danah boyd and Henry Jenkins: MySpace and the DOPA

In a recent interview with Sarah Wright of the MIT News Office, Henry Jenkins and danah boyd talk about MySpace and the Deleting Online Preditors Act (DOPA.)

From the interview: (printer friendly PDF)

Q: What is the direction of your current research on new media, and how does it relate to the controversy?

danah: For my doctoral dissertation, I am investigating why and how youth are engaging in digital publics like MySpace, how this affects identity development and how youth socialization has changed over the last century. This work is being funded by the MacArthur Foundation to help understand the nature of informal learning. Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research.

Henry: I am currently finishing up a white paper, commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, which seeks to identify the core social skills and cultural competencies young people need in order to become full participants in the cultural, political, economic, and social life of the 21st century. In doing this research, we are reviewing the current state of educational research surrounding participatory culture and examining how teachers are currently deploying these technologies through schools. We want in the long term to develop new curricular materials which help parents and teachers build a more constructive relationship with new media.

Q: What is the essence of the proposed legislation? If passed, how would it affect students? Teachers? Librarians? Parents?

danah: Recent federal legislation, Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) would require schools and libraries that receive federal aid “to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.” The proposed law would extend current regulations that require all federally funded schools and libraries to deploy internet filters. The law is so broadly defined that it would limit access to any commercial site that allows users to create a profile and communicate with strangers. This legislation is targeting MySpace, but it would also block numerous other sites, including blogging tools, mailing lists, video and podcast sites, photo sharing sites, and educational sites like NeoPets.

Henry: In theory, the bill would allow schools to disable these filters for use in educationally specified contexts, yet in practice, most schools will simply lock down their computers and walk away. Teachers who wanted to exploit the educational benefits of these tools would face increased scrutiny and pressure to discontinue these practices. And students would lack the ability to explore these resources through independent research or social activities. Teens who lack access to the Internet at home would be cut off from their extended sphere of social contacts.”

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About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

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