A Networked Self, edited by Zizi Papacharissi, is a book of numerous studies and articles by a variety of authors that deal with subjects of identity, community, culture and social network sites. Chapter two of the book is “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics. Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications,” by Danah Boyd. In this chapter Boyd first states what a networked public is, “Networked Publics are publics that are restructured by networked technologies,” (Papacharissi, 39). He then goes onto to say that these networks create a space and are similar to other publics in the fact that they allow people to connect and come together for different social, political, and cultural purposes. An example these networked publics can be seen in the social networking site Twitter. Twitter has a network of people all around the world and these people discuss everything from the 2014 Olympics happening right now, to the Boston Marathon bombings that happened last April. This particular chapter made me think of a topic I researched last year dealing with the “Arab Spring” of 2011.

In 2011 during the Arab Spring many Middle Eastern and North African countries were involved in intense political conflict. During this time the people involved used Twitter as a resource to connect with the outside world. Now the majority of the population did not have access to smart phones or Twitter at this time, but enough people were able to use this resource and make it effective. During times of political conflict using the weak ties of Twitter, users are able to create hashtags and user generated content, and provide real time updates. In Tahir square people were using the hashtag #Tahirneeds to let the public on Twitter know resources the hospitals and others needed. Some may question the credibility of Twitter and there is a lack of empirical research on the site, but it still proves to be a valuable resource to create external attention and reach out to others all over the world. You can still go online and read tweets from this particular time at, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/14/tahrir-square-tweet-egyptian-uprising. Or if interested, you can also read more about it in the book, Tweets from Tahir.

Twitter creates a public space where individuals involved in conflict and not directly involved in conflict can come together and share their stories and news in real time. Going back to chapter two in A Netorked Self, Boyd also writes “Networked publics are not just publics networked together, but they are publics that have been transformed by networked media, its properties, and its potential” (Papacharissi, 42). I see a lot of potential when it comes to Twitter because it creates a public space that is available to mass amounts of people and it brings the news or whatever they want to discuss directly to them. I personally use twitter as my own custom newspaper. I subscribe to a weekend print version of the Wall Street Journal, but other than that I rely on Twitter for everything else. I do not have to actively go look at every news sites webpage, I can simply follow the people I trust on Twitter and have them bring the news to me. Of course there are some concerns of accuracy and false information of Twitter, but I think that is true of any news source online and it is up to the reader to make good judgment calls. That is another great thing about twitter as a public space; if a major event is happening there will be many different people and companies tweeting about it, which gives us multiple sources to gain information and tell if that information is adding up correctly. Overall I like that Boyd mentioned Twitter as a public space because I believe it to be a valuable resource when used correctly.

1 Comment

  1. While I agree that Twitter is a valuable resource when used correctly, I’m always weary about the problems its reach can cause. In 2011, a single Twitter user in the UK began tweeting about which celebrities had filed gag orders about certain pieces of their lives – like intimate photos – to the press. More UK citizens visited Twitter on that day than in any day previous; people really wanted to find out which celebrities may have these super-injections so they could find out which ones might have the craziest secrets. These celebrities obviously preferred to keep the gag orders private, but they were blown open for the entire country to see. In the age of networked publics, what kind of privacy, even for public figures, can we expect?

    boyd directly tackles the changing public and private spheres of today, saying that the dynamics of networked publics “alter practices that are meant for broad visibility and they complicate—and often make public—interactions that were never intended to be truly public” (52). Even if a Twitter user only allows people he/she trusts to follow him, their information could still easily go beyond their followers. It’s difficult to gain a sense of control in a networked society. Users are generally able to tweet at any moment, which is of course how rumors start and how news spreads.

    I agree with boyd that we’re in a state of transition with how to make sense of privacy. When a major event happens and many people are tweeting about it, we’re still developing our sense of how much privacy needs to stay in place in said event. Learning to trust who to follow and who to allow to follow you could be a small step in that growth, even if it can’t guarantee to prevent a media frenzy.

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