16 March 2006

Construction of Identity and the Cycle of Life - MyDeathSpace

I just had a conversation with a journalist from the National Post, who alerted me to "The place where MySpace.com users go when they die - MyDeathSpace.com". After I got over my initial "you've got to be kidding" reaction, I visited, and began to think about the ground significance of such a site. danah boyd talks about how youth construct identity in a network culture - or as I would put it, under UCaPP (ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate) conditions. According to danah,
The dynamics of identity production play out visibly on MySpace. Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management [2]. Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being [3], profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media. Explicit reactions to their online presence offers valuable feedback. The goal is to look cool and receive peer validation. Of course, because imagery can be staged, it is often difficult to tell if photos are a representation of behaviors or a re-presentation of them...

While these dynamics may not seem particularly important, they are essential to youth because they are rooted in the ways in which youth jockey for social status and deal with popularity. Adults often dismiss the significance of popularity dynamics because, looking back, it seems unimportant. Yet, it is how we all learned the rules of social life, how we learned about status, respect, gossip and trust. Status games teach us this.
If this is indeed the case, then MyDeathSpace fulfils a complementary role, completing the construction of identity for those whose lives have been tragically cut short, providing the ultimate, and final, peer validation. In some cases, the memorials may be irreverent, but these few do not detract from the effect of the site. Construction of identity is indeed real in cyberspace and transcends the intangibility of the medium. Death, that for some youth is not perceived as real, also transcends intangibility; it is its tactility - the ability to touch - that is experienced.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

1 comment:

Soulfull said...

Interesting commentary. Prior to reading this, I wasn't aware of the "technical" side of what it is people do on myspace. You definitely have me thinking...