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The Young & The Digital: Chapters 2 & 5

October 25, 2010

Chapter 2: Social Media 101

Watkins begins Chapter 2, Social Media 101: What Schools are Learning about Themselves and Young Technology Users, states,

 

Part of MySpace and Facebook’s initial appeal among young people was the fact that even though the vibrant lives they were forming online were so strikingly public, most of their activities, communications, and identities were largely hidden from the adult world (pg. 19)

 

This however was short lived. With the acquisition of MySpace by Rupert Murdoch not only brought corporate dollars to social networking but also the political governance that was not too far behind. During 2006’s mid-term elections, the Republicans backed a bill called the Delete Online Predators Act (DOPA) which tried to eliminate the presence of social networking sites in the lives of teenagers by requiring any school or library to block access to any Web site that,

 

is offered by a commercial entity; permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed information; permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; elicits highly-personalized information from users; and enables communication among users.

 

And, according to Mike Fitzpatrick these sites, “have become a haven for online sexual predators who have made these corners of the Web their own virtual hunting ground” (pg. 20). But what the act seemed to forget was that there are these type of people in the physical world as well. By misrepresenting 91% of the Web’s users by showing that only 9% of them meet strangers online would be like saying that 5% of sports spectators streak or cause riots in the stands therefore … SPORTS ARE BAD! Note, that 87% of teens use the Internet and of that, these 91% use the Internet to further their off-line relationships. DOPA was “striking at the very heart of what made the social Web so compelling in the eyes of many – the focus on community, collaboration, interaction, creativity, and self-expression” (pg. 21). Thus, ALA (American Library Association opposed this bill by saying (in Watkins’s own words) the bill, “glossed over the educational potential of the social Web. Most stunning was the bill’s lack of understanding of the power and richness of social media and why it appealed to many” (pg. 21).

Watkins goes onto point out how the Brooklyn College Library (BCL) has used social networking to its advantage. Social networking has shown BCL, and other institutions, how to become a “dynamic learning environment” (pg. 24). MySpace allowed BCL to connect with art collectors nationally and internationally by “adding them as friends”; allowed the public, students, professors and staff to know what each is interested in and/or talking about; thus, allowing BCL to promote events online as well as the other, traditional mediums. But it comes at a price! The opportunity cost (in business/economic terms) of being present online means less of a “presence” off-line, in the physical “how may I help you” library arena.

Watkins goes onto point out the differences in access among poor and rich communities … so, how do these differences in access change the views of social networking and the Internet within these communities? And, how are these important to our discussion?

 

Chapter 5: We Play – The Allure of Social Games, Synthetic Worlds, and Second Lives

Watkins begins showing the shift from TV to games and what has caused that. The reasons for playing games seem to change from social group to social group … but there are always ideas of community, friendship and social interaction at play. Yes, there are examples of a guy playing a game like Mass Effect II (a single player RPG – Role Playing Game) for days at a time, but that’s the exception. Majority of people will play games like World of Warcraft (WoW), Everquest, or Second Life where interactions with others is important to their experience and knowledge acquisition.

Like Watkins states at the end of the chapter, “For the majority of young people, the computer-mediated world is about being with real people rather than virtual personas, friends rather than strangers” (pg. 131).

I do have to agree with his assessment that majority of youngsters like MMORPG’s rather than MMOG’s because of my experience as a gamer, and secondly because of my experience with gamers. Note: I will discuss further the skills that one acquires even while playing MMORPG’s for long periods of time … and the reason for the interest in MMORPG’s vs. mainstream media’s view of interest in MMOG’s.

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