.

Good lord! That's a lady's hoo-hah!
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2009


to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization

To what must I change my own name in order to satisfy MY irritation at Danah Boyd's self-important noncapitalization? I feel like Princess Elizabeth Awesomecakes Ninja von SparklyPants might be an excellent choice, and I would thus expect you to take me as seriously as I take her.

PRO TIP: not at all.
posted by elizardbits at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters. Names like ee cummings and k.d. lang are in the public consciousness. If that's how someone spells their name, that is how you should spell their name.

I don't care if you think it's dumb, you probably also think other names are dumb, like "misspellings" of common names. You may even be correct. At the same time, "correcting" that "misspelling" is wrong.


Fine, I'll respect her as a poet then.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2009


snofoam: White people use gmail. Gangbangers use yahoo or hotmail. But they should use gmail.

ogmail?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


Participants in white flight argue that they move because of the safety, the easy access to a pool and golf course, the neighborliness and barbecues.

And these are bad things because ... ?

Participants in "hipster flight" argue they move to Williamsburg because it's more fun, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2009


here's one for you....every single person that has used MY computer in the past week, has been white....

I'm not sure what that means...
posted by HuronBob at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2009


(I think) Another reason that myspace has a lot of Black users as opposed to Facebook is that a lot of hip-hop and R&B artists (Kanye West inlcuded) have included "myspace" in their lyrics, exponentially increasing its popularity amongst Blacks who listen to their music.

And myspace is really easy to rhyme with a lot of words that end bars/lyrics (face, place, lace, etc), where as Facebook is not.

Look how popular Patrick Swayze was because he was the answer to every rapper's dilemma: "what can I rhyme with crazy?"

Facebook was a little exclusive at first, but its certainly gaining in users in the Black community.
posted by alice ayres at 2:02 PM on September 29, 2009


One should note that MySpace started out with widespread popularity: a lot of us had MySpace pages. It's just that MySpace dropped off in popularity just like other social networking sites dropped off in popularity when better alternatives showed themselves. Facebook was restricted to the point where hardly anyone with a myspace page would be able to use it in the first place.

Also keep in mind that facebook really did start to become more garish and cluttered with lots of annoying little applications until facebook specifically redesigned the site to make the interface less conducive to clutter.

danah et al. seem to be avoiding the obvious conclusion: MySpace alienates a large number of potential users, and people left MySpace because it was terrible and wasn't as useful as the alternatives. Lots of people are trying to analogize the rise in popularity of facebook to "white flight" without realizing that MySpace was crappy, and when something is crappy, you leave for something less crappy.
posted by deanc at 2:03 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


StudiVZ is for Germans and Austrians. It's just like the old Facebook, but it's red.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:03 PM on September 29, 2009


I use facebook over myspace because it doesn't take forever to load (well less than myspace), facebook doesn't malfunction or go down over 50% of the time, people's facebook accounts appear to be hacked significantly less (anecdotal only), and I don't have to deal with ridiculous graphics and autoplay songs etc etc that people clutter up their pages with. Myspace is a freaking mess. The only people I know that prefer Myspace are musicians.
posted by whoaali at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm (minimally) on Facebook rather than Myspace because I can't fucking stand emo dweebs and juggalos.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:10 PM on September 29, 2009


Facebook took off primarily because it was the first competitor with a clean, neat aesthetic that didn't buckle under server loads (I remember Friendster gaining some traction, but then having continuous server problems).

Your history is a little off. MySpace took off because friendster buckled. While myspace did have quite a few stability problems for a while, but they don't correlate the facebook's massive growth - the biggest correlation IMO is "comments on everything", which people LOVE and really drives people to return and interact.

The inability of people to customize their pages is definitely a huge plus to many people, and it also makes the site faster because it disallows external dependencies that increase load time.

I am not an unbiased observer, I work for the one you all hate and have since before facebook was open to non-students - but I am pretty sure that's how the timeline went, and I think most of the criticisms of the one I'm at are totally valid. I have other thoughts on the matter, but I try not to talk about them too much here, because, well, you can guess. I do kind of want to pipe in with a single bit of defensiveness: there's a "lite" view on myspace now that turns off people's customizations. You don't have to see them any more.
posted by flaterik at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oy, my head.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:13 PM on September 29, 2009


Okay my grammar in that last post is worse than most myspace users. I really should've edited it less.
posted by flaterik at 2:15 PM on September 29, 2009


people's facebook accounts appear to be hacked significantly less (anecdotal only)

For most social networking sites cross-site scripting is seen as something to be avoided, on MySpace it's practically a design philosophy.
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


While myspace did have quite a few stability problems for a while, but they don't correlate thewith facebook's massive growth - the biggest correlation IMO is "comments on everything", which people LOVE and really drives people to return and interact.

That was driving me nuts.

posted by flaterik at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2009


SanDeE*?
posted by Ickster at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Probably nthing n number of people upstream, but hey: I stayed away from MySpace because of the default/average design, which puts just about everything that I hate about the internet on one page. I don't think that I have "to do a privilege check" or "unpack" anything to justify my desire to avoid retina sandpaper or having to mute my speakers. Facebook, on the other hand, is a pretty easy way to keep up with family without setting up an RSS reader.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eventually, Twitter will allow crappy embedded audio and video and sparkles and other coding and I'll move on to Poof or Clatter or Scintillate or whatever the next awkwardly named social networking website is.

That is the best thing ever. Need more favorite buttons.
posted by cashman at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another point worth mentioning: Yes, people self-segregate, but they also self-segregate within online communities. When I look at the pages of some of my friends on Facebook (I'm a white dude), I find that Black people tend to have a lot of Black friends, and white people tend to have a lot of white friends. My Indian friends have more Indian friends than I do, my (non-Indian) Asian friends have more Asian friends than I do, and I have more single female friends who are using Facebook to obsessively check and re-check my relationship status in hopes that I've broken up with my girlfriend.

More generally: I think DANAH BOYD is raising a very valid discussion about race and online communities here, but right now the subtext is that I'm on Facebook because I'm uncomfortable with Black people, which pisses me right the hell off and makes me not want to get into a discussion, valid or otherwise, with another one of Cory Doctorow and Xeni Jardin's obsessions. I'm on Facebook because I'm uncomfortable with shitty user interfaces, long load times, auto-playing songs and assault-on-the-senses design. And if that makes me a white-flight racist in the eyes of DANAH BOYD, then DANAH BOYD and I can just keep going to separate dinner parties.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


That's some quality oppressing with the all-caps there.
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2009 [17 favorites]


To be fair, Halloween Jack, the talk was specifically targeted at people interested in activism and youth outreach, and they certainly should unpack why they chose to do outreach on Facebook rather than MySpace, considering they have the same number of members.
posted by muddgirl at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I think Danah is overbilling the whole "white flight" issue, she does have a point with racial separations on the Internet.

Regardless, equating a hot-button social issue--one that gutted hundreds of communities across the U.S., and continues to be a problem today--with the perpetual tendency of teenagers to self-segregate themselves along any number of categories doesn't cut the fucking mustard with ol' Halloween Jack.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, a lot of people here seem to be getting really offended by things that were never said, like

I'm on Facebook because I'm uncomfortable with shitty user interfaces, long load times, auto-playing songs and assault-on-the-senses design. And if that makes me a white-flight racist in the eyes of DANAH BOYD, then DANAH BOYD and I can just keep going to separate dinner parties.

She never called anyone a racist. She never implied that anyone was a racist. She merely pointed out the completely truthful and logical fact that (a) communities self-segregate by many factors, including race, and (b) we are absolutely delusional if we think Facebook represents a realistic subset of the whole population. Putting those together, (c) if we are interested in outreach we need to start actually, you know, outreaching.
posted by muddgirl at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


To be fair, Halloween Jack, the talk was specifically targeted at people interested in activism and youth outreach, and they certainly should unpack why they chose to do outreach on Facebook rather than MySpace, considering they have the same number of members.

Because one of them is a hell of a lot easier to use than the other? Unpacking is so much faster and easier when you don't drag along so much luggage in the first place.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2009


She never called anyone a racist. She never implied that anyone was a racist.

Yeah, they never do.
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on September 29, 2009


Because one of them is a hell of a lot easier to use than the other?

So we should ignore the opinions and lives and contributions of any person with the temerity to value features other than a clean user-interface?

How incredibly elitist.
posted by muddgirl at 2:32 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


She merely pointed out the completely truthful and logical fact...

boyd is kind of a hacky new media analyst. I don't know why anyone would waste much time defending her so-called work.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny.
I always think of Myspace as associated with poor, white trash.
posted by davebarnes at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2009


I guess it's so much easier to be knee-jerk dismissive than to, ya know, get a PhD in the field.
posted by muddgirl at 2:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


eventually settled on giving her name as danah boyd, "to reflect my mother's original balancing and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization."

FINALLY, someone else who has read Das Kapital in the way it was meant to be read.

"shift-less typists of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but our capital-C Chains!"
posted by joe lisboa at 2:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


n.b.: my capitalization of "finally" was intended as an olive branch to the lumpenpunctualitariat who know not what they capitalize but yet may prove useful to the movement, especially if twitterspeak is any indication.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:42 PM on September 29, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I witnessed one of my new freshman employees log in to her MySpace account. Another student employee, a junior, saw this as well and quickly told the freshman to get a Facebook account if she did not already have one. Her reasons were that 1) "everyone here is on Facebook" and 2) "Facebook is more adult."

The freshman said that all her high school friends were on MySpace, but then signed up for Facebook. The Junior was her first friend.

The freshman is white, from middle-class western MA. The junior is black, from Jamaica.

I don't know what this says about MySpace and Facebook, but I do think it means we have a welcoming culture at my college library.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:43 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


For much of its formative period Facebook was only free with the purchase of an Ivy League, and then with any, college education. But that had nothing to do with class at all, right?

To be fair -- and I used to live next door to a guy who once, for a whole month, had Zuckerburg sleep on his couch -- we expanded it to Stanford et al. way before those public school kids at Cornell.
posted by jock@law at 2:44 PM on September 29, 2009


You know, I do more socializing on Facebook.

But until Facebook can host songs by struggling underground metal bands from such far flung places as Uruguay, Slovenia, and Delaware, it'll never replace the soft spot I have in my heart for MySpace.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:44 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


(b) we are absolutely delusional if we think Facebook represents a realistic subset of the whole population. Putting those together

We are even more delusional to think that adding all users of Facebook and MySpace together creates a realistic subset of the whole population.
posted by poppo at 2:44 PM on September 29, 2009


on myspace no one knows you're a dog. Though using that dogs-howling song from Lady and the Tramp as my page music is probably risky.
posted by jfuller at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


She never called anyone a racist. She never implied that anyone was a racist.

It's her use of the incredibly reductive term "white flight" I have a problem with. This term is pretty much infused with racism whether you mean it that way or not.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:47 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also
posted by jock@law at 2:47 PM on September 29, 2009


Sorry, my crazy capitalization of her name may have been a bit over the top. But I tend to get annoyed at people who ostentatiously force me to deal with their own "political irritation at the importance of capitalization." I understand you're trying to challenge my perceptions, but I'm also probably a lot smarter than you think I am.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2009


We are even more delusional to think that adding all users of Facebook and MySpace together creates a realistic subset of the whole population.

Facebook has 300 millions users worldwide, with 30 percent of those in the USA, giving us 90 million Americans. No, it's not everyone, but that's a lot of people with a wide, wide range of backgrounds. Add in the non-overlapping myspace users, and that gives you a big group. Maybe not a "realistic" subset of the whole population, but I'd venture to guess a very good cross section of those who are online.
posted by deanc at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My name is Henry David Thoreau and I don't give a rat's ass for either one .
posted by Postroad at 2:54 PM on September 29, 2009


I always think of Myspace as associated with poor, white trash.

I always associated it with juggalos. Facebook, though, isn't exactly a trip to Harvard, either. I use it to remember birthdays, and chat with relatives who can't be bothered to use MSN, AIM or Yahoo. That's it. My 72-year-old grandmother has a Facebook page, and IMs me there. Downloading Messenger is like walking her through landing the Space Shuttle, sure, but she can navigate just fine on Facebook's laggy-ass IM client.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:56 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Facebook has 300 millions users worldwide, with 30 percent of those in the USA

I always find it odd that people ignore the otyher 70% when applying their deeply America-specific binary race theory.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


She never called anyone a racist. She never implied that anyone was a racist. She merely pointed out the completely truthful and logical fact that (a) communities self-segregate by many factors, including race, and (b) we are absolutely delusional if we think Facebook represents a realistic subset of the whole population. Putting those together, (c) if we are interested in outreach we need to start actually, you know, outreaching.

Only if by "Truthful and Logical" you mean "false" since black people actually do use facebook just as often as white people. At least according to the only actual research that's been linked too.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think it's certainly the case that Metafilter has never seen someones academic standing as a barrier to considering them a fool.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


In Chicago, there are certain gay "chat sites" (that's the nice way to describe them) that are definitely thought of as "the black ones" -- that are populated both by black guys (who post their pictures publicly) and by guys looking for black guys (who, more often, do not.)

I've never been able to find any reason for this segregation that makes as much sense as the ones offered above for MySpace and Facebook, but also couldn't not leave it unsaid as soon as I saw this post.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2009


I have a MySpace page because my kids want them, and having me on their friends list was the bargain it took for me to let them have one.

I have a Facebook page because my users want them, and having me on their friends list helps me know when they've downloaded the latest trojan.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 3:12 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


MySpace is dying because it's where all the corporations went to get into that social-networking thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:14 PM on September 29, 2009


Metafilter is the only social networking site I use regularly.
posted by jb at 3:18 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> For much of its formative period Facebook was only free with the purchase of an Ivy League, and then with any, college education. But that had nothing to do with class at all, right?

According to this link, I'd estimate that there are roughly 60,000 undergraduates at Ivy League schools. In contrast, there are more than 300 million active Facebook users.

Are you sure you want to argue the causality of Ivy League students driving the demographics of an online population of which they're, at most, 0.02% of?
posted by Brak at 3:18 PM on September 29, 2009


venture to guess a very good cross section of those who are online.


Yeah, my point was the whole population is not online. But I probably took 'whole population' too literally.
posted by poppo at 3:18 PM on September 29, 2009


The primary background color of myspace.com: #000000.
The primary background color of facebook.com: #FFFFFF.

QED.


Crap, didn't you get the memo not to spill the secrets about the Fugate family sockpuppets on mefi? Next you'll be spilling the beans about the cabal.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:22 PM on September 29, 2009


MySpace is no longer cool.

I understand all those words and even the order they are in but I'm still having trouble parsing it. It seems to be making the implication that MySpace was, at one time, cool. Which is so patently absurd that no sane person could say it without cracking up.
posted by Justinian at 3:25 PM on September 29, 2009


"Actually, quite a few SE Asians use Friendster."

Really? I was gonna go with that, but then changed it to a bigger demographic. I thought about ending with, "And Jews use LinkedIn," but was already treading on the lulz line.

I do remember when my local BBS was taken over by subcontinental Indians, who got referred to as "bunnies" by the older members, because all of the sudden they were in every chat room, multiplying. Well, and that they all seemed to think that the BBS was where to go to have hot cyber sex with American women, and wouldn't do an even cursory profile check before sending lots and lots of personal messages. Soon enough, they were the only folks in public chat, and since you had to log on there before going to any private channels, each new user was like dropping a new dot into that organism game, where everyone became active in order to ask that one new person to cyber, then would inundate each other with requests to cyber, and just essentially crapflood until the room was scrolling like the credits on a cable movie. I don't know what started it, like if there was some random announcement on someone's Angelfire page that Grex was the place to telnet for cyber, but it did drive a lot of the casual users off.
posted by klangklangston at 3:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


White people use gmail. Gangbangers use yahoo or hotmail. But they should use gmail.

ogmail?


Drop it like it's hotmail.
posted by clearly at 3:30 PM on September 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


>So we should ignore the opinions and lives and contributions of any person with the temerity to value features other than a clean user-interface?

How incredibly elitist.


Well, at least that makes me incredible at something, amirite?

Sorry, but you're setting up a bit of a straw man, there. Communication is facilitated by both parties making an effort; reducing the signal-to-noise ratio is part of that effort. Maybe I'm just lazy if I'm not partial to exposing myself to the internet equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard; I can live with that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2009


MySpace was, at one time, cool. Which is so patently absurd that no sane person could say it without cracking up.

Different circles, clearly. At one point, and for quite a while, for Normal Average People (not computer nerd types, the group I'm in), myspace was in fact very very cool. Just having a business card could get me past club lines and into shows, and people wanted the hoodies and shirts off our backs.

Look, I understand why people didn't and don't like it. and I have plenty of my own problems with it, but to say it was never considered cool is patently absurd.
posted by flaterik at 3:37 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


It is at the same time both true and absurd.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some research that, if I thought about for more than half a minute, might make me feel slightly uncomfortable. Hey, look a comet!

(where "comet" = "she spells her name funny" or "I don't understand how an academic field works so I'm going to mock it" or "I have an aesthetic reaction to a social site that of course has absolutely nothing to do with class or race, because that would be silly, it's just an innocent aesthetic preference, as all aesthetic preferences are totally divorced from other cultural factors, and that aesthetic preference is sufficient to explain all that is happening." Did I miss any?)
posted by feckless at 3:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


muddgirl, to follow what I wrote above: I'm getting a bit away from your earlier point that boyd's talk was directed at people who were doing outreach, and therefore could be expected to shoulder a higher part of the burden for communication. The flip side of that, however, is to communicate to those same folks that possibly they could assume a more direct, plain form of communication for the purposes of becoming a political actor, assuming that they really wish to communicate and not just assert their special snowflakeness.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:00 PM on September 29, 2009


we are absolutely delusional if we think Facebook represents a realistic subset of the whole population.

Yeah, well we're absolutely delusional if we think Metafilter is representative of the whole population.
posted by mattholomew at 4:05 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Well, I'm no ethnographer, but I'm pretty [sic] the word and usage of ghetto

There are two things you need to bear in mind here. The first is her audience. This talk was not a presentation of an academic paper to her academic peers. It was a talk to a group of activists (Personal Democracy Forum) concerned that people without broadband access will be left out of our political process. The second is that it seems like you're ragging on an ethnographer for not giving you the p < .05 that you want in order to demonstrate a racial angle to attitudes, which is like being angry that your organic banana you just bought won't play mp3s. It just doesn't make any damn sense. Regardless of cause or correlation, the arguments given by kids for why they choose to participate or not participate in a certain networked public have coded meanings and understanding why they're saying what they're saying matters, and she's done actual good work to further our understanding.

You've had a research methods course, right? Did they not cover qualitative methods at all? Regardless you need to get off your hard science high horse. Are you angry because you think she's calling you a racist? I promise she's not calling you a racist.

Her response to you is probably better than the above, now that I've read it.

On preview:

> reducing the signal-to-noise ratio is part of that effort

You're missing their signal. The aesthetic is part of the literacy. What you see as cruft or annoyance is definitely part of the signal to them.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 4:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


bell hooks didn't capitalize her name either, because no single letter is more important than any other, and i agree - equallity for all characters! you're next, numbers!

oh yeah, and this business of leaving vowels out altogether must be stopped. thank you.
posted by cafe_prole at 4:13 PM on September 29, 2009


No real argument there, artw.

Really my thoughts are that all of these social networks are just mailing lists, bbss, and livejournal writ large. It's the same BASIC functionality (with the addition of music on myspace), but once we get to MySpace in the history it started to explode across social groups outside of the more tech savvy and be used by everyone. Suddenly it's what everyone - especially all of those people milling around on your lawn - was talking about and using to communicate, so it became cool kind of by default.

Now facebook is what's "cool", though that's changing as "everyone and their mom" becomes more true than ever before (to a certain extent, that's fueling a small amount of return to myspace). Twitter is sort of next, and who knows beyond that...
posted by flaterik at 4:15 PM on September 29, 2009


Oh ballocks, MySpace is just unreadable and seizure inducing while FB is not. That's the whole story top to bottom.
posted by blindkoala at 4:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


In the United States, I think, we have so much difficulty talking openly about class distinctions that "race" often gets pressed into service as a stand-in for "social class." This is problematic for many reasons, not least because the two concepts aren't remotely synonymous.
posted by killdevil at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters. Names like ee cummings and k.d. lang are in the public consciousness. If that's how someone spells their name, that is how you should spell their name.

No. No forever.
posted by spaltavian at 4:28 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


What I want is an end to people who have my email sending me mail through whatever social network they happen to be on instead. Especially ones that require me to log in to reply.
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have an aesthetic reaction to a social site that of course has absolutely nothing to do with class or race, because that would be silly, it's just an innocent aesthetic preference, as all aesthetic preferences are totally divorced from other cultural factors, and that aesthetic preference is sufficient to explain all that is happening.

I don't think that anyone said that "all aesthetic preferences are totally divorced from other cultural factors" But it would be equally idiotic to say "no aesthetic preferences are unconnected from cultural factors". I mean, ugly is ugly, and myspace is ugly.
posted by delmoi at 4:38 PM on September 29, 2009


Also,

DANAH BOYD.
posted by delmoi at 4:38 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


You want really ugly? View source on one of those suckers.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


(People who do not have my email feel free to continue memailing me as it is as a acceptable form of communication with second-tier personages such as yourselves)
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, I think this comes down to socioeconomics.

Afroblanco (ahem) has it right, but that's such a high overlap with black:white that it's hard to not accept the general premise of the FPP, overall.

I mean we can say "MySpace is used by more economically-disadvantaged users who have a high proportional appreciation for hip-hop." if that eases your conscience. It's probably accurate, and the data is up there somewhere in the links.

Facebook's history as a college-grad network explains most of this, though. They'd might as well say "MySpace is for high school, Facebook is for college", but again, that's going to have a big overlap with the same socioeconomic groups, since money overwhelmingly equals education in America/Canada, where most Facebook users are from. (Yes, even in Canada with free/cheap education, college degrees skew way toward the wealthy.)

I'd rather see a study on Hotmail / Yahoo / GMail. In my little experience that seems to map pretty well with three increasing levels of web-savviness and/or education.
posted by rokusan at 4:41 PM on September 29, 2009


I hate MySpace. Not because I'm a white supremacist or anything, but because of the user experience. It's nakedly designed to maximise ad impressions at all costs, including irritating the users. Take, for example notification emails. When a user on another site (say, Facebook, Flickr, last.fm or similar) sends you a message, the site has the courtesy to put at least part of the message in the email, so you can see whether you want to log in to reply to it. MySpace doesn't; you have to go to the site, log in, watch an interstitial ad, and then you get to see that some teenage d00d in Iowa or Irkutsk or somewhere wants you to join his shitty nu-metal band's fan army just because you exist. Similarly with things like "One of your friends has a birthday. To see who it is, click here to log in."

And then there were the subtle design decisions designed to ramp up social tension and drama (more drama = more activity = more ad impressions). Like notifying users when they've been unfriended (something other sites don't generally do, with good reason). Or having the idea of a "Top 8" friend list as a standard part of the site (plenty of potential for drama there ("y did u drop me from yr top 8???"/"y iz Bradlee in ur top 8 & im not?"; you get the idea)). It's unsurprising that such a site should come from an outfit which started off selling spam and adware, and thus accustomed to thinking contemptuously of its users as eyeballs to be harvested by fair means or foul.

Anyway, from where I am (the UK, and previously, Australia), MySpace seems not so much "black" as adolescent, marketed at those so keen to individuate themselves as "emo" or "indie" or whatever that they don't mind being constantly shouted at by a megaphone wielded by Rupert Moloch's minions. Which is probably why it has gotten away with such a contemptuous treatment of its users; when they're hooked, you don't have to be polite to them.
posted by acb at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


more economically-disadvantaged users who have a high proportional appreciation for hip-hop

There's a lot of white kids in that category.
posted by acb at 4:44 PM on September 29, 2009


danah boyd is an ethnographer. An anthropologist, really. And also an incredibly insightful and tuned-in person. It's critical to take what she says seriously.

Sorry, but if she wants me to take her seriously, she'll have to start spelling her name like a grown-up.
posted by rokusan at 4:47 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


more economically-disadvantaged users who have a high proportional appreciation for hip-hop
There's a lot of white kids in that category.


Sure, of course, but statistically the group will still skew black enough to match in this research or any other. Also, hell, half of those white kids probably self-identify as "black" online.

The education is at least half of it, but like I said even that maps to socioeconomics if you really want to dig deep enough. I hate MySpace and can't stand looking at it because it all looks like it was made by and for 13 year olds... which is what, junior high? Fits.

Of course, I hate Facebook too, but for different reasons.
posted by rokusan at 4:50 PM on September 29, 2009


Anyway, from where I am (the UK, and previously, Australia), MySpace seems not so much "black" as adolescent

On preview, that. What ACB said.
posted by rokusan at 4:53 PM on September 29, 2009


Man it's really hard to not take these discussion personally. I hope I didn't just sound like I was going "nuh-UNH" to the criticisms/hate, because I feel like there's a nuanced and interesting conversation to be had there and that's the one I was trying to have in between hearing how much everyone hates us.
posted by flaterik at 4:58 PM on September 29, 2009


So rokusan hates everything including how danah boyd spells her name. That's some deep discussion.
posted by GuyZero at 5:00 PM on September 29, 2009


flaterik - sadly many reasons for the dislike are based on design decisions that were made a long, long time ago and which I would guess are now entrenched and irreversible, so it doesn't look like you guys will be doing anything to alleviate the dislike anytime soon. If it's any consolation I worked on a competitor that's disliked by just anyone who knows that it exists, which is very few people, and which though well funded did not have the consolation of making boatloads of $$$ for it's parent company.
posted by Artw at 5:05 PM on September 29, 2009


I read the whole thing. I agree that the web is socially stratified, and homophily (learned a new word) is a problem there like everywhere else, and that activists need to practice outreach to places that will reach different populations. These are not new sentiments and she's right.

But the term "white flight" is so loaded I don't see how she thought she'd get a good reaction. Did white people really run from MySpace like it was full of rioters and looters, to shut out the scary black people who were lowering their property values and taking their taxes for social services and to keep them away from their daughters? That's what white flight means to me. It means Detroit, MI burning itself down every Halloween, only a few miles from the Bloomfield Hunt Club. It means Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the government built a huge concentration of housing projects so the poor could endure bad educations and heavy crime without the rest of us having to look at them. White flight is/was bad news and it's not a term to toss around.

This doesn't seem to me like what's happening in social media, and it does seem like she's drawing a comparison that insinuates that white people on Facebook are ostracizing black people and institutionalizing racism and oppression. It's a bad metaphor in several ways. And most of it she seems to get from the one 14-year-old calling Facebook "ghetto:"

This quote provides the key to understanding the distinction between MySpace and Facebook. . . it's about seeing the "other" site as the place where the "other" people go.

By the time I got to her "takeaways" section I thought she had some good points, but she was so inflammatory that it was hard to take them seriously. Also the points weren't very new or original. And was it really necessary to ask the audience to do a "privilege check" in order to make them, or was that just to make us think that she was going to say something insightful and groundbreaking?

That was my take. Is there something else here that I'm missing?
posted by Marnie at 5:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Do you think maybe she could have just said "MySpace and Facebook appeal to different audiences, if you want to reach a broad range of people have a presence for both, hey, maybe throw in a Twitter account" and maybe covered about 90% of what is useful about her talk?
posted by Artw at 5:12 PM on September 29, 2009


I don't think that anyone said that "all aesthetic preferences are totally divorced from other cultural factors" But it would be equally idiotic to say "no aesthetic preferences are unconnected from cultural factors". I mean, ugly is ugly, and myspace is ugly.

Now, I certainly think MySpace is ugly. But, really, nearly all aesthetic preferences are connected to cultural factors!* Look at, oh, the entire history of art. Or the difference between graphic design in Western and Asian newspapers. Or, closer to this subject, the design of Walmart vs. Target (and how those are seen by, say, Metafilter users).

Of course, "cultural factors" is a big-ass umbrella you can fit a lot of stuff into, but I don't think it takes much of a jump to connect class and race to the FaceBook / MySpace divide. Especially if you see some actual research that points to those connections.

*There are probably some really basic neurological responses that aren't. Maybe. But even then, the responses we layer on top of those differ so much based on culture ...
posted by feckless at 5:13 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: How does Facebook pass someone by?"

Because lots of us read privacy policies and shuddered at Facebook's? Because I don't have a burning need to have people from high school find me? Because I already have too much on my plate and don't need another site with manufactured drama? There are so many reasons to let Facebook pass you by...

(And yet...I love twitter...go figure.)
posted by dejah420 at 5:15 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flaterik - you have my sympathies! Working for a thing that's commonly understood to be ugly and unusable despite having bazillions of users? Agree with some of the criticism, yet feel that the critics are missing some of what makes it great? Been there.
posted by feckless at 5:17 PM on September 29, 2009


I think it's been hammered out pretty clearly that Facebook users have no interest in migrating to MySpace, but what I'm wondering is why MySpace folks are so hesitant to migrate over to Facebook.

Personally I've about given up on Facebook as the social networking is a chore and it's become deluged with so many quizzes and games that the walls of old friends have become noisy and meaningless. What's the next generation of social networking? I'm sure it's waiting in the wings, because Facebook is turning into a cesspool; all it needs is some ads, customization, and music to complete the cycle, and operating economics and bloated management shall inevitably see to that.
posted by crapmatic at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2009


/composes long list of eBay gripes to dump on feckless.
posted by Artw at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2009


Thanks artw. I think one of the confusing aspects to me is that I almost never see people's profile pages - and our home page, while a bit more ad-strewn that FB's, is not really horrifically ugly any more. And it's a lot more customizable to put things where you want them.

My greatest frustration comes from complaints that are clearly from experience 2 years ago. We were aware of the issues, and worked very hard to resolve them (I, personally, worked many very long weeks to resolve almost all of the site stability and uptime issues. sure we have bouts of slowness, but overall it's pretty damn stable now.)... so to hear them reiterated is, well.. frustrating :).

Some of the design decisions we really are chipping away at, but man are you right that they're entrenched. But: lite view. lite view. lite view. you don't have to see people's crazy page concoctions if you don't want to! We really should publicize that better.
posted by flaterik at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally I've about given up on Facebook as the social networking is a chore and it's become deluged with so many quizzes and games that the walls of old friends have become noisy and meaningless. What's the next generation of social networking?

Twitter, which is basically the status and NOTHING ELSE.
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


/composes long list of eBay gripes to dump on feckless.

/hands them to people who still work there (it's been a while!)
posted by feckless at 5:22 PM on September 29, 2009


Space is black, with a few white speckles here and there.
Books are white, with a few black speckles here and there.
posted by qvantamon at 5:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hi, I'm just catching up here and will comment more closely when I've had a chance to read everything, however can I second nearly everything muddgirl has said?

First of all, it's curious that in a thread full of quantitative types, showing off their bulging hard science muscles (so to speak), a lot of the attention is put on things like the way the author spells her name and not on whether nor not the stated hypothesis is true. The people who disagree with the author are responding in entirely personalized, defensive ways. No one has said, "Well, let me see if there is any quantitative data on the class, race, gender, geographic breakdown of Facebook users." It's not as though her claim is that far fetched. Would it be at least arguable that a service that started out in Ivy League colleges might have some class or racial bias--especially given that the digital divide in general (people of color tending to own computers generally less often than whites) is pretty well documented?

Second of all, thank you to muddgirl and feckless for discussing the social origins of taste--something I'm generally interested in. There is a lot of quantitative research on the correlation between taste and social class, most obviously by Bourdieu. It should be noted that a lot of what people say about Myspace in this thread--it's noisy, garish trash, etc.--is very similar to the historic reactions to jazz, bebop, and hip hop. I remark on this likeness without passing any judgment or making any accusations; I also think Myspace is garish and not user friendly, but I think it's important to be wary about citing to a second cultural cause as if it removed any tie to the first cultural cause, particularly when that cause is one that people, even on metafilter, are terrified of talking about (race).
posted by johnasdf at 5:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


flaterik - I'm curious - are there long discussions about changing the structure of the user pages and what the impact on the various user-created CSS hacks would be, or is that pretty much set in stone now?
posted by Artw at 5:29 PM on September 29, 2009


DANAH BOYD.

Nah. You gotta do a full charge. If you want to offend, you gotta bring them to the ground.

*Hi DaNaH BoYD Do U LieK CuKieS? <3 <3 <3*
posted by qvantamon at 5:32 PM on September 29, 2009


Lots of very long discussions artw. We already addressed it to a certain extent with the new profile system which allows customization without hacks, but figuring out exactly how to get people to move from their beloved CSS hackery to something that's a little more restrained but still feels personal to them is... tricky.
posted by flaterik at 5:35 PM on September 29, 2009


crapmatic: Facebook Lite
posted by jock@law at 5:35 PM on September 29, 2009


The only people I know that prefer Myspace are musicians.

This pisses me off so much, because I just don't understand it. I hear some local band being interviewed on the radio, and the DJ asks them "So, are you guys on Myspace?". Bands don't bother with having an actual web presence, but instead focus on their Myspace page.

Why? Myspace is an awful, noisy, messy, limiting platform, and the people with the disposable income for CDs and T-shirts and concert tickets (whether you want to perceive that through the prism of race, or class, or age, or education) aren't on Myspace anymore, they're on Facebook. And the "Facebook pages" feature is actually pretty good - it allows you, as a musician, to do a lot more, in a more organized way, with better integration to your real site than Myspace does. But, as far as I can tell, bands still haven't taken off on Facebook in the same way they have on Myspace.
posted by Jimbob at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


flaterik - Pretty much what i figured the situation would be.

(Sadly (or perhaps not) I can't find my one attempt at MySpace customisation, buyt suffice it to say the CSS has lots of crap like TD TD TD TD TD TD in it. And !important. lots and lots of !important. )
posted by Artw at 5:39 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. Actually I just found it. It's not quite as horrible as I remember it, but still too horrible to show anybody here.
posted by Artw at 5:45 PM on September 29, 2009


(and it's more "table table table td" than "td td td td", for those that care)
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on September 29, 2009


And, just to come back to this again, I'd say that the people who come up with the hacks for customizing MySpace deserve some props for stunt-CSS - some of them go way further with using styles to modify a table layout with very few classes in useful places than I'd ever dream of.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meh. Mixi is where it's at, folks. Not only do you need to know Japanese in order to even use it, you have to have an invite. An invite! That's so 2004.
posted by armage at 5:55 PM on September 29, 2009


So rokusan hates everything including how danah boyd spells her name. That's some deep discussion.

I also hate comments that don't do anything except criticize other comments.

But I don't hate puppies.
posted by rokusan at 5:57 PM on September 29, 2009


I still get Bebo friend requests.
posted by Artw at 5:59 PM on September 29, 2009


Burhanistan: How does Facebook pass someone by?"

Because lots of us read privacy policies and shuddered at Facebook's? Because I don't have a burning need to have people from high school find me? Because I already have too much on my plate and don't need another site with manufactured drama? There are so many reasons to let Facebook pass you by...


That wasn't the gist of my reply to that original comment. He was saying that people jumped on Twitter because they somehow missed out on the previous social networking fads.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:19 PM on September 29, 2009


I hate MySpace. Not because I'm a white supremacist or anything, but because of the user experience.

You somehow managed to leave out the 300 Mafia Wars invites that magically appear in one's inbox overnight... Other than that, I think you're spot on.
posted by Avelwood at 6:23 PM on September 29, 2009


All those richy-rich Facebookers are just biding their time until Myspace is ready to be gentrified.
posted by orme at 6:25 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Everyone knows asmallworld is where it is at (some Swedish teen invited me). It is like the Thursday Style section of the NYT going down on you under a bridge in Queens. I found an old friend who was rumored to be living of a trust fund and making jewelry in Coast Rica (this all turned out to be true). It makes the Facebook look like a bunch of top grads from Safety Schools clamoring for some mediocre job.
posted by geoff. at 6:28 PM on September 29, 2009


The people who disagree with the author are responding in entirely personalized, defensive ways.

The people who agree with the author are responding in entirely personalized, defensive ways.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:42 PM on September 29, 2009


Civil_Disobedient, let me be more specific: the response I'm seeing is (1) I'm not racist! and (2) let me tell you my personal experience with Facebook vs Myspace usability. Is this different from what you're seeing?

Having read most of the articles in more detail now, the Metafilter response is even more disappointing. I've been interested in network effects on race lately because they're so powerful and also they seem like a way of understanding race that we can all get behind: they offer an explanation of racially disparate effects that does not rely on anyone being the bad guy! They change the conversation from "You have intentionally racist thoughts, ya jerk!" to "Through no necessary, volitional fault of your own, your social network is composed of people primarily like you and in certain cases, this has the effect of reproducing racial stratification--so on the one hand, don't beat yourself up so much about it, but on the other hand, this is a serious observable problem."

This is essentially what the author is saying. What's depressing is that most of the people in this thread actually can't see the difference between these two positions. She's never says that Facebook users are racist; the point is the far less controversial point about how Facebook and Myspace users both reproduce the social groupings that already exist in reality. She spends a lot more time talking about, say, homophily, than she does about prejudice.

I guess, what I would ask the people who have such negative reactions to this article is: (1) Do you disagree with the idea that an online network would reproduce the social breakdowns of regular society? It seems that some people think this is trivial and other people think it's race-baiting nonsense. (2) Given that this is the case, is it impossible that certain classes and races would gather towards certain sites and not others?
posted by johnasdf at 7:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I just visited tinychat and was struck by how segregated it is...mostly rooms full of black youth and a few rooms with white youth. There are a few of each who are in the opposite room, but not very many. It's interesting because you really get to see the race of users that ordinarily would not be possible in a text-only chat area.

Unfortunately, bigots keep coming into the 'black' rooms and spouting all sorts of racist crap. I was tempted to ask how often that happens, though the room participants seemed extraordinarily patient and adept at ignoring the morons.

For what it's worth, I did not see a single case of a black user coming into the 'white' rooms and spouting shit.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:43 PM on September 29, 2009


I'd say her premise, minus the race bating nonsense, makes some sense but is really pathetically obvious, and that it's the race baiting nonsense she seems primarily interested in.
posted by Artw at 7:45 PM on September 29, 2009


I'd also say that even by the standards of this kind of conversation conflating age, education AND socioeconomic status as "race" is pretty weak.
posted by Artw at 7:52 PM on September 29, 2009


First of all, it's curious that in a thread full of quantitative types, showing off their bulging hard science muscles (so to speak), a lot of the attention is put on things like the way the author spells her name and not on whether nor not the stated hypothesis is true.

It's not curious at all. Did you miss the point where we were lectured that we must use her preferred spelling? That was the generative moment of that discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:13 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I guess, what I would ask the people who have such negative reactions to this article is: (1) Do you disagree with the idea that an online network would reproduce the social breakdowns of regular society? It seems that some people think this is trivial and other people think it's race-baiting nonsense. (2) Given that this is the case, is it impossible that certain classes and races would gather towards certain sites and not others?

1) I disagree with would. Change it to could and I might take the general idea seriously. Even then, in this specific Facebook vs. MySpace case it clearly doesn't.

2) Again, it is possible, but we're talking about this. one. case. *headdesk*

For the record, I'm pissed off because once again Americans have reduced a subject of international scope to the black/white divide in America. I use Facebook almost exclusively to mingle with my Chinese friends. Does that mean we have "white" aesthetics?

And my favorite social networking site is LiveJournal. Take a guess how many LJers have no idea what races their closest LJ friends are after years of textual intercourse.
posted by fatehunter at 8:21 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


First of all, it's curious that in a thread full of quantitative types, showing off their bulging hard science muscles.

MeFi users bulge like this, and MeFi critics bulge like this.
posted by rokusan at 8:25 PM on September 29, 2009


Okay, so make up your minds, is it pathetically obvious or clearly untrue?

More to the point, have you guys read her response (linked upthread; note that it seems to refer to a blog entry she wrote, rather than the speech we read)? I think it's pretty fascinating. My general impression is that the Root interview is poorly framed, in that it puts the wrong emphasis on White Flight; you don't see this same frame so prominently in the article on her site or on her response. She does say some things that either don't match up with the straw man in this thread or anticipate some of the points:

- She says that race and class don't necessarily correlate and that it's problematic to think that it does. (I think she says this in the speech.)
- She says that the reaction to her paper should be "Duh!" in that it's obvious that social relationships in the real world would replicate online.
- She responds to many of the characterizations on this thread (demonstrating the predictability of MeFi): "A huge misreading of my piece concerns what age group I'm talking about. I study teens, American high school teens to be exact. I am not talking about college students or the 35+ crowd. Much of what I'm saying might apply to them but it's astonishing to me that so many folks have decided to "prove me wrong" by talking about themselves and their friends (all over whom are outside of HS)."
- Re: Myspace usability, she notes that an MSNBC commentator "shows her own class biases by talking about MySpace as ugly."
- She's not bipolar re black/white; there's a lot of emphasis on Latinos.

Also, I'm surprised how everyone keeps saying that she's an inflammatory race-baiter. I agree that The Root interview is framed poorly, but it's hard for me to see how the speech is inflammatory. She's basically talking to activists who already agree with her; the tone throughout seems to be that of a plucky mom who's genuinely concerned about injustice. What are the things that seem most offensive in the speech?
posted by johnasdf at 8:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's hard to take seriously a Microsoft ethnographer who believes that upper case is somehow a political statement - even though the article does, indeed, cover serious and salient material. I see conclusions painted where hypotheses should instead be sketched, on a fickle and flimsy canvas gessoed with anecdotes about two social networking sites, fitfully lit by the glow of a previous study.

I have suspicions, but I'm unable to clearly articulate them because I'm unsure if my own bias isn't driving them. So, I'll instead introduce questions.

What drives her research on this particular set of issues?
What would change if her conclusions were accepted, her takeaways considered and implemented?
Given Microsoft's closeness with Facebook, and her own employment with Microsoft, what biases (if any) does that introduce in her research?
posted by FormlessOne at 8:53 PM on September 29, 2009


What are the things that seem most offensive in the speech?

I won't repeat what others repeatedly tried to convey upthread, but I'll explain how your reply's managed to pissed me off a little further. Keep in mind that it's still a long way from offending me, as is her speech.

She's not bipolar re black/white; there's a lot of emphasis on Latinos.

The emphasis on Latinos is lost to me amidst all that BlackSpace vs. WhiteBook framing, but that's beside the point. I'm not black or white or Latino. None of my Facebook friends is, unless you count Indian Canadians as black. Now you see?
posted by fatehunter at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2009


Captain Kirk, surely you've noticed that MySpace is black on the right side but Facebook is black on the left side...
posted by wittgenstein at 9:00 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I think) Another reason that myspace has a lot of Black users as opposed to Facebook is that a lot of hip-hop and R&B artists (Kanye West inlcuded) have included "myspace" in their lyrics, exponentially increasing its popularity amongst Blacks who listen to their music.

This is really pretty incorrect. It has already been pointed out that a huge number of rap fans, certainly tons online, are not black. And from what I've seen (heard), Kanye and Jay both eschew MySpace, and neither has one. Kanye has a couple different lines where he talks about MySpace negatively (one of them is on Number 1 with Pharrell) , and Jay has the lyrics on Beach Chair where he says "no I've never been on myspace - too busy letting my voice vibrate".

The Swayze thing is wrong too. That started from emcees (the earliest I remember was Parrish from EPMD, I think) saying they were gone, or "ghost" and that turned into "ghost like swayze", much like saying "I'm out" turned into "I'm outtie", which turned into "I'm audi 5000" and then just "5000" meant "bye".

I want to read through the part linked on her site fully, but from the root article, this seems like people latched onto one point, blew it up all to hell, and then tried to use that to make it seem like the whole thing is outlandish nonsense.

I do agree that I think she took the "ghetto" thing and tried to run with it. But hey, that's much of social science - taking leaps here and there where you think something is occurring. Sometimes you don't gather 85 years of data before making a statement. Howard Becker talks about how so much social science writing is crap because there's 85 million qualifiers and after a while half the studies are so meek in their pronouncements, you're basically, to quote stetsasonic, talkin all that jazz.
posted by cashman at 9:16 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Facebook is useful for people who don't want to have to actively _do_ anything to participate. You can click once to poke someone, click to 'like' a status update. It's like a huge lab experiment where you nuzzle a button and a little reward (perceived social connectedness) comes out. For MySpace users had less hand-holding about how to participate, so to be noticed users started posting bulletins and adding things to their profiles, to give others a reason to visit their profiles. Older people who've grown past the social need to attract attention in this way will naturally not be attracted to it. Facebook and MySpace are not the same kind of service at their core, MySpace is Geocities and Facebook is e-mail.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:47 PM on September 29, 2009


Okay, so make up your minds, is it pathetically obvious or clearly untrue?

I dunno, could it be pathetically obvious where not clearly untrue?

That you may reach different groups through different social media would be pathetically obvious - any web marketing bozo would be able to tell you that without the dodgy lecture on white flight and all that.

That all white people dislike animated gifs and autoplay mp3s would be clearly untrue, as would be that all people who dislike animated gifs and autoplay mp3s dislike them because they are markers of black culture. I'd say that's not just clearly untrue, it's well into WTF gibberish territory.

And yes, I'm sure she's not saying that apart from all the bits where she actually is and it's very unfair of us to single those out.
posted by Artw at 9:48 PM on September 29, 2009


What drives her research on this particular set of issues?

I don't think this question is relevant when regarded as separate from an inquiry into her possible biases, but her interest in the social mechanics of online communities is in all likelihood the answer.

What would change if her conclusions were accepted, her takeaways considered and implemented?

I don't think this question is relevant either. Most good research isn't conducted with an eye towards accomplishing a specific goal or providing a specific solution, and I don't think that this research suggests one. It makes a hypothesis about a phenomenon, and it may be that someone finds its conclusions useful somewhere down the road.

Given Microsoft's closeness with Facebook, and her own employment with Microsoft, what biases (if any) does that introduce in her research?

How to judge bias: (1) Does a research project conducted by a given researcher benefit a particular interest? (2) Does that researcher have documented associations with that interest?

If the answers are yes and yes, then you have reason to suspect that the research is biased. As far as I can tell, the answers in this specific case are no and yes, respectively. It's also worth noting that a lot of the conclusions linked above stem from her dissertation, most or all of which was completed before she began working at Microsoft, which you can verify on the about me page on her website.

The people who agree with the author are responding in entirely personalized, defensive ways.

To be honest, I'm loath to respond to anything you say, Civil_Disobedient, because the level of your discourse in this thread is not really what I'd expect from someone who professes sympathy for the rationalism of the "the scientific community," but nonetheless I want to say that it's fairly clear you don't understand much about sociological research.

First, I disagree that the scientific community doesn't take sociologists seriously. I certainly don't want to be rash and just go ahead and claim that that's actually the case, because I'm not in a position to judge what the scientific community thinks. Perhaps you could elucidate what gives you the authority to speak for the scientific community? Even better, before you answer that, maybe you could define what "the scientific community" means to you?

Second, most of your nitpicks are responses to the online interview, which is unfair. Interviews are extemporaneous, so you can't really fault the interviewee for not always articulating themselves perfectly. In any case, she clarifies what she means by "social messiness" in the paragraph above the one you pulled - she's referring to the fact that "white flight" is a phenomenon that correlates to race but is not adequately explained by framing it as solely a racial issue. It's true that making the connection to white flight is a clumsy move because of the associations it has, but the analogy isn't entirely without merit: she's pointing out that the phenomenon she documents bears comparison with white flight because, according to her, both are driven by concerns that aren't racial but nonetheless manifest along racial lines.

Your complaints about sample size are covered in tarheelcoxn's comment, but you ignore her other material: namely, the 10,000 myspace profiles she analyzed.

As for this:

The people who agree with the author are responding in entirely personalized, defensive ways.

Please respond to tarheelcoxn and johnasdf's well-reasoned rebuttals if you still disagree, rather than posting fighty one-liners.

I do wish that everyone who responded with "I disagree, it's clear that [broad statement about social networking demographics]" would provide some substantiation to their claims beyond anecdote. It would make your complaints about the methodology of the linked research more credible.
posted by invitapriore at 9:53 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the record, I'm pissed off because once again Americans have reduced a subject of international scope to the black/white divide in America. I use Facebook almost exclusively to mingle with my Chinese friends. Does that mean we have "white" aesthetics?

This research has nothing to do with your Chinese friends. There's no reduction occurring because the scope of the research was defined in such a way as to exclude the social dynamics that you're talking about.
posted by invitapriore at 9:55 PM on September 29, 2009


I have to say I'm fascinated by this new "interviews don't count" rule. Is the idea that if something is said in an interview that seems a bit foolish then one has to assume it was some kind of Ali G style set up.
posted by Artw at 10:03 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artw, you're radically misconstruing both what I said and what she said. It's not that the interview doesn't count, it's that criticisms about her statements in the interview are not adequate substitutes for criticisms of her research.

That all white people dislike animated gifs and autoplay mp3s would be clearly untrue, as would be that all people who dislike animated gifs and autoplay mp3s dislike them because they are markers of black culture. I'd say that's not just clearly untrue, it's well into WTF gibberish territory.

I'm not sure that we can meaningfully discuss what she's talking about if you're pursuing the strategy of putting words in her mouth that you can then readily dismiss. This is a textbook straw man argument. Please try to make rebuttals to specific claims.
posted by invitapriore at 10:12 PM on September 29, 2009


> I have suspicions, but I'm unable to clearly articulate them because I'm unsure if my own bias isn't driving them. So, I'll instead introduce questions. [...] Given Microsoft's closeness with Facebook, and her own employment with Microsoft, what biases (if any) does that introduce in her research?

Firstly she's at MS Research, which much like Xerox PARC back in the day really does have some independence of its parent/sponsor in terms of what their people research and publish. That said, it's mostly irrelevant in this case because the PDF talk I linked was based on research from before she was hired by MS. To give you a sense of my personal feelings about MS: I run Ubuntu on my laptop, my other laptop, and my personal server. Most of the stuff I get paid to work on runs on RHEL. I'm the vice-chair for the local Linux Users Group. Shall I go on?

Also, she wrote about this on her blog.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 10:12 PM on September 29, 2009


Also, guys, her name is spelled "danah boyd," no capital letters.

There is no Danah. Only zuul.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:24 PM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Captain Kirk, surely you've noticed that MySpace is black on the right side but Facebook is black on the left side..."

Mos Def is black on both sides.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on September 29, 2009


I knew a guy that put a colon into his name because he thought it screwed up the government somehow and so he wasn't required to pay income taxes or some crap. So his name was something like Micha:el. You can spell your name however you want, but the minute you start putting weird punctuation or symbols or strange capitalization in it, well, feel free to write it like that. If its a problem that I'm going to call you "Michael" or "Danah", well, I guess we don't have to communicate that bad.
posted by Justinian at 10:38 PM on September 29, 2009


No one ever called Prince pretentious when he did that symbol thing.
posted by Artw at 10:42 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twitter is strictly for the elderly!
posted by arse_hat at 10:59 PM on September 29, 2009


1,200th comment, make it good, make it good . . .

Wait, am I late to the party where we get to drop a steamy, cake-like loaf all over social networking? 219 comments already? Fuck!

hell yes
posted by Mikey-San at 11:00 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one ever called Prince pretentious when he did that symbol thing.

That's because Prince lives in Prince World. You can't just bust up in Prince World and act like that symbol thing wasn't the coolest, most mysterious, this-is-gonna-get-me-astronomical-amounts-of-pussy move ever. At least, not without bringing him a camel first.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


But I don't hate puppies.

I admit to hating puppies, but it's purely for cultural reasons.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2009


Meh. Mixi is where it's at, folks. Not only do you need to know Japanese in order to even use it, you have to have an invite. An invite! That's so 2004.

Similarly, there's Pixiv, social networking site where people post their own drawings and rate others, and Nicovideo, which is essentially Japanese YouTube, only much harder to join - you can't even look at the videos without an account (or going to a nicoproxy site). Pixiv is easy enough to join - registration is free, and translated guides for the registration form are available. Nicovideo, on the other hand, will only let you register for free with a 24-hour trial membership (one per e-mail address). Which is why most people outside of Japan either use the nicoproxy sites, or Bugmenot.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I've mentioned before that they Symbol thing wasn't mad, made perfect sense, and was a rational, if eccentric, joke at the expense of the Warner Brothers legal department. I should probably to a proper write-up and post it somewhere.
posted by Grangousier at 12:43 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one has said, "Well, let me see if there is any quantitative data on the class, race, gender, geographic breakdown of Facebook users.

Not true, I did so here and actually this particular dataset disproved her hypothesis.

Having read most of the articles in more detail now, the Metafilter response is even more disappointing. I've been interested in network effects on race lately because they're so powerful and also they seem like a way of understanding race that we can all get behind:

I think the basic problem with her article is that the central fact, that black people don't use facebook, or whatever, is bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 12:58 AM on September 30, 2009


Look how popular Patrick Swayze was because he was the answer to every rapper's dilemma: "what can I rhyme with crazy?"

Patrick Swayze was a Rapper's Delight
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:30 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I've mentioned before that they Symbol thing wasn't mad, made perfect sense, and was a rational, if eccentric, joke at the expense of the Warner Brothers legal department. I should probably to a proper write-up and post it somewhere.

I thought the Prince v WB thing was common pop knowledge. Do you mean you have some additional info most people wouldn't, for some neato insider reason? Because that would be excellent.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:31 AM on September 30, 2009


Not true, I did so here and actually this particular dataset disproved her hypothesis.

It did no such thing, because the scope of her hypothesis does not include 18-19 year olds or college students.

I think the basic problem with her article is that the central fact, that black people don't use facebook, or whatever, is bullshit.

I think the basic problem with your interpretation of the talk is that it is utterly divorced from reality. I question whether you read the same document as I did, but the claims made in it are as follows:

1) MySpace has a negative reputation among teenaged Facebook users and the media that is often expressed in language that has race or class implications.
2) The teenaged users of MySpace that moved to Facebook (that is, began to base their online identity primarily on Facebook, even if they were nominally present on both sites) were predominantly white.
3) Interactions among teenagers of different races on social networking sites mirror the general interactions of those teens with each other.

Claims (2) and (3) are the ones that need hard data to back them up, and the reason that data isn't provided is because (1) what is linked above is not a scientific publication, but a talk, and (2) it is a work in progress, as she states. A certain amount of judgment needs to be deferred until the project is completed, but I somehow doubt you have the information to say that her claims are "bullshit." The research you linked to certainly doesn't provide any basis for that, and it also bears mentioning that the biggest discussion of how and how many black people use Facebook occurs in the introduction to the interview, which was written by someone else and is an unfortunately inaccurate summary of the discussion. How, exactly, did you end up coming away from both links thinking that "black people don't use facebook" was her main point?
posted by invitapriore at 2:04 AM on September 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Facebook and MySpace are not the same kind of service at their core, MySpace is Geocities and Facebook is e-mail.

Yes, except myspace IS email now - MySpace messaging interacts with email.

I don't actually disagree with your conclusion, because of the way people actually USE the sites, I just find the irony amusing
posted by flaterik at 2:07 AM on September 30, 2009


Nothing makes me feel better about myself than painfully convoluted arguments that confirm my initial desired beliefs. All hail the new science.
posted by molecicco at 3:26 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was working at a newspaper when Prince did his name change, and he sent out computer disks to the media with that symbol on it, so we could put it on our computers and use it in referring to him. Because the symbol couldn't be pronounced, it became pretty common among news editors and layout designers to call Prince "The Dingbat."
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:36 AM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I stopped using MySpace because it automatically plays music when you look at someone's page, which alerted me to the fact that some of my friends have really awful taste in music. With Facebook, I can live in blissful ignorance.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:03 AM on September 30, 2009


How, exactly, did you end up coming away from both links thinking that "black people don't use facebook" was her main point?

Because of the way the post was framed?
posted by cashman at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2009


Finally someone addresses what delmoi said! Jesus fuck!
posted by fleacircus at 6:32 AM on September 30, 2009


Why do some people in this thread keep referring to danah boyd's conjecture as research?
posted by snofoam at 6:40 AM on September 30, 2009


"When I look at the pages of some of my friends on Facebook (I'm a white dude), I find that Black people tend to have a lot of Black friends, and white people tend to have a lot of white friends. My Indian friends have more Indian friends than I do, my (non-Indian) Asian friends have more Asian friends than I do, and I have more single female friends who are using Facebook to obsessively check and re-check my relationship status in hopes that I've broken up with my girlfriend."

Wouldn't that, at least partially, be an expected result of a high number of friends being relatives?
posted by Mitheral at 6:54 AM on September 30, 2009


Would this be something you'd have to have friends to understand?
posted by mazola at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because lots of us read privacy policies and shuddered at Facebook's? Because I don't have a burning need to have people from high school find me? Because I already have too much on my plate and don't need another site with manufactured drama? There are so many reasons to let Facebook pass you by...

I agree, yet I check it all the time.

(And yet...I love twitter...go figure.)

I've bowed out of twitter for exactly the same reasons that you've bowed out of Facebook. The last straw was when I started getting hate tweets from #tcot ladies in Kansas City after making a political tweet that they didn't like. If you have concerns about Facebook's privacy carelessness, twitter's not exactly nirvana.
posted by blucevalo at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think danah needs to be careful about spelling her name all weird like because I've known folks who did that and bad things happen like to my friend who had his own unique way of spelling things and he thought he was cool and he still got kicked out of his own bar and it was SO EMBARASSING.

Poor Da5id .... I wonder what he's up to these days ...
posted by barnacles at 11:16 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It should be noted that a lot of what people say about Myspace in this thread--it's noisy, garish trash, etc.--is very similar to the historic reactions to jazz, bebop, and hip hop. I remark on this likeness without passing any judgment or making any accusations; I also think Myspace is garish and not user friendly, but I think it's important to be wary about citing to a second cultural cause as if it removed any tie to the first cultural cause, particularly when that cause is one that people, even on metafilter, are terrified of talking about (race).
johnasdf: it was the quantitative types who pointed out that blacks were actually represented in a larger percentage on Facebook than MySpace. To reiterate the points in here the comments you seem to have missed: the use of "white flight" to describe myspace was highly loaded. Many, if not most, of us talking here did have myspace pages until myspace became a mess: and not in a "cultural" sense-- there are certain aesthetic and usability standards when it comes to web applications that transcend race, class, and culture. Not coming to terms with these simple facts is just setting oneself up for disaster or, at least, self-flagelation about why no one wants to use a crappy web site. There is a genuine reluctance from danah and many of her defenders to "pass judgment" on the visual and usability shortcomings of the average myspace page-- I believe that this reluctance is wrong and uselessly forces a lot of hand-wringing about "culture" when when some things can be seen as being objectively good or bad at serving one's goals.
the tone throughout seems to be that of a plucky mom who's genuinely concerned about injustice.
I'm not saying that this is true about danah herself, but invoking the stereotype of the "plucky mom" brings to mind someone who means well but isn't that well-informed and is desperate to come across as being "with it" while actually coming across in a fairly embarrassing and meddling manner.
posted by deanc at 12:46 PM on September 30, 2009


I worked in a library in an economically depressed area with mixed white and black populations of roughly the same income levels, and they seemed to universally use MySpace. I moved jobs, and now work in an area of higher socio-economic level, and facebook is what all of the kids are talking about.

There's my circumstantial evidence.

I'd like to see more research on the subject, since the series of speeches/posts by boyd (and fuck you people making fun of her for choosing to spell it differently, maybe you don't like it, but mocking someone for their name is as petty as it gets) raises interesting (and seemingly true) points, but could be better developed.
posted by codacorolla at 1:23 PM on September 30, 2009


codacorolla: and fuck you people making fun of her for choosing to spell it differently, maybe you don't like it, but mocking someone for their name is as petty as it gets

Uh, yeah, no one is mocking her name, they're mocking her need "to satisfy [her] own political irritation at the importance of capitalization". That is moronic and worthy of mockery.

It likely would not have been an issue if an early post had not scolded the thread for simply using proper rules of grammar and capitalizing a proper noun. I never would have known of Boyd's affectation had we not been beaten over the head with it; I just assumed some people were not using the shift key, which happens on the internet.

In any case, I am not bound by another person's pretentious affectation and I am under no obligation to participate in the making of her ridiculous "point".
posted by spaltavian at 1:54 PM on September 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


The other problem with delmoi's "quant refutation" is that, even if it talked about the same group danah's research is about, which it doesn't, it's a static number. You'd need to see how the numbers were changing over time! If the numbers were moving in the direction her research suggests, you'd know one thing, if they were moving in the other direction you'd know another, etc.

(The other other problem is that it's not usually case that a quant study can directly refute a qualitative study. More usually a contradiction means a methodological mismatch, or that the qualitative study is actually dealing with a different group and the qualitative claims should be narrowed further or something like that, to be figured out with further research.)
posted by feckless at 3:37 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a genuine reluctance from danah and many of her defenders to "pass judgment" on the visual and usability shortcomings of the average myspace page-- I believe that this reluctance is wrong and uselessly forces a lot of hand-wringing about "culture" when when some things can be seen as being objectively good or bad at serving one's goals.

deanc - the reason I'm reluctant to do so is that I've been really wrong about this in the lab. i have some experience with the design of really large-scale websites, and over time I've learned two things:

1. As a designer, I have my own preconceptions about what "good design" is, which match (more or less) the ones of most of the MySpace haters. When I've seen different designs tested, though, it just isn't always the case that sites that have what I would consider as having inferior designs perform less well. Sometimes the loud, crowded, ugly, noisy, "badly" designed sites win. It's not always clear why -- cultural reasons, the ugly one is what people are used to, what we see as ugly has meaning and utility to devotees of the site that we just don't see. It's hard. This isn't to say you can't make things better, just that it's never as easy as it looks at first. A "clean" FB style design would probably kill MySpace.

2. And! It totally varies by audience. And this is cultural. Something that tests well in the US/Europe may well not test well in China or Japan. This is also true for other demographic differences. It's too easy to assume that design is universal. It's rarely true.

So, have you seen user research for MySpace pages, with subjects that matched their user base? I haven't, and until I have, I'm not gonna be able to say whether they're objectively good or bad at serving the goals of their users, whatever my personal opinion is.

Finally (and this is getting a little off topic) some of the most successful and frequently used individual pages on these internets are, objectively speaking, hideous. And yet ... there they are. (I'm thinking MySpace profile pages, eBay item pages, Craigslist, Amazon product pages). There's something there.
posted by feckless at 3:51 PM on September 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sometimes the loud, crowded, ugly, noisy, "badly" designed sites win. It's not always clear why -- cultural reasons, the ugly one is what people are used to, what we see as ugly has meaning and utility to devotees of the site that we just don't see. It's hard. This isn't to say you can't make things better, just that it's never as easy as it looks at first. A "clean" FB style design would probably kill MySpace.
I suppose part of this gets into what is "successful." Pretty much everyone who discovered HTML right after the blink tag was introduced started using it in their web pages. Lots of people have stories about how their early web pages were huge messes. Geocities was notorious (yet successful by some metrics). MySpace allows people to hang themselves in a way that, honestly, most people hanged themselves given the opportunity when they were first starting out. However, I don't think there's anything bad about saying that one form of design is objectively good and the other is reflective of an immature design sensibility (eg, where you can't read the text because of poor color/graphics choice, etc.)
Finally (and this is getting a little off topic) some of the most successful and frequently used individual pages on these internets are, objectively speaking, hideous. And yet ... there they are. (I'm thinking MySpace profile pages, eBay item pages, Craigslist, Amazon product pages). There's something there.
Hm. I'd argue that craigslist has one of the better interfaces. It's the anti-myspace. Makes you wonder how craigslist fits into the "subaltern/hegemonic" framework proposed by danah.
posted by deanc at 6:50 PM on September 30, 2009


Delmoi, I haven't read the quantitative study very carefully (which is another way of saying that I've skimmed it in about five minutes), but in addition to what other people have said, some of the conclusions seem to corroborate danah, especially since from what I remember she spends a significant amount of time discussing college:

"Hispanic students are significantly less likely to use Facebook (60% compared to 75% or more for other groups), whereas they are much more likely than others to use MySpace (73% among Hispanic students compared to 58% or less among all others). [...] There are also significant differences according to parents' level of education. The most pronounced finding is that students whose parents have less than a high school degree are significantly less likely to be on Facebook and are significantly more likely to be MySpace users. In contrast, those who have at least one parent with a college education are significantly more likely to be Facebook users, while those who have at least one parent with a graduate degree are considerably less likely to spend time on MySpace."

I'll try to post later when I've actually read the study, though I don't know if I'll have time.
posted by johnasdf at 6:58 PM on September 30, 2009


Okay, so Deanc says I'm "desperate to come across as being 'with it' while actually coming across in a fairly embarrassing and meddling manner" and Fatehunter helpfully says he'll "explain how [my] reply's managed to pissed [him] off a little further" (though he seems to have gotten to angry too get around to the explanation part)! Thanks, guys!

Deanc - First, as you might have seen, I explicitly say that the interview (the linked item furthest from her work intellectually) was misframed BECAUSE it pushed white flight, which seemed to have very little to do with the way that jonah herself frames her work. I don't see that term pop up much in her response or the speech--do you? If not, what is offensive about her speech?

Many, if not most, of us talking here did have myspace pages until myspace became a mess: and not in a "cultural" sense-- there are certain aesthetic and usability standards when it comes to web applications that transcend race, class, and culture. Not coming to terms with these simple facts is just setting oneself up for disaster or, at least, self-flagelation about why no one wants to use a crappy web site. There is a genuine reluctance from danah and many of her defenders to "pass judgment" on the visual and usability shortcomings of the average myspace page-- I believe that this reluctance is wrong and uselessly forces a lot of hand-wringing about "culture" when when some things can be seen as being objectively good or bad at serving one's goals.

I have a few questions: (1) When you say "objectively good or bad" in what sense is it objective? Who serves as the adjudicator of good or bad? (2) Are you saying that "aesthetics" can transcend "culture"? If so, how are you defining these terms? (3) Do you feel that different social groups generally do NOT display different aesthetic preferences? (4) I can see the temptation to reduce everything to usability, but a narrow definition of usability that excludes aesthetics and self expression (which is a big reason why people often like things and has little to do with, say, the functionality of a button configuration on a site). Do you agree that some people just really do prefer the dancing hamster/blinking text/geocities stuff?
posted by johnasdf at 7:15 PM on September 30, 2009


Whoops! Ignore the "to"/"too" mistake.
posted by johnasdf at 7:21 PM on September 30, 2009


but in addition to what other people have said, some of the conclusions seem to corroborate danah, especially since from what I remember she spends a significant amount of time discussing college:

"Hispanic students are significantly less likely to use Facebook (60% compared to 75% or more for other groups)


Hmm, that reminds me of another commented posted in this thread:

Which shows black people made up 7.4% of the sample, while making up 7.9% of facebook users, meaning they are slightly over represented, at least among this dataset, 18-19 year old college students. Interestingly, it was Hispanics, not African Americans who were more likely to use myspace users then facebook users, The only group with a statistically relevant larger share of the myspace pie then their share of the facebook pie. Asians dropped the most, while Whites and blacks had similar figures for both sites.
Oh, hmm that was posted by me.

Anyway, it's just one high school. I'm sure different high schools would show different usage patterns, since social cliques generally are within the school.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 PM on September 30, 2009


I've been following this thread for awhile, with interest, but have now got to the point where I have no idea what the purpose of all this is. What are we trying to demonstrate or disprove here? It really comes across as, on the one hand, a convoluted argument to show that facebook use (amongst teenagers) is an expression of hidden/unconscious white racism and that that is a problem that needs to, somehow, be dealt with. And on the other hand, opponents are not trying to disprove the claim, but rather show that the whole excercise is absurd nonsense, not least because its foundational claims are simply wrong, but moreover because what the former group is trying to demonstrate isn't even demonstratable because finding simple causes for complex behaviours in small demographics is a fruitless enterprise. Do I have it right?

If so, count me as part of the latter group.
posted by molecicco at 11:31 PM on September 30, 2009


so after I talked here yesterday repeatedly about how the site was loading Just Fine Now, Thanks, today there was a major outage related to my team, worse than any we've had in at least the past year. I blame metafilter and/or a lack of wood knocking on. christ. I realize this is not in any way germane to the actual subject of the post. again with the "just being amused by the irony" - this time at my expense.
posted by flaterik at 12:51 AM on October 1, 2009


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