Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In Boyd's discussion of youth and networking sites, I was struck by her use of and emphasis on the public. In showcasing and displaying their identities on networking profiles, youth (though I'd argue not just youth - the number of adults I know on facebook seems to continuously rise) youth are comprising a mediated public in the form of social networks defined by persistence, searchability, replicability and an invisible audience. Yet I'm not entirely sure it's fair to classify these social networks as 'publics;' facebook profiles include a "Notes" application, which basically serve the same functions as do blogs. On nearly all networking sites, users can choose to make their public profiles private. To some extent, facebook even complicates the idea of searchability as a key characteristic of social networking sites; I know some friends who have used the privacy settings of facebook to prevent themselves from being searched - they can only friend people by searching others, which is perhaps more than a little bit voyeuristic, a la Laura Muvley.

Still, what I'd like to suggest is that the privacy settings and personalization of social networking profiles reflects the confluence of the private and the public. It seems as though there are no definite boundaries between the public and the private anymore, this idea underscored in Levin's commentary on the permeation of surveillance into virtually all spheres of 21st century life. It seems as though surveillance, technology and the internet has rendered the public and the private somewhat synonymous. Even as we meet public figures, we are fascinated with their private lives. I am thinking in particular of some discussion - during the earliest months of the election - regarding Barack Obama's (former? or not?) cigarette smoking habit.

The television theorists we've read this semester seem to themselves support this confluence of the public and the private; the idea of television having an underlying familial structure with news anchors as patriarchal figures is itself a blend of the public and the private.

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