Moving life onto the web has only added new platforms for life’s complexities to manifest themselves, each platform with its own language and nuances. Facebook documents our lives and immortalizes our words and photographs (often to our future regret), juxtaposing digital permanence with human temporality. This creates new questions, like what to do with the profile of friends who have died or whether we should “defriend” exes?
We craft identities for ourselves using Facebook from the “stories” we allow to live on our walls and the information we share publicly. It often feels that people no longer value privacy when we read posts that can only be described by the acronym TMI.
danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft and ethnographer of the internet, researches publicity and privacy online, especially in teens. danah’s curiosity was piqued, when she read about a teen who was frustrated that her mother was accessing her LiveJournal, though it was publicly available. This teen’s seemingly contradictory frustration makes much more sense through danah’s definition of privacy as having control over a situation and how it will be interpreted.
In-person conversations are by default, private, and require effort to be made public. Online interactions are the opposite. All interactions are recorded permanently, publicized, and are typically only made private after being posted. With this definition of privacy as control, teens are fiercely private, but often lack the agency to publicize and privatize material as they choose. They want to participate in the public space, but in ways that they can control and manage. It can often be easier to condemn the behavior of teens than to understand it, but danah’s research illuminates that today’s teens aren’t really behaving much differently than previous generations.
danah is joining us at Social Media Week with Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum to share her research on teens and her recent book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Additionally, she will be discussing public and private space as it relates to big data.
Make sure you don’t miss the chance to hear from danah by getting your pass to SMW NYC here!
Featured image courtesy of personaldemocracy.