Class warfare on the web

Interesting article, linked via Boing Boing, about a study of who uses MySpace and who uses Facebook:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

Gosh, MySpace suddenly got a lot more interesting… But seriously, we might need a third category here – for people, like myself, who fundamentally don’t understand the appeal of either site. (This is no laughing matter for me because I am supposed to go to an office meeting about the uses of Facebook this very week. I feel like I’m in one of those dreams where you have a test that you haven’t studied for all semester.) To me, it is a puzzlement. Why would one need a third party (a company) to provide a space for one to network in? Why would one want to subject their expressivity to the aesthetic or content limitations of someone else’s system? Why would one want to show off (via one’s friend list) who they’ve networked with? How can someone really have 400 “friends”?

The article is speculative, but interesting nonetheless and touches on how we take new technology and proceed to drearily recreate all our same-old same-old biases within these exciting new “virtual worldspaces.” I checked out Second Life once, and lasted all of ten minutes before I realized that it’s the same boring rat race in there as it is out here. It’s just like real life — including the emphasis on amassing money and acquiring “things” — except with clunkier graphics and more name-dropping (“Wow! I just attended a virtual seminar with John Edwards!!”) The difference with Second Life is, you don’t need to feel guilty if you feel schadenfreude when you hear that their master computer has gone down, causing absolute havoc in Second World for a few hours.

Also of note is the recent NYT article on Chinese “gold farmers,” who slave away in a small room together daily playing repetitive online games so that their characters can earn game credits and then their bosses can sell the credits to lazy American gamers who want to reach the highest levels… and somehow manage to find real adventure along the way.