Social Network Site as Networked Publics – Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications
– Danah Boyd
Within this chapter Danah Boyd discusses the properties and architecture of networked publics. Boyd defines Networked publics as publics that are restructured by networked technologies. As such they are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice. These networked public spaces allow for people to gather for social, cultural, and civic on a global scale. Most importantly networked publics affordances do not dictate participants’ behaviour, but they do configure the environment in a way that shapes the participants’ engagement. The term ‘public’ is a hard term to define, but this chapter takes the approach that public is a “collection of people who share a common understanding of the world, a shared identity, a claim to inclusiveness, a consensus regarding the collective interest”. Boyd concludes that networked publics are publics that are restructured by networked technologies; they are simultaneously a space and a collection of people. This definition focuses on the ways networked technologies extend and complicate publics in all forms. An example of networked publics is social media sites as is defined by its combination features that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connection and those made by others within the systems. Although Boyd chooses to focus on the four features of profiles, Friends list, public commenting tools, and stream based updates. Profiles are central to social network sites that causes the explicit act of writing oneself into being in a digital environment. Participants may try, but do not always have control over their self-representation because people can have discussions directly on the profile. Friends lists are the connections an individual creates with others, but are rarely one’s closest friends. Instead they are mostly political or social connections. Most sites provide various tools of communication such as facebooks “The Wall” where commenting is display to all connections with permission. Together, profiles, Friends list, and tools of communication create a social networked site that can be understood as publics.
Networked technologies have reworked publics’ because content is not limited to space and time, which allows for people to work around the physical barriers of the physical past. Unfortunately, networked spaces still produce many of the same biases in publics such as race, gender, sexuality, and age. Content as well can be politically skewed, which changes the dynamic of “media contagion” show that spreading still depends of the underlying social structure. With the rise of social network sites it is easier to research the affordances and dynamics of networked publics and why people engage in them.