Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Update: MySpace - Evolution and Assimilation

Over the past few months as the number of stories about MySpace has increased, but they have moved in many different directions. As with previous stories about MySpace, most are negative in nature, but instead of calling for bans of the site, many of the new stories are looking for ways to protect users and to assist law enforcement. How popular is MySpace? It is so popular in some settings that a Community College in Texas has banned MySpace, not because of the content, but because of the excessive bandwith students have used on the college network. The general consensus is that MySpace is here to stay, but there will be attempts from the community that they will take steps to moderate the behavior that exists there. I am not in denial about the fact that MySpace is and will continue to be a blogging site that is dominated by teenage content and the angst that age endures.

So, what specifically is going on in MySpace that is changing the community? Local law enforcement officials are looking at MySpace accounts to identify participants or potential witnesses to crimes committed in their community. The foiled school shooting in Kansas was discovered by local school and law enforcement officials reading the MySpace accounts of local teens. Police also used MySpace to catch two teenagers who had fire-bombed an abandoned airplane hangar after the teens had posted video of their crime on their MySpace site.

The other issue relative to MySpace is the fact that teenagers post too much information about their personal lives, including their dating and social activities. There have been several articles about sexual predators using MySpace to locate potential vicitms. There have been at least two instances that I have read where teenage girls have been contacted, lured out and murdered due to the information they had posted on MySpace. In the past few months there have been a few stories, where MySpace has been used to catch sexual predators. In response to this, there have been a few new web sites springing up, including: MySpaceWatch. MySpaceWatch allows users to monitor the MySpace accounts of five users and reports back any changes to the site. This borders on cyber-spying on kids, but if the kids are going to post in public, parents have the right to look. The commonwealth of Massachusetts wants MySpace to do more to protect users from sexual predators.

There is also a 'MySpace Economy.' There are sites that provide tools to add additional customizations to MySpace blogs. Other sites will create MySpace accounts for businesses to connect to users in direct marketing campaigns through the site. There is also a backlash against MySpace by some, deleting their accounts and calling it: MySpacecide.

As most of you know, the Global Communications pathway will have students working with blogs, wikis and podcasts. As part of the Global Communications course, we will be teaching Digital Citizenship. Some of the best material I have found on the subject is through a research project at Kansas State University. Some of the material the project uses is posted on the project web page.


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