Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Who, What and How of Technology

Out of the four forms of participatory culture that Jenkins mentions, I associate most with “Affiliations”, which he describes to be the “memberships, formal and informal, in online communities”, because I have my own personal page on Facebook and Myspace. This also makes me eligible to be called a media creator. I am a member of these online media sites to keep in contact with friends including those who have moved away to college or even those who live close by but I do not see very often.
Jenkins discussed alternate motivations for people to join these sites as media creators including reasons like wanting to create a self-identity for themselves, escape their day-to-day lives of school or work, and/or rebel against those in authority. In my opinion, I do not think children join these sites in rebellion of their parents. I think it is more about being cool and fitting in with their peers that drives them to become a media creator. From being apart of these communities for a number of years, I have seen how people make it more about how many friends you have rather than about how many you actually know or even communicate with regularly. This parallels the “friendship whore” concept that Boyd discusses when describing the Friendster site. Online characters like Tila Tequila have become more successful and widely known just by having the largest friend list on Myspace. While some people might think this is the most important aspect of these online communities, I think it is more about maintaining communication ties to your friends.
What stuns me is how people nowadays feel the need to create web pages dedicated to themselves in order to make themselves known or to “write themselves into being” as Boyd put it and how this is deemed acceptable by society. We are constantly editing and adding new pictures and blogs of ourselves in our daily lives thinking or assuming that people actually care. While some of them like our close friends probably do, most others do not, but the existence of these sites give us a reason to call attention upon ourselves and they show how self-centered today’s society has become.
Throughout Boyd’s article the evolution of purposes of these sites becomes apparent. At first, older people used these sites to communicate with each other, while younger people used them to contact celebrities of interest. Now it has switched to younger people using the sites for communication purposes, while older people use it to spy on their children or inappropriate sexual exploitation. Because of this I believe there should be an age limit for the people who join these sites. I do not think adults should be able to access their child’s webpage because it is a breaching of their privacy and I do not think it is safe for adults to be communicating so closely with children because of the risk of virtual sex abuse. Kids need their own place to express themselves to their peers. They deserve a place they can go to speak their minds without parental judgment or supervision. With that statement, of course, I need to consider the benefits of the other side in which adults having access to their children’s webpages can be helpful when kids are showing violent, depressed, or suicidal behavior. A little while ago, I saw on the news a case about how the police used Myspace to help them find the murderer of a young student in the Bay Area. So, of course it has its positives but I think most if not all adult activity on these sites will be either for invading their kids’ privacy or inappropriate acts.
One of the most interesting points that Jenkins as well as Boyd touched on was how participatory culture is a preparation for the future of young people. When I first read this I thought it was quite funny to imagine any possible ways Facebook would help me with my future, but Jenkins brought up numerous ways of how kids using these communication sites will develop valuable skills of the future. These included skills of technology, communication, multi-tasking, quick decision making, collaborative learning, competition and risk taking. Jenkins also mentioned how these sites can spark individual expression, make kids feel apart of a group, and get them more involved in politics. Boyd mentioned how important first impressions were and how involvement in these participatory cultures can help people with this. I think that the technology and communication skills that we learn from our use of these sites will help us the most for our future. It is a known fact that kids these days have better technological skills than elderly people. My grandma always asks me for help when looking something up on the internet or printing things, but my 5-year-old cousin can already search the internet and play interactive video games online. The U-Tube video of the Davos question shows how all ages and types of people can have a say in how we shape our future just by knowing how to work the internet. Without these computer skills, people would not be able voice their opinion in situations like these. The shifting trend of computer illiteracy to literacy at young ages says a lot about how our future will be-- technology driven.

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