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American Class Divisions Through Facebook and MySpace 373

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
Jamie found this paper earlier about American Class Divisions and Facebook and MySpace. The paper talks about the history of the two sites, what groups tend to use what site. They also talk about what proponents of each site think of the other. It's actually an interesting read and worth your time.
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American Class Divisions Through Facebook and MySpace

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:40AM (#19636559)
    The author posted this paper to a mailing list yesterday, here is what she said:

    "I've been trying to write an essay for a while about the class
    dynamics around Facebook and MySpace. I finally gave up and realized
    that I didn't have the proper words for talking about this issue so I
    wrote an essay with caveats. I offer it to you to tear to shreds in
    the hopes that maybe some good can come out of it. (I didn't include
    the full text here because it's long - i hope the link doesn't
    discourage folks from checking it out.) Feedback is *very* welcome.

    Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace
    http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions. html [danah.org] "
  • by sitarah (955787) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:27PM (#19637249) Homepage
    "It's an asinine argument and if that paper was written for course credit, I hope they didn't get a decent grade. If it was written as a professional document for a publication then "ethnographic research " is either a joke science or someone needs to read articles submitted for publication more carefully."

    She's a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley. This paper here is a better representation of her work: http://www.danah.org/papers/WhyYouthHeart.pdf [danah.org]. In it, she discusses her methods for data collection and capitalizes 'I' - because it is actually a published paper/article.

    The slashdot link is not to a 'paper' -- it's a 'blog essay'. Whoever wrote this summary did her a disservice by calling it otherwise, because now she looks like an unprofessional idiot.

    "Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life" is actually a very good explanation of why kids like MySpace and Facebook and what they are trying to accomplish there. It also outlines why they put up public information that should be 'private' like those illicit pictures, as well as describes the battle against adults for unregulated time. If you don't 'get' social networking, that pdf is a much better read.
  • by ubernostrum (219442) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:37PM (#19637367) Homepage

    In a serious scientific discussion, yes.

    To be fair, I saw this earlier this morning when danah (the author) first linked it off her blog (which I read); the announcement there [zephoria.org] was along the lines of "here's this thing I've been looking into, I don't have anything formal or rigorous yet but I wanted to throw out some thoughts on it real quick", not "this is a serious, finalized paper on the topic".

    Her actual (formally) published work [danah.org] is, as one would expect, of much higher quality.

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:57PM (#19637633) Homepage

    As TFA itself alludes to it, though in a way that's not helpful to non-specialists. From TFA:

    In sociology, Nalini Kotamraju has argued that constructing arguments around "class" is extremely difficult in the United States. Terms like "working class" and "middle class" and "upper class" get all muddled quickly. She argues that class divisions in the United States have more to do with lifestyle and social stratification than with income. In other words, all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income. Not surprisingly, other demographics typically discussed in class terms are also a part of this lifestyle division. Social networks are strongly connected to geography, race, and religion; these are also huge factors in lifestyle divisions and thus "class."

    The treatment of class in American sociology isn't a matter of just income, even in the older, less "critical" work that TFA is probably critical of. Sociologists doing quantitative research routinely use things other than income when they classify people by social class. For example, they often also use education and profession. A construction contractor with no education beyond high school may routinely get classified as "working class," even if he makes more than a Ph.D. in literature who teaches at a community college, who gets classified as middle class. The theory is that their social networks are quite different, and that this will be no less predictive of whatever variables the study is researching than income will be.

    (Not a sociologist, but I've hung around plenty of social scientists.)

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Monday June 25, 2007 @01:14PM (#19637875) Homepage

    You're assuming, in effect, that Marx's theory of class is true or helpful in research, and using that assumption, claiming that TFA's treatment of class is wrong. Well, Marx's theory of class is very much under dispute, so your argument is completely out of place in context. It's easy to "win" arguments if you assume the points of contention.

    But anyway, you got TFA's notion of class wrong:

    Class isn't about how much money you make or your ethnicity.

    Indeed, and TFA indeed claimed that class isnt' about how much money you make, but rather about social networks (in the sociological sense, not the technological SNS sense).

  • by buxton2k (228339) on Monday June 25, 2007 @02:28PM (#19638833)
    Marx never said there were only two classes. He said that society was moving toward there being only two basic classes, but he identified multiple classes.

    For example, among the bourgeois (from the same root as "burg" - meaning townsperson, person engaged in commerce there are at least the "haute bourgeois" and the "petty bourgois." The difference lies in their relationship to the act of working. The haute bourgeois own things (factories, corporations, etc.) and employ others; the petty bourgeois includes small business owners, shopkeepers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and other professionals. They either own a business that they work at, often alongside the employees, or they are employed by others and, while they may make more money and have nicer things, they are dependent for their living on employers. This makes the petty bourgeois potential allies of working class people because while they are better off, they actually work hard for a living and are at the mercy of the more powerful class.

    Even the proletariat (labor class) is divided into skilled (better paid, more secure) and unskilled labor.

    Then there's the lumpen-proletariat - drifters, criminals, homeless people, etc. that have no class power at all and exist "invisible" to the eyes of most people.

    One of Marx's points was that industrial capitalism has a tendency of driving people, inevitably but gradually, towards unification into haute bourgeoius and proletariat. That doesn't happen overnight, and substantial steps were taken (e.g., New Deal, unions-corporate truce that defined the WW2-1970s era) to avoid class conflict. But overseas outsourcing even of professional jobs, Walmart-style big boxes, etc. are examples of how, even recently, petty bourgeois (professionals and shopkeepers, respectively) are being driven into proletariat status.
  • Re:Er. What now? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dr.badass (25287) on Monday June 25, 2007 @02:30PM (#19638863) Homepage
    This is a whole bunch of speculation and personal value divisions presented as if it were a research paper.

    It's not a research paper, it's an essay. The citation at the top of the page even says so. Also, the author has done research (see "Methodological Background"), but this article isn't meant to be a presentation of that research. If you want research papers, she's written a few [danah.org].
  • Re:Care2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by AncientPC (951874) on Monday June 25, 2007 @07:40PM (#19643071)

    Who the fuck has 200 friends? Who has 20 friends? Who has more than 5-10 close friends? Exactly.
    Well introverts prefer a small group of close friends. On the other hand, extroverts have a much larger social circle of less close friends.

    Please do not assume your personal view of friendship as the "correct" method.

Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899

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