Saturday, September 19, 2009

The demographics of social networks (specifically Myspace)

While the above video may be one of the most articulate demographic mappings of the social networks that I've ever seen (even though it's a bit dated), there is some very good academic research being conducted on social networks.

danah boyd (@zephoria) is well know for her work researching social media and the activities of youth online; at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York this past summer, she gave this talk which created a ton of buzz.

"The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online" discussed how online networks are subject to the same logic of homophily as offline networks and communities (homophily = tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others).

boyd touched on the social divisions that occurred as Myspace experienced a major exodus of its wealthier, more educated white users who left for the land of Facebook:
What happened was modern day "white flight." Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those who deserted MySpace did so by "choice" but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic.
Researchers out of Harvard recently looked at a dataset of 100,000 Myspace users and mirror Boyd's "white flight" findings; they reported that Myspace users...
...populate smaller cities and communities in the south and central parts of the country. Piskorski rattles off some MySpace hotspots: "Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida."

They aren't in Dallas but they are in Fort Worth. Not in Miami but in Tampa. They're in California, but in cities like Fresno. In other words, not anywhere near the media hubs (except Atlanta) and far away from those elite opinion-makers in coastal urban areas.

Exploring the web site, I'm realizing how important it is to understand that Myspace is a non-random collection of voters and constituents who may have fundamentally different political sensibilities - as well as aesthetic sensibilities - as the people who spend their time in Facebook (or any other social network for that matter).

It seems like it would be useful keeping this in mind for organizational interests attempting to brand and execute their respective campaigns online.


The other thing that came to mind was @planetmoney's recent podcast MySpace Was Born Of Total Ignorance, which is pretty awesome.

They talk about how creators of Myspace - who came out of the Hollywood/internet porn scene - wanted to create a nightclub atmosphere online.

Hearing about the thinking and experiences of the sites founders, the podcast helps make sense of why Myspace would attract different kinds of folks than the Ivy-League-generated Facebook.


Related stuff:
-Short interview w/ Global Voices' Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) on homophily
-Stealing Myspace (Book by author interviewed on mentioned Planet Money podcast)

No comments:

Post a Comment