Jenny, Lara, Matt

Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life

In this essay, Danah Boyd tries to discover what makes social networking sites so appealing to teenagers and what they can tell us about the teenager’s lives. She concludes that they allow teens to “write themselves and their community into being…. providing teens with a space to work out identity and status, make sense of cultural cues, and negotiate public life” (2).

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By Xuan, Ahmed, and Queenie

The distinction between celebrities and micro-celebrities is relevant when discussing social networking sites and status. Celebrities can have thousands or million of ‘followers’ but those ‘followers’ are generally members of their fanbase. In other words, a celebrity can attract a large number of people not for their tweet’s content, but for who they are. Contrastingly, Marwick and Boyd identify ‘micro-celebrity’ as the act of people building up social statuses over the web via video, blogs, and social networking sites.“Marketers, technologists, and individuals seeking wide attention” maintain continual interaction on websites such as Twitter for the purpose of establishing a presence online (8 Marwick and Boyd). Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook allow for ordinary people to attain a certain status and following online.
Nowadays we see officials such as President Obama joining social networking sites like Twitter because social media networks have acquired a status themselves. In fact, President Barack Obama will hold a special "Facebook Live" townhall at the Facebook headquarters on April 20th “to discuss the tough choices we must all make in order to put our economy on a more responsible fiscal path, while still investing in areas like innovation that will help our economy grow and make America more competitive. “

When looking at how social statuses are constructed on social networking sites, audience is key.  When Marwick and Boyd asked a group of Twitter users who had strategic plans for their audiences what types of content they post, one responded with “like my stream 1/3 humors, 1/3 informative, 1/3 genial and unfiltered, and transparency is so chic, try to tweet the same way” (9 Marwick and Boyd).  Twitter is seen as a “platform to obtain and maintain attention, by targeting tweets towards their perceived audience’s interest and balancing different topic areas” (9 Marwick and Boyd).  Users post with certain types of imagined audience in mind.
In the presentation of self, authenticity is also a crucial aspect for Twitter users interested in increasing popularity online.  

One of the biggest problems that surge with social networking sites and public figures is verifying authenticity in regards to the identity of the person behind the tweets and the messages or opinions expressed. Twitter implemented ‘Verified Accounts’, a badge that establishes an account’s authenticity, which takes care of the authentic identity concern. High status people like Ashton Kutcher have a ‘verified accounts’ check in their profile, whereas ordinary people don’t. The second concern is about crafted tweets that appear personal and authentic, but aim to sell a product or service. Celebrities are often hired to make endorsements and appearances and it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish sponsored posts. Last February, Hearst Corporation held a series of panels for Social Media Week New York. One of the panels was about being a ‘celebrity spokesperson in the digital age,’ in which actress Denise Richards talked about only tweeting about products she believes in.
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[Austin and Matt]

Without a doubt, blogging is changing the way we receive information and also refocusing our attention from traditional news media to the online world. Because of their more personal, interactive nature, blogs are an essential medium for understanding how and why information is circulating online. This concept is further exlplained in the idea of the Blogipelago.

It’s reported that 14% of the general public is on Twitter compared to the 74% of bloggers. The number is supposedly higher for professional bloggers, whose primary use is promotion of their own blogs. Information can reach a much wider audience through Twitter than through updating a site alone. The question, then, is what are professional bloggers? Another commonly asked question is whether or not bloggers should be considered journalists. Clay Shirky’s view on this that they are simply a new answer to how we inform society, and that the networks of how we are becoming informed are drastically changing with the increasing use of the internet in our everyday lives.

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–Ahmed, Xuan, and Queenie–

 In this travelogue, we’ll be exploring the uses of social networking sites and their role in the creation and elevation of status, at two different levels.

1) Ordinary people: These are the people who become popular through their online activity and become ‘famous’ (ex. NonSociety’s Julia Allison, fashion blogger Bryan Boy) or, the ones that have a superior status among friends as a result of what they share in social networks (these are the ones that friends look up to and seek for suggestions because they're in the know.)
2) Celebrities: These are the people who are paid for endorsements and to be spokespersons (ex. Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian.) This people have tons of followers (on Twitter or Facebook) and have the power to influence potential customers.
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On January 25 thousands of Egyptian protesters gathered in Cairo and other major cities, calling for reforms and demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. This was followed by the “March of Millions” on the 28th of January, which marks the spectacular emergence of a new political society in Egypt. This uprising brings together a new coalition of forces, uniting reconfigured elements of the security state with prominent business people, internationalist leaders, and relatively new mass movements of youth, labor, women’s and religious groups. President Hosni Mubarak lost his political power on Friday, 28 January. On that night the Egyptian military let Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters burn down and ordered the police brigades attacking protesters to return to their barracks. For 18 days my life and every Egyptian’s life took a surreal turn, a turn of uncertainty, anxiety, and hope for a change. On February 11th 2011, president Mubarak stepped down from his office and delegated his responsiblies to the counsel of the Egyptian military. Read the rest of this entry »

protesters holding the egyptian flag on January 25th, 2011

On January 25th, 2011, thousands of protestors gathered in public squares in Cairo, Alexandria and other major Egyptian metropolitan areas to unite in solidarity against the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.  While the protests started out miniscule in size, led by dissatisfied youth who used online social networking to coordinate the initial meetings, they grew like wildfire in the coming days, culminating in the “March of the Millions” on January 28th.   It was, in all sense of the word, a revolution- one that was 30 years in the making and one that is bound to have significant impacts in the foreseeable future on the stability of the country, the Middle East and international relations involving that entire area. As Americans, we followed the progression of events as we wondered about the impending consequences on U.S- Egypt relations. After all, Egypt is a keystone for U.S access to the Arab World. It is an enforcer of regional stability as well as a moderating influence amongst many Arab, African and Islamic states.  Losing this friendly, balanced relationship with Egypt would be disastrous for U.S-Arab international relations as well as U.S economic interests.  For these reasons, and perhaps simply for the reasons of curiosity and sympathetic human tendencies, Americans were extremely concerned by the events that were occurring in Egypt these past few weeks.

As the days in January passed into February, the world watched and participated as the political future of Egypt began to shape up into something tangible.  But broadcasted news stories and New York Times articles were not the only source of information seeping into our knowledge.  Twitter, the online social media website became a large part of the way news regarding Egypt was mediated.  It was the tool for the masses. With an unprecedented ability for interactivity, for discussion, for real time evidence that things were happening, Twitter catered to the needs and wants of news producers and consumers all across the globe.  But Twitter wasn’t at the center of a “social media revolution” like it was touted to be in the 2009 Iranian elections where information was coming from the cell phones of protesters in Tehran.  Egypt was simply not the right environment where that kind of social media power can take place internally.  With more than 40% of the population under the poverty level, few Egyptians could afford handsets, much less a smart phone with the ability to log onto Twitter from any given location.  The role that Twitter played in Egypt’s case was to make the world a participating watchdog and made the American community a participatory member of Egyptian politics.

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As the days in January passed into February, the world watched and participated as the political future of Egypt began to shape up into something tangible.  But broadcasted news stories and New York Times articles were not the only source of information seeping into our knowledge.  Twitter, the online social media website became a large part of the way news regarding Egypt was mediated.  It was the tool for the masses. With an unprecedented ability for interactivity, for discussion, for real time evidence that things were happening, Twitter caters to the needs and wants of news producers and consumers all across the globe.  But Twitter wasn’t at the center of a “social media revolution” like it was touted to be in the 2009 Iranian elections where information was coming from the cell phones of protesters in Tehran.  Egypt was simply not the right environment where that kind of social media power can take place internally.  With more than 40% of the population under the poverty level, few Egyptians could afford handsets, much less a smart phone with the ability to log onto Twitter from any given location.  The role that Twitter played in Egypt’s case was to make the world a participating watchdog and made the American community a participatory member of Egyptian politics.

On January 27th, the Egyptian government (of the time) shut down the country’s Internet service in an attempt to block sites such as Facebook or Twitter from aiding participants of the protests to organize themselves. Suddenly, the voice of the participants seemed to have been shut off in real time. But, if one looked on Twitter during that time, the number of crisis related tweets were still skyrocketing high.  It wasn’t the protestors who were using the technology to aid in their protest, it was prominent reporters and news agencies that were using Twitter as a forum for information

Legitimate news sources such as Al Jazeera and Andy Carvin of NPR became prominent “tweeters” of the revolution.  Amidst the chaos and unrest, these journalists disposed of their traditional news sources in favor of the new narrative in order to maximize the transparency and the transcendental qualities of news.  Al Jazeera (one of the main journals covering the crisis) received such a reaction from the American community on both its Twitter page and its online live streaming that the next logical strategic move was for them to create a #demandaljazeera hashtag on Twitter to further promote their reputation.  In breaking news events such as the Egyptian Revolution, reporters have found a friend in social networking.  When the news consumers’ appetite for information has become insatiable due to a constant access of information, the news reporter has to be able to keep up.  Andy Carvin of NPR averaged over 400 tweets per day on his Twitter page during the Egyptian crisis.  He says that in today’s society, “curation is a serious form of narrative—one that we’re just beginning to recognize. I’m still not sure if it’s more art than journalism (or social responsibility for that matter), but I’ve discovered that it’s a medium that I’m at home in. And if I can help inform people in the process, so much the better.”……………


So this is basically what I have written so far.  I write the above to put my primary study in a solid framework. From here, I want to inform the reader a little bit more about the nature of twitter during the Egyptian revolution, especially from the reporters’ point of view. Then I want to dive into my survey results that was placed on surveymonkey.com.  I basically asked all my friends on facebook as well as several of my parents friends (to get some older perspective) 10 questions about their following of the news, the Egypt story as well as their use of Twitter. My final question is a free response one in which I ask the survey taker if they trust the validity of news on Twitter.  I have basically found that the majority of our age group is very distrustful of Twitter as a medium for legitimate news while adults seem to see Twitter as a valid and useful tool.  This is the opposite of the results I was expecting to get since people of my generation are so much more acquainted and comfortable with new technologies such as Twitter. I wonder if it’s because our average consumption of entertainment is also held on these social network sites and if that consumption of entertainment on the same platform taints our perception of  the importance (in the political realm) of these technologies.  For example, our generation follows movie stars, musicians, gossip blogs and our friends while our parents go on Twitter to follow The New York Times or NPR and the like. Of course, this is not to generalize, but from my pool of results, this seems to be the general attitude I get and I can only speak for my primary study, not for the collective whole.  I think I will also try to conclude a point about whether or not Twitter is actually as important of a news medium during breaking news times as some people make it out to be.  The fact that the majority of my survey takers distrusted news on Twitter doesn’t necessarily have to do with their age or preferred ways of using Twitter.  Their distrust is maybe indicative that not as many people are finding Twitter to be actually effective.  Maybe this whole Twitter helping to save the world thing is just another media propagated story that tries to dramatize something scary (albeit important) into something more consumable.

As we are all aware, there is currently a huge revolution happening in Egypt. It’s one that’s been 30 years in the making and it’s one that is bound to have some significant impacts in the stability of the Middle East. As Americans, we are most concerned about the impending consequences on U.S- Egypt relations. Egypt is a keystone for U.S access to the Arab World. It is an enforcer of regional stability as well as a moderating influence among many Arab, African and Islamic states.  Losing this friendly, balanced relationship with Egypt would be disastrous for U.S international relations as well as U.S economic interests.  For these reasons, and perhaps simply for the reasons of curiosity and sympathetic human tendencies, Americans are concerned by the events that are occurring in Egypt.  We want news and we want it now. But amidst the chaos and unrest, it is hard for news organizations to transmit the latest events from Egypt.  Reporters, civilians and the public are disposing of their traditional news sources in favor of new media; specifically the social media site Twitter. Twitter has increasingly been used as a source of news. It is praised for allowing people to immediately transmit information to the public, bypassing the printing room, editors and writers, obstacles that slow down the process of timely news.  Much like the case with the protests surrounding the Iranian elections in 2009, Twitter was being used by Egyptian civilians, local and international reporters and protesters to tell the world the story of Egypt as it played out, minute by minute. It was also being used as a tool for self expression, a way for voices to be heard. In fact, Twitter usage by protesters in Egypt was so rampant in the beginnings of the protests that the Egyptian government blocked the website in an attempt to thwart Western sympathies towards the dissidents.  But users have found a way around it. I guess one could say that Twitter is a new age tool for democratic revolution. Average users are not the only ones who are utilizing the social networking site.  Acclaimed news journals such as Al Jazeera and NPR are also using Twitter as a tool for narrating Egyptian events.

I know that using twitter is popular. What I want to find out in my travelogue is how news from Egypt is being curated on Twitter and whether or not it is effective.  Do the tweeters find that streaming real time news is actually benefiting their cause in some way? And what kind of information are they tweeting out? Also, on the receiving end, I want to explore if Americans are reacting to the real time information.  Do they find this twitter information reliable or do they continue to solely trust printed news? And when journalists are tweeting themselves, at what does real news converge with tweets?