March 31, 2006


Loads happening in MySpace land this week. Well there are loads happening every week there, what's interesting this week is actually what's happening at that intense spot where MySpace, politics and media meet.

The good first. What's been happening in California where MySpace is being used to organize massive student protests is I think quite remarkable. We are talking about an incredible political emergence of a highly marginalized group, and it's being lead by high schoolers. That is empowerment, that's the internet dream of the network routing around obstruction. I'm a little concerned with what the half life of the movement might be, but I'm 3000 miles away so all I can really do is watch it all unfold.

But then as the Space giveth the Space taketh away. And in this case it shut down "200,000 'objectionable' profiles". Those inner quotes by the way are from the Financial Times, just what objectionable contains clearly is an open question of sorts. Now in this spamified age a web site shutting down some accounts is hardly a new thing. But few if any sites have accounts that their users invests so much in as MySpace. If danah boyd is right that MySpace is now an important place for teenagers to formulate and discover their identities, and do believe she is right, well then we now have to face the fact that those identities are now owned by News Corp and News Corp has the ability to delete teenagers identities as they see fit.

Now having your MySpace profile deleted is hardly the end of the world. The intensely network nature of MySpace does mean that it's exponentially harder to rebuild a developed profile than say starting a new WoW character, but in the end it probably only takes a weekend to reconstruct an extensive MySpace profile. However if you've ever been a teenager, and I really hope most of my readers have been, well you might remember that not every teenager had the best perspective on what the end of the world might be. Just how much of a threat is having your MySpace page deleted? It's a pretty tricky question to answer and from that Financial Times piece it's something MySpace management has thought a lot about.

“MySpace is more potent and powerful than even we knew,” Mr Chernin [president and chief operating officer of News Corp] says. “And it is becoming a more integrated part of people’s lives.” However, as efforts grow to attract more advertisers to the site, News Corp is facing two challenges. Young users have to keep wanting to use the site, rather than switch to a “cooler” alternative.
Also, advertisers have to feel confident their reputation will not be tainted by “inappropriate” content.

I'd have to add into there that News Corp answers not only to it's advertisers and users but to it's own political agenda as well. Unless it flames out into a mass exodus odds are some sort of dynamic psuedo-equillibrium is going to form between those forces. And just how that psuedo-equillibrium is constituted is going to have a huge impact on what happens in MySpace. Is it a wide open commons for kids to express themselves however they see fit. Or is it a regulatory environment, one where they can express themselves only within a particular set of boundaries set my New Corp execs? And since the later seems almost a given now, perhaps it better to ask just how regulated will it be? Is it just deleting spam, or is it deleting messages that go against News Corps favorite politicians? Deleting trolls or deleting pro-ana profiles?

Man I sort of hate to bring Deleuze into this, particularly my least favorite essay of his, but really I can't think of any better way to end this than a link to "Society of Control"....

Posted by Abe at March 31, 2006 03:42 PM



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