Messing around and socializing online: a reshaping of norms by US youth

by Laurent François

Digital Youth Project is a fantastic project led by Mimi Ito that aims to explain what US kids are doing online.
From an European point of view, this study is highly interesting because it helps us to understand how youth is shaping new social norms. We all know that online and offline is not a relevant opposition anymore. Obviously, online activities of the youth now create new forms of social controls and conformity:

“Youth are developing new forms of media literacy that are keyed to new media and youth-centered social and cultural worlds.
We have identified a range of different practices that are evidence of youth-defined new media.
On the friendship-driven side, youth are developing shared norms for online publicity, including how to represent oneself in online profiles, norms for displaying peer networks online, the ranking of relationships in social network sites, and the development of new genres of written communication such as composed casualness in online messages. On the interest-driven side, youth continue to test the limits of forms of new media literacy and expression. Youth are developing a wide range of more specialized and sometimes exclusionary forms of new media literacies that are defined in opposition to those developed in more mainstream youth practices. In geeked out interest-driven groups, we have seen youth engage in the specialized “elite” vocabularies of gaming and esoteric fan knowledge and develop new experimental genres that make use of the authoring and editing capabilities of digital media.”

Mimi Ito gives us other insights on her blog:

“What web 2.0 means, not for the technologists but for kids in their day-to-day lives, is that what they make is inextricably tied to who they make it for and with. The creation of texts, of media, or play is a deeply social activity and not something driven by the technology itself. This social and technical ecology is what we call networked publics. Networked publics is about the lateral, peer-to-peer and many to many networks of people, media and communication that we are seeing proliferating on the Internet today.
The important thing about these networked publics is that they are highly differentiated and socially activated. This isn’t the undifferentiated or passive public that we associate with mass media. This is about niche publics built around specialized interests and local practices, and all of this aggregated and articulated within a global network of media and communications.”

Kids are niche-oriented. Is it the end of MTV?

More articles about the report:

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