0. Introduction Living and growing up in contemporary U.S. is an experience of immersion in a hyper-mediated environment where communicating, learning, and socializing, are highly mediated activities. All the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth from our study developed a range of computer-mediated activities on Social Network Sites (SNSs) and Media Sharing Sites (MSSs) during our fieldwork, and had been practicing them through several years. For all of them, spending time and energy in online activities, was part of their everyday life and was meaningful. From school, home, after-school, or any other location from where they could connect to the Internet, these youths entered social media networked spaces and navigated them in different ways according to the social, economic, technological, cultural, and human resources they had. Among other activities, on these mediated spaces they hanged out with their friends, performed identities, searched information, and spread media content they could access for free. In some specific cases they also published media content they had created by themselves or in collaboration with their peers. As these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth developed meaningful media practices through their experiences online, they shaped their process of assimilation to the U.S. In this chapter I examine the characteristics of these practices and some of the new media skills that Latino/Hispanic youth gained through their participation on SNSs and MSSs. What were the characteristics of their participation on social media networked spaces? Which were the characteristics of their social networks (diversity, richness), and the media content they discovered, spread, and produced? What kind of new media skills and practices did they developed and how did they shape the process of assimilation to the U.S.? This chapter is organized in three big sections. In the first, I set up the theoretical framework for analyzing youth online activities in a new communication environment. Doing a brief historical review I introduce the social media networked spaces, their technological affordances, and the sociocultural practices that have been developed on them. After that I discuss the potential and challenges of the new communication environment in relation to participation, culture, and youth. I critically engage with the literature on participatory cultures and genres of participation, as well as with the one on digital inequalities, and set-up the theoretical framework for my analysis. In the second section, I look at the specific contexts of activity where the five Latino/Hispanic youth developed their media practices. I map their geography of social media networked spaces looking at the Social Network Sites (SNSs) and Media Sharing Sites (MSSs) where they hanged out, messed around, and sometimes also geeked out. In the last section I focus my analysis on two of the new media skills that these youths gained through their activities online (networking and appropriation), and discuss how they shaped the process of assimilation to the U.S. in several dimensions. Finally, at the end of the chapter I elaborate a conclusion reviewing the major findings from the analysis.
1. A New Communication Environment
As a result of the proliferation, development, and adoption of new media tools, networks, and practices, a new communication environment has emerged. Given the affordances of digital technologies and distributed network architectures, this environment is enabling transformations across multiple domains of human activity. Social, economic, cultural, and political institutions, relationships, and practices are increasingly organized through and around network structures. (Castells 2000, 2002, 2004; Benkler 2006; Varnelis et al. 2008) Although networks have existed before in the history of human civilizations, it has not been until the introduction of computer-based communication technologies and particularly the Internet that they have been able to fully perform their power and develop in scale and complexity. Networks are powerful because they can process multiple information flows and are flexible and adaptable. Digital technologies have increased networks' capacity for managing complexity, coordinating tasks, and circulating information between nodes. According to Castells, this “results in an unprecedented combination of flexibility and task performance, of coordinated decision-making and decentralized execution, of individualized expression and global, horizontal communication, which provide a superior organization form for human action"(2002, 2).
1.1. The Internet, the World Wide Web and the Rise of Social Media Networked Spaces Connecting to the Internet has become an essential part of living and growing up in the U.S. According to the most recent reports from the Pew Research Center, 95% of the U.S. youth ages 12-17 are online (Madden et al., 2013a) and 97% of young adults ages 18-29 use the Internet (Fox and Rainie, 2014). Internet penetration and adoption has gone almost universal (Fox and Rainie, 2014). Especially for American youths, using the Internet and doing activities online has been woven into their everyday experiences. Web sites, search engines, email, and social media platforms nowadays play a fundamental role in the lives of youth. They have become some of the most important spaces where young people go to socialize, communicate, hang out, and engage in meaningful activities. Although online experiences happen with different frequencies, skills, and resources according to a variety of structural and individual factors, it could be said that for all youths living in the U.S., including the immigrants, the Internet is an important context of activity. Given its networked nature, the Internet is in fact not one but a series of multiple and interconnected contexts. The Internet technological infrastructure, its architecture, the sociocultural practices that it fosters and people develop, and the information flows that circulate across its links and nodes, give rise to multiple spaces that are networked. As Julie Cohen (2007) has claimed in her essay about the spatiality of the Internet, "cyberspace is not a unitary phenomenon; there is not one cyberspace, but many." (225) Synthesizing the theories of network society and mathematical complex networks, Cohen defined the Internet as a networked space. That is, a space "shaped by the uses of information and communications technologies" (239), "constituted both by flows and by the path dependence of flows" (239), and "produced and experienced by embodied beings" (243). The emphasis on the embodied experience of networked space highlights the interconnection of the space of information flows with the "real-world space", and the linkage between offline and online contexts and behaviors. Although early utopian conceptualizations of the Internet emphasized the separation of the online and offline worlds imagining cyberspace as completely removed from the materiality of the physical space (e.g. "the electronic frontier," "placeless"), several researchers have started to recognize the porosity, co-dependence, and interconnection between physical and virtual spaces. (Byrne, 2008; Cohen 2007; Graham 2011, boyd 2014, Morrison, 2010; Baym 2006) The Internet is the most important socio-technological system that exists in the new communication environment. As a “network of networks” (Dutton, 1996) the Internet has expanded globally creating the biggest communication system of interconnected personal computers (the PC/Internet grid). Thanks to its open, distributed, and multidirectional architecture (Benkler 2006; Karaganis 2008) and its principle of generativity (Zitrain 2007), the Internet has supported the making and functioning of new communication systems built on its top. As Karaganis (2008) has explained, collective efforts of governments and scientists developed a network that "supported not only survivability and interoperability but also a very wide scope for future innovation. The lowest-level internet protocols provided a platform for other networks and applications with more specific functionality." (258) The World Wide Web, peer-to-peer file sharing (torrents), e-mail clients, Usenet, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), are all platforms and services built on the top of the PC/Internet grid. They can be understood as layers carried by the Internet. Among all of them, the World Wide Web is perhaps the one that popularized the Internet around the world and the one that became more embedded in our everyday sociocultural practices. When we talk about “going online” or “getting on the Internet” we are usually making reference to our use of the Web. Performing a search in Google, communicating on Social Network Sites (SNSs) with friends, discovering and playing music and videos on media-sharing sites, communicating via web-based email (e.g. G-mail, Yahoo, Hotmail), playing in virtual game worlds, and exploring a rich variety of pages and applications, are all activities performed on the World Wide Web. Released as an open and free communication system in 1993 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Web was designed to be a distributed network of multiple nodes (“hypertext documents”) linked by URLs (uniform resource locators). Using a client–server architecture, this hypermedia system could be accessed with a software application (“browsers”) that would retrieve, display, and travel across the nodes of the network. In their initial project proposal, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau envisioned the evolution of the Web as an “open-ended” global system that would allow the users to add new links and nodes to the network, fostering both universal readership and authorship. (Berners-Lee & Cailliau 1990) Its goal, architecture, and open standards, gave the Web the potential to scale up very fast as more users joined and started to add and distribute content (e.g. web pages) and software (e.g. search engines, web apps). In the course of two decades, the Web went from having ten nodes in 1992 to having 697,089,489 nodes in 2012 (Internet Live Stats 2015). Although since its origins, the Web was envisioned to be an interactive system that would allow people to connect, communicate, and interact with each other creating readable/writable information spaces, the popularization of its social capabilities, at a global scale, took several years. It was not until the end of the 1990s, with the creation of several Web applications (social software) such as blogs, wikis, SNSs, and the evolution of graphical web browsers, that the potential for universal reading/writing, participation, and sociability started to be embraced by more people and captured the popular imagination making the Web a sort of massive interactive medium. Because these platforms and services were easy to use and did not require any knowledge of coding and hypertext language, more people, including a large youth population, was able to start adding content to the Web, connecting and socializing with their friends in the several spaces that emerged. As Tim Berners-Lee explained in an interview with the BBC in 2005, “every person who used the web had the ability to write something (…) but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple. When you write a blog, you don’t write complicated hypertext, you just write text.” (BBC News 2015) As a consequence of lowering the barriers to entry as well as the increase in broadband and computer power, during the first decade of the 2000s, more people was able to participate creating and sharing content on the Web. Moreover, with the growth of participation, especially among youth, the online spaces and communities started to be organized more by friendship and not only by specific topics and interests as it had happened before with newsgroups, mailing lists, and forums (boyd 2007, 2014). Hence, it could be said that since social relationships started to become an important organizing principle for online spaces, the activities on the Web became more social. That is precisely why researchers, industry players, and the general public adopted the term “social media” to refer to the Web platforms and services (social software) that were created at this point on the evolution of the Web. As danah boyd has explained, social media refers “to the sites and services that emerged during the early 2000s, including social network sites, video sharing sites, blogging, and microbloging platforms, and related tools that allow participants to create and share their own content.” (2014, 6) Marketers, entrepreneurs, and developers also started to refer to these dynamic platforms and services with the buzzy term “Web 2.0″ and elaborated a business model that leveraged the potential of the Web (and its open standards) for supporting collaboration, participation, and peer production. Further, this model also harnessed the creativity, sociability and collective intelligence of the increasing number of participants (referred as "users") on the Web spaces with the purposes of economic profit. As Tim O’reilly, one of the evangelists of this business model, stated, some of the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies were “trusting users as co-developers,” “harnessing collective intelligence,” and “control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them” (O’Reilly 2005). With social media platforms attracting more people from all segments of the U.S. population, and particularly youths, it could be argued that the Web acquired the status of a mass medium at the dawn of the new millennium. Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Twitter and Tumblr, just to name a few, are some of the dynamic Web platforms and services (social media) that have become popular among U.S. youth from all race-ethnicities and socioeconomic status in the last decade. These Web applications count with millions of users and visitors, active audiences and publics, that interact and create lively networked spaces. Facebook, for instance, had more than 158 million active U.S. users in 2013 (Nierhoff 2013); and Youtube had in 2011 128 million users per month in the U.S. (Statista 2011). With different degrees of engagement, resources, and skills, young people go to these networked spaces in order to socialize, communicate, share, search, create, and interact with rich multimodal content they can access for free. Hence, social media networked spaces have become part of contemporary American youth everyday life and are transforming the way in which young people are exercising their agency as social, cultural, and creative actors. 1.2. The Potential: Participation, Culture, and Youth. In contrast to the old communication environment of broadcast mass media (e.g. radio, television, film), the new networked environment is more interactive, connected, and participatory. It supports many-to-many and peer-to-peer communication, decentralized individual and collective action, and a more active consumption/production/distribution of content. Given such affordances, the new environment is rich in information and knowledge created by both experts and non-experts, and diverse in commercial and non-commercial goods produced by both professionals and amateurs. As Couldry (2011) has stated, "today's media environment is not just saturated from particular directions but supersaturated from massively many directions, all in interaction with each other" (488). Particularly the Internet, with its open and decentralized architecture, offers the possibility to overcome the limitations of previous commercial and concentrated mass media in terms of oversimplification of complex discussions (homogeneity), and the overwhelming power of media owners to shape opinion and information. (Benkler 2006) The networked environment and the information communication technologies (ICTs), according to Benkler (2006), create the possibilities for the emergence of a culture that is more transparent, malleable, self-reflective, and democratic. According to him, this environment generates a kind of folk culture "where many more of us participate actively in making cultural moves and finding meaning in the world around us." (15) Having more opportunities to participate, individuals can become better readers, critics, and self-reflective participants in conversations, and can easily pull the cultural creations of others making the culture they occupy their own. Participatory Cultures Likewise, Jenkins (2006a) has also explained the transformative potential of the networked communication environment in relation to culture. According to him, digital tools and networks are enabling a particular kind of culture marked by the convergence of old and new media systems and practices. "Convergence culture," as Jenkins has argued, is characterized by the complex interaction (and collide) between top-down corporate media and bottom-up participatory cultures. "Within convergence culture, everyone is a participant --although participants may have different degrees of status and influence" (Jenkins 2006a, 132). The possibilities of media production, circulation, and reception afforded by the new communication environment have facilitated the popularization of more active forms of engagement that, although had existed before, had not become visible to the general public. In the new environment, some of the sociocultural practices of fans and other amateurs deeply engaged with media technologies have gained visibility and become popular. As Jenkins has explained, "though this new participatory culture has its roots in practices that have occurred just below the radar of the media industry throughout the twentieth century, the web has pushed that layer of cultural activity into the foreground" (2006a, 133). Amateur printing, ham radio broadcasting, fanzine design, and 8mm home movies production, to name just a few, anticipate the participatory cultures that have become visible on the networked communication environment. All these pre-digital cultures, as well as the ones that have become visible in the digital age such as machinima making, game modding, and fan fiction web publishing, are characterized not only by the creative use of media technologies, but also by the building of communities and collective enterprises. (Jenkins 2010) They have "relatively low barriers of expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one's creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices." (Jenkins et al. 2006, 3) In these cultures, as Jenkins et al. (2006b) have discussed, "members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at least they care what other people think about what they have created)" (3) To acknowledge the potential that digital technologies and networks have for enabling a more participatory culture can be useful. It has allowed several scholars to develop an understanding of the communities, practices, and relationships developed in the new communication environment and imagining social transformations (e.g. more democratic, creative, diverse societies). Although this approach has had the limitation of privileging a particular segment of the population (e.g. fans, passionate hobbyists, middle class), it has allowed researchers to map concrete examples of how the affordances of new ICTs are being leveraged by the most engaged audiences/users. Furthermore, it has allowed researchers to find examples of how the processes of social and cultural production in a networked communication environment are changing as individuals and collectives actively leverage digital tools and networks. Jenkins et al. (2006b), for instance, identified several forms of participatory culture such as affiliations (formal and informal memberships in online communities), expressions (creative media production), collaborative problem solving (working together in teams formally or informally), and circulations (shaping the flow of media). Emphasizing participation has become especially useful for studying the activities of youths online and their active engagement with media cultures from a perspective that sees them as social actors and not as passive audiences/consumers. Understanding youths as active participants in cultures has allowed researchers, particularly the ones from the fields of new literacies, learning sciences, and cultural/media studies, to qualitatively examine the practices and skills that youths are developing in a networked communication environment. Youth and Genres of Participation I find particularly useful the concept of "genres of participation" (Ito 2003, 2008; Ito et al. 2010) for analyzing youth engagement with new media cultures and online experiences. The notion of genre calls attention to the process of interpretation that takes place when individuals engage with media. As Ito et al. (2010) have explained, this concept "foregrounds the interpretive dimensions of human orderliness. How we identify with, orient to, and engage with media is better described as a process of interpretative recognition than a process of habituation and structuring. We recognize certain patterns of representation (textual genres) and in turn engage with them in social, routinized ways (participation genres)" (15) According to Ito et al., there are two high-level genre categories: friendship-driven and interest-driven. On the one hand, the former refers to the practices developed through everyday mediated interactions with friends and peers from specific local contexts such as schools. On the other, the interest-driven genre of participation is related to the practices of particular niche identities and hobbies. These specialized activities structure networks of affiliation between peers and mentors that expand beyond the local context. The high-level genres of participation correspond to particular youth cultures, social network structures, and modes of learning (Ito et al. 2010). Friendship-driven, for instance, correspond to social networks structured around friends and a culture centered in peer sociability and "hanging out." As several researchers of have argued, U.S. youth, and especially teens, socialize and build their identities by interacting with their school peers. (Eckert 1989; Ito et al. 2010; Pascoe 2007) Leveraging the affordances of the networked communication environment youth is able to create spaces for co-presence where they can "hang out" online with friends. (Ito et al. 2010; boyd 2007, 2014) Social media platforms such as Facebook and Myspace, for instance, serve as spaces where youth can communicate, maintain ongoing contact, and exchange media content with their peers in a casual manner. By doing so, teens are able to "circumvent some of the limits that prevent them from hanging out with their friends" in physical space and participate in a peer culture (Ito et al. 2010, 39). In contrast, the interest-driven genre of participation focuses on activities characterized by a greater engagement with media cultures, subcultural identities, and richer and more diverse social networks. Within this genre, Ito et al. have located the "geeking out" practices. These practices are characterized by an intensive use of media technologies and a commitment to specific media properties, production activities, and subcultural identities. As Ito et al. have pointed out, "geeking out" practices involve the acquisition of "high levels of specialized knowledge attached to alternative models of status and credibility and a willingness to bend or break social and technological rules" (66). "Geeking out" on interests implies participating in specialized knowledge communities, gaining reputation and expertise within them, and finding and producing credible information. (Ito et al. 2010, 67) Friendship-driven and interest-driven genres, and hanging out and geeking out practices constitute a continuum of different degrees of participation, engagement, and informal learning. In between them, Ito et al. have located the "messing around" sub-genre, and its practices are supposed to serve as a transition between "hanging out" and "geeking out". By "messing around" they refer to the collection of new media practices that youth develop informally as they explore an environment saturated with information, navigate diverse media-sharing platforms, play games, discover new content, and experiment with digital tools and networks for producing and distributing creative content. According to Ito et al., although "messing around" practices are the first steps that youth take into "deeper social and practical engagement with a new area of interest," they do not "necessarily result in long-term engagement" (57). As several studies have proved, the frameworks of genres of participation and participatory cultures are useful for understanding the agency of youth in relation to informal learning and new literacy practices. (Jenkins et al. 2006; Ito et al. 2010; Lankshear and Nobel 20XX, 20XX) However, little has been discussed by researchers in relation to how the participatory potential of the new networked environment, and particularly the Internet and the Web, is shaping the assimilation of immigrant youth to the U.S. As I have observed in previous chapters, all of the five Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youth from our study, were engaged in different ways with new media cultures, digital tools and networks. With differential quality and quantity according to the resources that their families and schools have, they have grown up accessing computers and the Internet, and interacting within a networked communication environment. Although I have already analyzed how new media practices and skills developed in the contexts of home/family and afterschool have helped these five Latino/Hispanic immigrants to advance in their assimilation processes, I have not fully discussed how the activities developed online also shaped their trajectories of assimilation in the U.S. These activities, especially the ones developed on social media networked spaces, became part of the everyday life of Inara, Gabriela, Antonio, Sergio, and Miguel, and shaped their assimilation process. As they communicated, socialized, and interacted online, they confronted both opportunities and challenges to participate in U.S. culture, economy, and society, and to advance in their assimilation process. 1.3. Digital Inequalities and Participation Gaps Gabriela, Inara, Antonio, Miguel, and Sergio have all grown up with access to computers and Internet connectivity. Although the quality and quantity of their material access has been low in most of their cases, all these Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youths have had online experiences for several years (usually, since the age of ten and eleven when they entered middle school). During this time they have accessed networked computers both at public school and at their homes, and had also used mobile devices with networking capabilities. Browsing the Web, using search engines, exchanging emails, communicating on social network sites, watching videos and discovering music on YouTube, among other activities, have become part of their everyday life. These youths are part of the increasing number of Latino/Hispanic youths who can connect to the Internet and use Web platforms and services. They are also the first generation of immigrants in the U.S. who are growing up in a networked communication environment saturated with information and multimodal content. The online experiences of each of the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth are diverse and vary according to their motivations, skills, and different kinds of access to resources. At the level of material access, the major difference between the five youths is the ownership of a smartphone. Those who have access to this kind of mobile device, experienced a different kind of connectivity than the others because they can go online anytime and anywhere. Inara, for instance, said "I'm always on the internet, like 24-7," and mentioned the ability to accessing "my internet" when describing affordances of her android smartphone. Likewise, talking about her iPhone connectivity, Gabriela said "it’s like you can have it anywhere." Antonio also commented when describing his cellphone, "I can get on the internet anywhere I go because it [my smartphone] has a data plan." Anytime anywhere connectivity gave greater autonomy and mobility to these youths shaping some of their new media practices. In contrast, Miguel and Sergio, who did not own smartphones, relied on fixed Internet access points at home and school where they could either use a computer or connect a networked device to a wi-fi network. Although for both Miguel and Sergio, the technology elective classes and the afterschool programs from Freeway High became important point of access to the Internet, their homes remained the major sources of connectivity despite their limitations in quality of hardware. At home, they managed to use any of the networked media devices they had available such as game consoles (e.g. wii, playstation3) and mobile devices (e.g. Nintendo DS and iPhone) to go online in an everyday basis. As Miguel explained in an interview, he connected to the Internet regularly but had to alternate between different points of access. “Q: How often do you use the internet everyday? A: Probably for me it’s like 15 times. Q: That’s mostly afterschool? A: Yes. Q: Do you ever do it before school? A: In the morning I’ll open it once and check my Facebook page. In the afternoon I use the computer, and Wii. Q: How about during school? A: Not really that much. Because it’s a block schedule, it’s only every other day that I have video game class.” Interestingly, despite having networked computers and a wi-fi network, Freeway High School was not the most important Internet access point for any of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths. One of the reasons for that was the fact that the school Internet connection blocked the access to several Web platforms and services that were popular among youths. Like many public schools in the U.S., Freeway High strictly regulated the use of personal mobile devices inside campus and blocked the access to social media. Social network sites and media-sharing platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Tumblr could not be accessed neither using the school wi-fi connection nor the desktop computers. Usually, only the students who owned smartphones and who sneaked them into the school (a normal practice among them) were able to develop online activities on social media networked spaces while they were at the school building. Although access to Internet connectivity in the U.S. has become almost universal for the youth segment of the population, disparities in the quality and quantity of material access still matter. Researchers have found, for instance, that more points of access, more time spent online, and greater autonomy of use are correlated with diversity of Internet uses, skills, and benefits from use (Hargittai & Hinnant 2005; Hassani 2006; Hargittai & Walejko 2008; DiMaggio et al. 2004; Selwyn 2004; Van Dijk 2005; Robinson 2009; van Deursen et al. 2011; Witte and Mannon 2010). Recent scholarship has also consistently found that the so called digital divide keeps evolving, is complex, and cannot be understood only as a matter of basic access to computers and internet connections (Warschauer 2002; DiMaggio et al. 2004; Selwyn 2004; van Dijk 2005, 2012; Chen and Wellman 2005; Livingstone & Helsper 2007; Hargittai 2008; Stern et al. 2009; Schradie 2011; Straubhaar et al. 2012, Watkins 2009, 2012) As DiMaggio et al. (2004) have argued, besides inequalities in access to technical means, there are also disparities in the autonomy of use (e.g. access time, content restrictions, quality of connections); the skills, education, and knowledge people bring to their use; the social supports; and the purposes for which people use the Internet (the higher the purpose, the more complex the tasks, and the more knowledge required for accomplish it). In relation to participation, all the different kinds of digital inequalities matter because they shape the ways in which young people leverage the affordances of the networked communication environment. What some scholars have described as a "participation gap" precisely calls the attention over how disparities in skills, purposes, and supports, are limiting the levels of engagement, networking, content creation, and knowledge production online (Jenkins et al. 2006; Hargittai 2007; Hargittai and Walejko 2008). The interplay between social structural inequalities and digital ones shapes the contours of the participation gap and create complex dynamics between each other. As several studies have consistently revealed, social class and stratification are critical for understanding the activities people do online and their kind of participation (Livingstone & Helsper 2007; Seiter 2008; Hargittai 2007, 2008, 2011; Hargittai & Walejko 2008; Robinson 2009; Schradie 2011; Van Deursen and Van Dijk, 2010). Researchers have found, for instance, that people with higher socioeconomic status develop more "capital-enhancing activities" than economically marginalized users (Hargittai and Hinnant, 2008; Zillien and Hargittai, 2009). Other researchers have also started to reveal that differences in online content production are corelated with social class and levels of education. (Hargittai and Walejko 2008; Schradie 2011) For example, Hargittai & Walejko (2008) proved in their quantitative study of 1,060 first-year college students from a U.S. university that the ones whose parents had higher levels of education, independently of their race-ethnicity, were more likely to create content and publish it online. In another analysis of this data, Hargittai (2010) also concluded that economically disadvantaged students had lower levels of Web know-how, and tended to engage in fewer information-seeking activities online (diversity of use) on a regular basis compared to the ones of higher socioeconomic status. These studies have started to provide evidence about how the affordances of the networked communication environment are not being leveraged equally but instead are highly stratified. Furthermore, they have also started to provide a socioconomic explanation about why even if more people is connecting to the Internet, very few are engaged in content production. These findings challenge the theories that understood the networked communication environment as a more egalitarian, democratic, and participatory space. Combining ethnographic fieldwork in a California rural public high school, interviews with 67 teenagers, and a survey, Robinson (2009) proved that socioeconomic status determines the quality and autonomy of Internet access, and, as a result, constraints the benefits from online activities developed by youth. According to Robinson, economically disadvantaged students with low quality of material access and little autonomy, adopt a particular disposition towards the uses of the Internet. They develop a "task-oriented stance" of Internet use that is different to a more playful and exploratory attitude taken by youth with higher quality of material access. As Robinson pointed out, youths "with high-quality home access take a positive view of investing time in web surfing, confident that their investment will be rewarded by global knowledge acquisition. By contrast, due to constraints and opportunity costs, no and low-quality access respondents take a more task-oriented view of Internet use" (491). According to Robinson, the "task-oriented" disposition towards the use of the Internet characterizes a "taste for the necessary" orientation among economically unprivileged youth that constraints the benefits and skills they can gain while interacting online. Such disposition originates from "experiences of deprivation and urgency" and shortage in social, economic, cultural and human resources. (Robinson 2009) Despite their working class background, immigrant status, and low quality of material access, all of the five Latino/Hispanic youth from our study managed to go online in an everyday basis and developed diverse uses of the Internet. None of them seemed to develop the "taste for the necessary" disposition that Robinson (2009) described for unprivileged youth from rural communities. Although these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths were not involved in complex online tasks that allowed them to enrich and diversify their social networks, nor joined a specific collaborative project within an online community, all of them developed exploratory and playful activities on the Internet. Interestingly, their Internet-practice was paradoxical, diverse and limited at the same time. All of them, for instance, actively sought information related to school homework, popular culture, their particular creative interests, and many times, as they called it, about "random stuff." Antonio, for instance, explaining his everyday information seeking activities said, "I go find some random websites and stuff like that. (...) Just any website that I find, I'll go on it and -- I'll just search random stuff like cats sometimes -- I mean, if it's in the middle of the night, I’ll just surf cat and find some weird stuff." Likewise, Sergio observed he searched "everything" on the Internet. "If I don’t know anything, I Google it to be more well informed and well-rounded on the topic," he said in one of our interviews. Similarly, Gabriela mentioned that she used Google "a lot" for seeking information, and for answering "every question" she had. Inara and Miguel also explained they used Google to seek information about consumer products they wanted to buy such as clothing and music CDs. Although the fact that they developed diverse information seeking activities does not imply the acquisition of advanced and strategic skills, it does tell us something about their intense use of Web tools such as the Google search engine and their attitude towards exploring an environment rich in information and media content. Hence, regardless the lack of scaffolding, social support, and low quality access (except for Gabriela), these five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths developed an Internet-practice marked by certain degree of participation and agency online. As I will reveal in my analysis of the activities on social media networked spaces, the online experiences of these youths were marked by friendship-driven and interest-driven genres of participation. Their online activities were generally characterized by the development of hanging out and messing around practices. Regardless of the scarcity of geeking out practices, all of the five youths found social media networked spaces as important contexts of activity where they could advance their assimilation to the U.S., particularly in relation to the cultural, linguistic, and social dimensions. 2. Latino/Hispanic Immigrant Youth Agency in Social Media Networked Spaces. During the period of our fieldwork, social media networked spaces were important contexts of activity for Inara, Gabriela, Antonio, Miguel and Sergio. On these spaces, the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths exercised their agency as social actors in various ways and with different results according to the motivations and resources each of them had. All of these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths socialized with friends, messed around with media content, and explored their personal interests on social network sites and media-sharing sites. As many other youths growing up in the U.S. in the twenty-first century, they became active users of social media platforms and services. That fact is consistent with the most recent data on the uses of the World Wide Web by diverse segments of the U.S. youth population. As recent quantitative studies have found, Latino/Hispanics have become active users of social media. Based on a national survey conducted in 2012, researchers from the Pew Hispanic Center found that 84% of Latino/Hispanic Internet users (ages 18-29) reported using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (Lopez 2013). In another study that analyzed data from a nationally representative survey conducted with parents and teens (ages 12-17), researchers found that 77% of Latino/Hispanics youths actively use social media sites (Madden, M. et al 2013). However, despite the availability of quantitative data on the increasing number of Latino/Hispanic youth social media users, there is little known about the nuances of their practices, skills, and quality of participation. For the specific case of Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth with second and 1.5 generational status, that kind of inquiry can help us to understand how their experiences on social media shaped their process of assimilation to the U.S. 2.1. Mapping Social Media In the past decade, many social media networked spaces have been designed, built, inhabited, transformed, and abandoned. Few have attracted massive numbers of users, gained global popularity, and became mainstream. Spaces like Facebook and YouTube have become some of the most visible territories in a social media map that is continuously changing according to multiple factors, including the evolution of sociocultural practices and technological innovation. All the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth from our study, for instance, hanged out and messed around on these two major spaces. However, each of them also developed activities on other web platforms according to their particular interests. Gabriela, for instance, following her interest in photography, invested time on Flickr, while Sergio, passionate about Internet visual memes, regularly visited 9Gag and Cheezburger. As these youths explored, discovered, and decided to spend time on different networked spaces, each of them configured particular social media geographies. Those geographies, as my analysis will reveal were characterized mainly by friendship-driven activities on a social network site (Facebook), and interest-driven activities on several media-sharing sites (including YouTube). Although other types of social media spaces such as collaborative projects (Wikipedia), and virtual game worlds (Minecraft and Perfect World) were also part of the personal geographies of some of these youths, I have decided to not include these categories in my analysis.
2.1.1. Social Network Sites (SNSs) Since the early 2000s, Social Network Sites (SNSs) have increasingly become popular spaces for youth sociality, communication, and interaction online. Also called “social networking sites,” or “online social networks,” SNSs are Web platforms that offer a range of tools that can be used for maintaining social connections, exchanging messages, performing identities, and circulating media content. They are spaces where youths actively develop friendship-driven practices as they leverage the SNSs technical affordances for connecting and communicating with their peers. As several researchers have found, on SNSs youths maintain their offline social networks of peers from school and from other local contexts. (boyd, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014; Ito et al, 2010; Livingstone 2008, 2009; Watkins 2009; Lenhart & Madden 2007) Despite the fact that technological affordances make possible the interaction with strangers and the creation of new networks, youths have consistently been using SNSs for interacting with friends they have already met in the physical world and for maintaining their pre-existent social connections. SNSs are spaces where youths continue to develop the practices of identity construction, socialization, and communication they are doing offline with peers from local contexts. Hence, as researchers have pointed out, SNSs amplify and enhance youths' pre-existing social networks (boyd, 2014; boyd and Ellison, 2013; Ito et al, 2010). That is precisely why hanging out in SNSs is so important for them and is embedded in their everyday life. When discussing the motivations for joining SNSs, all the five Latino/Hispanic youth from our study made references to their offline friends and their peer culture. Inara, for instance, explained her migration to MySpace in middle school as a peer group experience. She said, "I got into it with all of my friends." Antonio, describing his reasons to join SNSs mentioned the pressure from his peers. He said, "The first reason I got a MySpace was because of my friends. That’s the same reason I got on Facebook — because of my friends. And I think it was like more forced on me and I was like, “I kind of don’t want to do it.” But I did it anyways." Likewise, when talking about his activities in MySpace during his middle school years, Sergio explained them as a normal part of his youth and peer cultures. He said, "It was just one of those things that everyone has, and it was really fast and easy to use--to communicate with people. It was kind of, like, a youth thing, that most youth people are doing. Like, they get a social media place to communicate with friends." Trends and network effects characterized youth migration to SNSs. At the time of our fieldwork, all of the five Latino/Hispanic youth had already participated in two of the big social media migrations of their generation. In middle school they had all gone to MySpace, and years later, usually in High School, they all had migrated to Facebook following their peers. In this way, youths flocked to the social media networked space where more peers were getting and being together. Describing how he and his friends abandoned MySpace, and how that SNSs "died off because everyone stopped using it," Antonio said, "I think it's just one of those things -- the latest fad. That's what I'm thinking -- the latest fad, and after a while MySpace got boring and everyone switched to Facebook, and something new is coming up. Sooner or later Facebook's going to die off and everyone's going to join that new social media site." Given the rapid pace of technological innovation, the evolution of sociocultural practices, and the network effects of adoption, some SNSs can become very popular and visible while others remain almost unnoticed for youth. Although dominant SNSs can reach global popularity and attract people from all corners of the world, other sites can remain popular just among people from a particular country and language (e.g. Orkut in Brazil). Even within the same country, SNSs have been used only by certain segments of the population. Researchers have revealed through several studies of SNSs adoption in the U.S. that racial-ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status determined the migration of youths to platforms such as MySpace and Facebook, particularly during their early stages of growth. (boyd, 2011; Watkins, 2009; Hargittai, 2008) Although at the moment of our fieldwork, the dominant SNS (Facebook) had already become mainstream for U.S. youth from diverse backgrounds, racial-ethnic and socioeconomic divisions continued to be reproduced on social media networked spaces. Because youths migrate to SNSs following their peer groups, and because their online interactions focus on communicating with their pre-existing network of friends, those spaces tend to be characterized by homopholy. That is, by the interaction with friends of similar age who share similar interests, identity, and values. (boyd 2011, 2010) However, despite the persistence of socioeconomic and racial-ethnic divisions, mainstream SNSs like Facebook are spaces where Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth exercise their agency. That is possible because the technical affordances of SNSs support not only the maintenance of a network of contacts, but also the creation, consumption, and circulation of media content. Creating multimodal user profiles, sending private and public messages to single and multiple friends, subscribing to different sources of media content, and maintaining a network of contacts, are some of the meaningful practices immigrant youths develop on SNSs like Facebook. Through those activities youths actively construct, at the same time, their own selves and their peer relationships, enact their own identities and the ones of their peer groups, and display their own tastes and the ones of their peers. (boyd 2007, 2014; Livingstone 2008, 2011) Participating in Facebook, the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth could develop their process of assimilation in various directions. Hanging out on the dominant SNS they had the opportunity to practice the English language, engage with U.S. pop culture and youth lifestyles. However, given the global scale of Facebook, while inhabiting this social media networked space, the five immigrant youths have also the opportunity to practice the Spanish language, cultivate a transnational network of friends, and engage with the culture, values, and lifestyles of Mexico, their families' country of origin. Such double opportunity is of particular importance for understanding how their activities on Facebook shaped their assimilation to certain dimensions of the U.S. 2.1.2. Media-Sharing Sites (MSS) Along with the rise of SNSs in the first decade of the new millennium, Media-Sharing Sites (MSS) emerged as Web platforms dedicated to facilitate the publishing, sharing, and archiving media content produced by ordinary people. Also known as "content communities," and "user-generated content sites," MSS are social media networked spaces in which sociocultural interactions are built around specific kinds of media formats. They are important territories in the social media geography because they provide youths with free platforms and easy to use services where they could participate in various activities around specific new media cultures. Either expressing their creativity and emotions by sharing their own productions or participating in the consumption and commentary of the content created by others, youths have found in MSS, spaces where they could mess around and geek out following their personal interests. Because of their technological affordances and the sociocultural practices users develop on them, MSS are the most dynamic and vibrant spaces for the thriving of participatory cultures on the Web. As a matter of fact, as Jenkins (2006, 2009, 2010, 2013) has argued, this kind of platforms and services have mainly made visible the practices and logics that participatory media cultures have developed in the past. Those cultures are characterized by the low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for sharing and creation of media content, informal mentorship, social connectivity, and the belief among members that their contributions matter. (Jenkins et. al 2006) Although the degrees of engagement with those cultures vary and inequalities in the production of content proliferate, MSS offer several possibilities of meaningful participation, sociability, and agency. On the one hand, youths can go to these spaces to discover, explore, search, learn, experiment, and play with media cultures that they are interested in. On the other, they can enter MSS in order to engage in more intense activities of knowledge-production, specialized learning, collective problem solving, and subcultural identity construction. All the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth participated with different levels of engagement in at least one MSS, and it was common to all of them to develop messing around practices. Although their participation on MSS rarely included geeking out practices, they actively went to this kind of spaces and had the opportunity to interact with the vast amounts of media content produced by both amateurs and professionals. They messed around on mainstream and privately owned MSS such as YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, Flickr, Cheezburger, and 9Gag, and made these spaces part of their everyday social media geographies. Navigating these spaces was important for them because it gave them free access to media content they could not only consume for entertainment purposes but also for learning in an open-ended way and for sharing with their friends in SNSs like Facebook. For these youths, given the low socioeconomic background of their families, having free and open of access to media content became a major motivation to go to MSS. When talking about her reasons for going to YouTube, Inara, for instance, explained that not having to spend money was one of them. She said, “A: (…) you have everything (...) and you don't have to pay anything, you can just go, or you can find a movie there and just watch it in parts or find a show or something, because they have shows there. Q: So it's really about the flexibility of being entertained? A: Yeah. Without having to try to buy a lot or invest in something that probably won't work. Q: So the fact that it's free and accessible is really important to you? A: Yeah.” Like Inara, the other four Latino/Hispanic youths also mentioned in our interviews the "free" access to MSS as an important reason for visiting these social media networked spaces. Although the technical features of all the MSS they went included several SNS features such as the making of profiles, building networks, and messaging, only some of these youths experimented with these features. Specifically, when some of them decided to take a more active engagement, participating in a conversation, rating media content, and even publishing their own creative works, they registered to the MSS and made user accounts. However, the open architecture of all the MSS Latino/Hispanic youths visited allowed the users to interact with media content without registering on the sites as if they were in an open public space. Given the global scale of the MSS these five Latino/Hispanic youth visited regularly, they had the opportunity to immerse in an extensive repository of cultural materials that included both content from both the U.S. and Mexico. While exploring these social media networked spaces, these youths could search, explore, discover, and connect to media and communities that were not limited to the ones of the host country. Because of that, the way in which each of these youths navigated MSMs, could help them, or not, to advance their process of assimilation to the U.S. in different dimensions. 2.2. Facebook "…every day. It's like an everyday thing." (Sergio)
With more than 1,000 millions of monthly users worldwide Facebook had become the dominant and biggest SNS at the time of our fieldwork (Sedghi, 2014). Using data from a survey conducted in 2012, researchers from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 94% of U.S. youth ages 12-17 have a Facebook account and 81% said that this was the SNS they used more often (Madden et al. 2013b). All the five Latino/Hispanic youth had Facebook profiles and hang out on this social media networked space regularly. While Inara, Sergio, and Miguel told us they visited the space several times everyday, Antonio and Gabriela observed they went every other day. Despite differences in the frequency of usage, all these youths invested time and energy on Facebook customizing their profiles, uploading images, composing status updates, sharing media, and communicating with their friends in a networked way. Created in 2004 by an undergrad student from Harvard University, Facebook rapidly evolved from being a SNS focused in the niche demographic of U.S. college students to becoming a massive platform for diverse populations around the world. One year after its creation, Facebook started to diversify its demographics and allowed U.S. high school students and professionals from corporate networks to create user accounts. Continuing its expansion, as soon as in 2006, Facebook would become open to anyone regardless of its age, occupation, race, and location around the world. Few years later and according to its exponential growth, Facebook would achieve global popularity and become the dominant SNSs for all kinds of demographics. Although during its fast evolution, Facebook has changed several of its features and services, it has kept some of the technical affordances of SNSs. For instance, it has always allowed users to construct public and semi-public profiles within a bounded system and to articulate a list of contacts. However, as it has evolved it has also included new services and features such as news feeds, casual games, and the ability to easily exchange and publish multimodal content. As boyd and Ellison (2013) have argued, examining a SNS is challenging because of the rapid pace of technological innovation and the co-evolution of user sociocultural practices. In order to examine activities on these platforms it is necessary to put attention to both the technological affordances and practices that characterized a particular moment in time. In the early 2010s, a SNS could be defined as, "a networked communication platform in which participants 1) have uniquely identifiable profiles that consist of user-supplied content, content provided by other users, and/or system-provided data; 2) can publicly articulate connections that can be viewed and traversed by others; and 3) can consume, produce, and/or interact with streams of user-generated content provided by their connections on the site" (boyd and Ellison, 2013) In my analysis of the activities developed by the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths on Facebook, I have decided to focus on the three technological affordances described in the above definition. Specifically, I will examine the practices developed around the building of profiles, the characteristics of the network of friends, and the consumption, creation and circulation of multimodal content. Given the moment of our fieldwork (2011-2013) and the qualitative data I have available, focusing the analysis on those features is productive. It helps us to understand the kind of agency that each of the five Latino/Hispanic had on this networked space, as well as how their practices shaped their assimilation process. 2.2.1. User Profiles and the Presentation of the Self A profile is basically a home page inside the SNS system with information about each individual user. That information is presented as a multimodal assemblage of texts, images, and videos. At the moment of our fieldwork, a Facebook profile included several sections such as a "wall"/"timeline" for publications (comments and media exchanges), a list of friends or contacts, a profile picture or avatar, a background cover image, a box with a collection of photos, a list of groups, basic demographic information (gender, place of origin and High School), and various boxes for listing cultural interests (favorite music, films, TV shows, sports, games, and other Facebook pages). Constructing a Facebook profile was one of the activities that all the five Latino/Hispanic youth developed on this social media networked space. Making a profile allowed them to manage an online identity and express their cultural interests in front of an audience of friends, and potentially also in front of a broader public. As several scholars have argued, making a SNS profile is an act of self-representation and construction of the self. (boyd 2008a, 2011; 2014; Papacharissi, 2011; Livingstone, 2008) A profile "can be seen as a form of digital body where individuals must write themselves into being" (boyd, 2008, 129). That online body or identity is not articulated in isolation but in relation to the network of contacts that the each member has. (boyd 2008a, 2011, 2014; Papacharissi, 2011; Livingstone, 2008) Although that networked characteristic of the construction of the self on a SNS was initially revealed only through the display of the list of contacts on the profile, it became more explicit when the technology allowed content provided by others to also be included in the profile. With the evolution of the technical capabilities of the SNS systems, Facebook profiles have become more dynamic, including not only the self-descriptive data provided by each member, but also "content provided by others (such as virtual gifts that are displayed on the profile or “tagged” photographs uploaded by others), and/or system-provided content (such as a subset of one’s Friend network and activities on third-party sites.)" (boyd and Ellison, 2013, 4). All the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth linked their Facebook profiles to their offline identities and used their real names. Although the profiles were visible to their network of contacts, they were not fully available to the general public. As Antonio explained, "the only people that can see my stuff is my friends." These youths kept their profiles in a semi-public mode in which their digital identities were performed only to a limited audience of contacts that included peers from school and from other local contexts, and in some cases also members of their family (Gabriela, Inara, and Sergio had relatives in their networks). Although their profiles would appear listed in a public search, only the basic information about them such as the profile picture and their name would be displayed. All of them messed around with the Facebook privacy settings in order to limit the visibility of their profiles and keep some degree of intimacy. Sometimes they customized the profile privacy settings with the help of their friends, other times they did it by themselves. Inara, for instance, explained that regarding the privacy settings of her profile, "people change it for me or they tell me how to do it." Demographic Information Looking at the demographic information from their profiles, the first thing that stood out is how little data they decided to enter into the SNS system. Although Facebook encourages users to self-report information about gender, age, place of origin, education, religion, political interests, relationship status, and language, they decided to include very little of it in their profiles. Their demographic information was in most of the cases limited to their high school affiliation, place of origin and the place where they live. Interestingly, all of them, with the exception of Sergio (who had San Jose, California), wrote in their profiles Austin, Texas, as their place of origin. Hence, even though Miguel and Sergio were 1.5 generation immigrants who were born in Mexico, they did not mention their foreign origin on their Facebook profiles. This fact, along with the absence of any references to their knowledge of Spanish language could be understood in several ways. On the one hand, it could be read as sign of their assimilation to the U.S. On the other, such hiding of ethnic traits could also be interpreted as a safety strategy for minimizing the risks of being exposed in public as a minority. Still other option is that they simply decided to not include that information because it was simply irrelevant for them and their friends. Cultural Interests In contrast to the little effort invested in self-reporting demographic information, some of these youths spent a considerable amount time creating lists of cultural interests that would be displayed in their profiles. As Sergio explained, "A: So, pretty much on Facebook, I have a lot of the things that I like on there. I’ve put all the movies that I like, all the bands that I listen to, a lot of the books that I like to read, and things along those lines. Like video games and interests. Q: So, you put that on your status, or on your profile? A: On Facebook, you can “like” pages. So, it’s kind of like liking those things that you like in real life, and letting people know. Q: Oh. So you have done that? A: Yeah. Q: What happens when you like a page? A: It automatically puts it on your page, and it lets you customize the order in which you like it." Displaying cultural interests on their profile was a meaningful practice for the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths. By doing so, they performed "taste statements" and signaled their cultural and aesthetic preferences to an audience. (Liu 2007; boyd 2008b) Each of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths listed their interests with different levels of commitment. Although it was relatively easy to do, not all of them were invested in searching and liking pages and elaborating a comprehensive taste statement on their Facebook profiles. For instance, while Gabriela had only three musicians/bands in her profile, Antonio had 81, and Sergio 623. As Table 2 shows, there was great variation across each category of interest (Facebook pages, music, TV shows, movies, sports, and games).
Name Friends Pages likes Privacy Photos music likes tv likes movies likes books likes apps and games likes Language Status Updates User since Gabriela 187 9 private many 3 0 0 0 0 English rarely middle school 8th grade 2009 Inara 150 202 private many 26 0 23 0 0 English rarely sophomore 2009 Miguel 176 345 private few 66 0 0 0 16 English daily middle school 8th grade 2009 Sergio 253 1034 private few 623 37 77 21 3 English daily sophomore 2009 Antonio 107 189 private few 81 17 66 7 3 English once a week junior 2010
Table 1. Facebook Profiles.
The differences in the amount of cultural products they liked and displayed in their profiles reveals not only youths' desire of showcasing their tastes but also a certain understanding of the technical affordances of Facebook and networked communication. At the moment of our fieldwork, liking the pages of favorite cultural products, artists and other pages, involved having access to information and updates from them. Liking implied also following and subscribing to the content their produced and circulated on Facebook. Hence, listing interests was also connecting to particular information flows. As I will discuss later when talking about the "news feed" feature, this activity was also related to becoming a more connected member of an active audience. For instance, Sergio, who had the most comprehensive list of interests, added many bands to his list of interests so he could be updated about the latest information about their new album releases and concerts. Discussing one of the entries in the social media journal he kept for two weeks as part of our participatory ethnography methodology, I asked Sergio about his practice of liking pages and adding many bands to his music interests. "Q: How many pages did you like in March 5? A: I know it was over 20 because I went on this website called “Mickey Says,” and there is where I downloaded a lot of Indy music. So I came across a couple of Indy bands that I started liking, so I liked them on Facebook so I could keep up with when they’re releasing something new. Q: So you like it a lot? A: Yes. Q: 20 pages is not few. I mean, it’s few for you because-- A: It’s few for me. [LAUGHTER] Yes. Q: How many pages can you like when you like a lot? A: I just like 50 and up. ‘Cause I liked at least 100 pages in one day when I came across music. Q: How can you like so many pages of music? A: I don’t know. Music is just something I can get into even if it’s not great to everybody else." Interestingly, the cultural interests displayed in the profile of each of the five youths rarely included cultural products and pages that were related to Mexico, the Latino/Hispanic race/ethnicity, or the Spanish language. On their Facebook profiles, the taste statements of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths revealed a passion for U.S. popular cultures and a preference for the English language (English was also their language of choice for the Facebook interface). The TV shows, Movies, Games, Books, Sports and Facebook Pages they listed were mostly cultural products or personalities from the U.S., few from the U.K., and very little from other countries (especially some Korean TV shows, and Swedish metal bands). Only Inara had listed on her profile cultural interests that were related to the Mexican heritage of her family and the Latino/Hispanic culture. In the music category, Inara had 4 items related to the Latino/Hispanic culture (Reggaeton, Salsa, Merengue, and Shakira). The other 27 items were artists from the U.S. (e.g. Miley Cyrus, Green Day, Beyoncé, The Doors) and the U.K. (e.g. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones). In the category of Facebook pages, Inara also had 2 other items that displayed certain aspect of her bicultural taste such as the page of Mexico and the page of Spain. However, on Inara's profile the signs of Latino/Hispanic cultural traits were only noticeable if one looked closely to the whole lists of interests. This fact shows that according to the taste statements and presentations of the self that these five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths articulated in their Facebook profiles, all of them appeared as culturally and linguistically assimilated to the U.S. Photos Although the technical affordances of Facebook do not allow users to tweak the layout of their profiles as other SNSs such as MySpace, it encourages them to add visual and textual content to a predesigned template. When crafting their profiles, users can experience, to a certain degree, a sort of Web publishing practice that is easy to do and can easily be shared with an audience. Making a profile is a practice that allows users to express themselves and develop their creativity within the limitations of a fixed template. As multimodal designs for screens, Facebook profiles combine images and writing. The friends and interests lists displayed on the profile, for instance, include both texts and images. Each item on the list has a little square image displayed above a typed text. Those images are visible not only on their Facebook home pages but also on the lists of friends of their contacts, and in any commentary they one makes on the SNS. Although the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths could have chosen to display an image of a cartoon, a place, or an object as a profile picture, at the moment of our ethnographic Facebook walk-through activity, they were using photographs in which their faces were noticeable. All the photographs from their profiles were casual, taken in everyday locations, many times by themselves (as in "selfie" mode), and also had the quality of low-definition cameras. Besides the main profile images, Facebook also supports the publishing of photographs in albums, status updates and cover images. "Photos," is precisely one of the sections of the profile layout dedicated to this kind visual content. Since Facebook allows users to add metadata to the images they publish, they can tag their friends in any picture, and those photographs would appear automatically in the "Photo" sections of the users that have been tagged. All the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths had this section of their profiles filled with several photographs taken and published by themselves as well as by other contacts. Regardless they were passionate about photography or not, all of them took pictures with the digital devices they had available, shared them with friends, and used them in their Facebook profiles. For instance, Inara, who did not have a camera nor was particularly interested in photography, had many pictures of herself taken with her cellphone. In those pictures she appeared with her friends as well as with some members of her family. Looking at those images during the Facebook walk-through activity, Inara described how she took the pictures and added effects to them using her mobile phone. For instance, when explaining how she took a photograph in where she appeared with two other friends from school she said, "A: I was in class, in Environmental Science. We were doing a lab so I was bored and it was like click. And then... Q: And you put a filter on it obviously. A: Yeah. Q: Is there like a program on your phone that you did that with--the filter? A: Yeah. My phone has like effects on it. I like having effects on it. I'll show you more pictures that I've taken. Profile pictures. Q: How often do you change your profile picture? A: Not, not, not regularly." Interestingly, the visual content of the "Photos" sometimes provided clues about the race/ethnicity of the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths. That was the case of a couple of photographs from family events and trips that Antonio and Inara published in which some Mexican cultural traits could be appreciated. Both of them had pictures of Quinceañera parties where they appeared with their parents, siblings and other members of the family, wearing formal clothing and some of them hats. Inara also had several photographs of the trips she had made to visit her family hometown in Cohahuila, Mexico, and the events she had participated over there (e.g. a traditional wedding). In those photographs she appeared in a Mexican rural setting, hanging out with relatives and friends of her age, as well as with older members of the family such as her grandmother. Although Sergio and Gabriela also had photographs in where their families appeared, they did not suggest any particular reference to Mexican or Latino/Hispanic culture. 2.2.2. Maintaining connections, Communicating, and Socializing For the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths hanging out on Facebook was important because it allowed them to maintain and make visible their network of friends. Although most of their Facebook connections were peers from Freeway High, some contacts were from the previous middle schools where they had studied and from previous places where they had lived. Being able to stay in touch with those old and distant friends was one of the affordances that the SNSs provided. Hence, Facebook amplified their social network and was useful for overcoming spatial barriers. Miguel, for instance, mentioned in an interview that he started using Facebook in eight grade precisely when he and his family moved to a house in the north east suburbs of the city. As he explained, he opened his account, "Because whenever I moved, a lot of my friends I wasn’t going to see again, so I made a Facebook so I could still connect with them." Likewise, Sergio said he made a Facebook account when he moved to Austin from Stockton, California, at the beginning of his sophomore year. He explained he had to open an account in order to keep in touch with his friends since they were switching from Myspace to Facebook. Similarly, Inara, who had changed neighborhoods inside Austin, said that Facebook allowed her and her friends to "keep in contact with each other". As she described in an interview, "(...)There’s some of my friends that I have not seen in like forever, and we found each other on Facebook, and it’s awesome, and it’s, “Hey, by the way, I miss you, and I hope we hang out soon.” Stuff like that. Because most of the times, people change their phone numbers, and you can’t really keep track of phone numbers. And Facebook is one of those things that if you lose the number, you still have another option to be contacted." Although the size of the networks of contacts of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth was not very big, each of them had more than a hundred nodes linked to their profiles (see Table 1.). Having access to the lists of all their connections as well as to their updates, made easier the communication within them, especially because Free Way High had many students (almost 2000). As Antonio said, on the networked space of Facebook, "it's easy to communicate with a lot of my friends," and doing so was something he liked a lot. Like him, the other found Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths valued Facebook as a tool for communication among their own social networks. Using this kind of social software allowed these youths to manage and visualize their peer social networks, and to experiment with networked communication. Inara, for instance, compared the affordances of Facebook with the ones of an address book. She said, "I use it because you know what goes on with people, outside of school, and you don't really see all those people in school, either way. So if you want to go do something, and you don't have them in your class and you're like, "Hey, do you want to do something?," or if you don't have their phone number. Q: You use Facebook like a giant address book. A: Yes, this is basically my address book on my phone. This is connected to it now." As Inara noticed, she and her friends leveraged Facebook in order to coordinate their activities outside of school. This SNS offered many tools for communication. From private messages to semi-public walls/timelines of comments to live chats, youths could use many channels to coordinate activities with their friends. Their choice usually depended on the degree of intimacy they wanted to have in their communication, being private message the most personal and direct one. The Wall/Timeline The wall/timeline was perhaps the most important tool for public communication within Facebook. On this space, users and their contacts could post text messages and links, upload and embed images and videos, and "tag" other friends, pages or events. The walls/timelines of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths were semi-public because they were only visible to their contacts and not to the broader audience of all the Facebook users or the Internet. As mentioned previously, all the five youths had customized their privacy settings and restricted the visibility of their profiles to the narrow audience of their network of friends. However, some of them had also limited the access to the wall/timeline section in order to keep certain contacts such as family relatives away from their semi-public interactions. Gabriela and Inara, for instance, created restrictions in the visibility of their walls/timelines so members of their families could not have access to the conversations they had with their peers. Gabriela, for instance, said she had to keep her family from seeing her wall/timeline because they could "get noisy" on her. In order to do that he created a special list of users within Facebook that could only see certain content from her profile. During the Facebook walk-through activity, she explained her reasons to do so in the following way: "Q: so you don't want your family seeing things? A: What I post usually because then if it's like something random or there's song lyrics, then they ask, "What's going on? Are you okay?" And all this. And they get into your feelings or this and that. Q: So who? Is it cousins or... A: There's aunts and uncles, and then there's parents, friends, and I have my sister. I didn't know that. I didn't know that I had my sister. Mainly my aunts and some of my cousins that got nosy on me. Q: So you don't want them seeing what you post? So they're not blocked from your profile. They just can't see your updates. A: Yeah. Q: Gotcha. Can they see your pictures? A: Yes. Q: They can. So it's mainly your status updates that you don't want them asking you about. A: Yeah." Likewise, Inara, who also had family members as contacts decided to restrict the access to her wall/timeline. As she explained, a friend of her helped her to set up a restricted list so her parents and other adults could not see their interactions with other friends. As she explained, "A restricted. Yeah. It's where all my family is. Except for like the cousins. My favorite cousins. They don't care. I don't know where it goes at. Friend did that for me." In contrast to the two girls, Miguel, Sergio, and Antonio did not have any restrictions for their Facebook contacts. This could be explained, on the one hand, by the lack of adult family members they had on Facebook (only Sergio had some relatives). On the other hand, it could be also understood as a sign of a parental and family attitude to monitor the activities of female youth. As discussed in a previous chapter, that was precisely the case with Gabriela's family and their concerted cultivation strategy. Especially her father monitored her activities online and offline and kept an ongoing dialogue with her regarding friendship, and achievement. In the case of Inara, it is interesting that she had a restricted list in Facebook despite the fact that their parents did not seem to monitor that much her activities. However, since her social network had several adult family members that were living in Mexico (most of them had not migrated to the U.S.), it is possible that she wanted to keep them away from her wall/timeline. As she pointed out, only her "favorite cousins" who lived in Mexico were excluded from her restricted list. Creating Multimodal Messages as Status updates It was precisely on the wall/timeline were several friendship-driven activities were developed. Given its semi-public visibility as well as its openness, most of the socialization and communication happened there. On this section of the Facebook social media networked space, the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths carved out a space to share information, goof off, and joke. It was a space for hanging out. One of the most common media practices on the Facebook wall/timeline was posting status updates. It consisted in writing messages that would appear not only on the personal wall/timeline but will also be embedded in the news feeds other contacts so they would be notified of what their friends were up to. All of them reported in our interviews doing this practice and we saw evidence of it during the Facebook walk-through activity when looking at their walls/timelines full of messages written by them and their friends. However, each of the five youths posted these messages with different frequencies. While Sergio declared updating his status everyday, Miguel said they he it every week, and Antonio, Gabriela and Inara (who owned smartphones) observed they did it with varied frequencies. Explaining the frequency of her status updates, Gabriela said she did so, "Only when I actually have something clever to say." Likewise, Inara mentioned, "sometimes when I get on there I don’t even know what to say. So, I just leave it blank." Interestingly, the three youths with anytime/anywhere connectivity were not the ones who reported updating their status with more frequency during the period of our fieldwork. For these three youths, creating this kind of message was not an everyday practice but something they could do whenever they wanted, in a casual way. As Antonio said, "That's just like whenever I want to. I would say like every other week I would post something. But it's random -- whenever I want to." The content of the status updates was diverse and each of the five youths practiced different kinds of messages according to their moods and communicative needs. From summaries of their daily life to information about TV shows to motivational quotes, the messages each of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrants wrote reflected their peer culture and their cultural interests, and they were always in English language. Inara, for instance, said, "I like to put quotes on my status, because I love quotes. Whenever I read something, I want to people to know, what life is about, don’t give up, something like that…" Other times, the status updates were deliberately about ephemeral things, or what these youths called "random" stuff. As Inara explained while looking at some of her status updates during the Facebook walk-through activity, "We just do like random stuff. We don't try to make a whole like story with like comments. "So how did you do that?" By asking questions and just randomly like to say stuff." Likewise, Antonio said he would write his status updates about anything he wanted. He said, "For Facebook I’ll just post whatever I want -- say I’m craving a burger, I’ll post it on there. “Oh. My God. This burger was amazing” -- I’ll post that on there too."" Sergio, who was by far the most active of the five youths on Facebook during the period of our fieldwork, said he posted status about "what is happening or happened in the day" as well as "media-related stuff." As he explained, he used his status update to share links to different kinds of content. "I go on YouTube or Vimeo or Tumblr and I’ll share links of a music video, a picture, a link to their page, a link to their events that are coming up, like concerts and stuff like that," Sergio said. By sharing information about popular culture in their status updates these youths displayed their identity and performed taste statements in a more dynamic and conversational way than the lists of interests of their profiles. Sergio, for instance, developed this kind of practice for talking with his friends about their favorite TV shows. As he explained, "I do that for TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, I’ll say when a new episode’s coming out, or I’ll comment about what happened in a new episode that came out, or something like that. Q: What do you say? A: I ask people if they saw the new episode so we can talk about it. Q: In your status? A: Yeah. Q: So, you say like, “Have you watched the new episode?” A: “Has anyone seen the new How I Met Your Mother episode?” And then some people would comment." How I met youth Mother was a U.S. romantic comedy sitcom broadcasted by CBS since 2005. The show told the story of a group of young white, middle-upper class, American friends living in New York City. Among Sergio's peer group, this show was very popular and they watched it every week. Antonio, perhaps Sergio’s best friend, for example, was a fan of this show and also talked about it when writing his status updates on Facebook. As he explained in one of our interviews, "I could say, “I finally watched the new episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother.’” And then I’ll put a little quote over the actual show. " By letting his friends know he had seen the latest episode, Antonio signaled his TV taste, up-to-date knowledge of the evolution of the show, and articulated an identity as an active member of an audience. Moreover, by posting that kind of message in his wall/timeline he was able to display a mark of "coolness" among his friends. This activity was meaningful for him and his peer group, and revealed the active use of U.S media texts to build relationships and to acquire status among a group of friends that was in its majority composed of Latino/Hispanic youths. Hence, by using U.S. popular media texts immigrant youths jockeyed for status among their network of friends in an effort to mark themselves as knowledgeable about the American culture. As boyd (2010) has argued, "teens want to be validated by their broader peer group and thus try to present themselves as cool online and off." (11) In a certain sense, it could be said that among these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth, displaying signs of assimilation to the cultural and linguistic dimensions of the U.S. on Facebook semi-public messages, was meaningful and validated them as cool among their peers. Such display of acculturation through their Facebook status updates was perhaps even more evident in their practice of embedding U.S media texts and composing multimodal messages. Spreading Media The use of popular media content in the messages that the five Latino/Hispanic youth wrote in their walls/timelines, however, was not limited to textual quotations. Leveraging the technical affordances of Facebook and other social media networked spaces, each of these youths created multimodal messages using music videos, films, visual memes, amateur funny videos, and other media texts from popular culture. Combining texts with images and videos, they created messages that could not only be read but also played and clicked. The media-sharing site YouTube, particularly, became the most important source of content for the writing of multimodal status updates. By grabbing the link to a YouTube video, these youths could easily embed it in their status update and share it with their network of friends. "It’s the same thing as uploading a post. You just upload the link with the post," said Sergio when explaining how easy it was to embed videos in a status update. Particularly in relation to music, YouTube videos became very handy for expressing feelings and emotions on Facebook. Gabriela for instance, said she sometimes embedded music videos in her status updates to express her emotions. She said, "if I had a bad day or something relates to me in a song then I usually post it on Facebook." Likewise, Inara explained she "put a YouTube on" a status update for expressing her artistic self. She mentioned, for instance, she "would put 'Somebody that I Used to Know'" a song from Gotye, a Belgian-born Australian musician, that had an artistic quality. As she said, "I really like it. I don’t know. I think it’s artistic. I can see it’s very artistically bound. I just like everything about it." Other times, Inara would "put on" YouTube videos on her status updates because the lyrics. For instance, she would post a video of a song from Kid Cudi, an American rapper from Cleveland, Ohio, who had "really deep lyrics." She observed, "Kid Cudi has really deep lyrics too. His music always puts me in a trance. I just like it. Even though at times it’s mostly about weed and stuff like that I just like it because he has really nice lyrics. His voice kind of makes it more totally his style kind of thing." Sharing YouTube music videos on the walls/timelines was one of the friendship-driven media practices in which each of these youths exercised their agency as an active audience engaged in a process of searching, discovering, and re-circulating. This practice revealed their ability to leverage some of the affordances of the networked communication environment for spreading media content. As Antonio commented in one of our interviews, sharing music videos with his friends and liking bands and songs were precisely his major motivations to go to Facebook. He explained, “A: I’ll usually just go through Facebook because it’s only place I share stuff. Either go “like” their page, I’ll post video links on my page, like, there’s something I like about this band, or something I like about the song. Q: So you post video links? A: Yes. (...) Q: You go to YouTube and find the video? A: Yes, I just post the link.” On the social media networked space of Facebook, these youths articulated messages in a multimodal way that appealed to their peers. These messages were expressions of a new media youth culture that relied on screens and speakers, and where images, texts, and videos were used at the same time for creating meaning. According to some of these youths, with their multimodal messages they composed and posted on their walls/timelines they felt capable of helping cultural producers. As Antonio explained in one of our interviews, by "spreading the word" about the bands and movies he liked, he actively helped artists and media producers to "get them more publicity." He said, "Q: Do you ever share information about films, TV, bands, artists, celebrities? A: Yes. A lot. That I like them, I'll spread the word about them, try to get them more publicity. Q: And what kind of information do you share? A: I usually link them or if they have a music video I'll post that up. Or if they have like a little -- what would you call that -- trailer, I'll post that up. Q: So you link to their pages? A: Yes. Q: And do you -- how do you introduce them, like the bands? A: I mean, I just write a little something I like about them and that's -- here's a link. I mean, I don't go all crazy with it." Although most of the media texts that Antonio helped to spread through his social network were all in English and mainly made by U.S. professional and pro-am producers, he also disseminated information about his own projects when he needed to do so. He was aware of the communicative power he had within the social media networked space of Facebook and understood he could use it for spreading media and supporting the project he liked. During the period of our fieldwork, for instance, he was able to circulate information about the Cinematic Arts Project (CAP), the after school program he participated and where he helped to create several media texts such as videos and photographs. Explaining how he understood the spreading of media as a kind of "support" he said, "If there's like a band or movie I like, I'll support them. I know I've been posting the Cinematic Arts Project screening a lot, just because we need a lot of support -- donations. So I do that a lot." Likewise, Sergio posted several status updates about the CAP in which he embedded photographs, videos, links, and other information about events and their youth media productions. While looking at this kind of statuses during the Facebook walk-through activity, Sergio explained to me that by sharing information about the CAP he helped to advertise the work that he and his peers were doing. According to him, in this way he helped the CAP publicity team to spread the word about the work they were doing. One of those messages was precisely a status update in which he posted a link to the blog entry he wrote for the CAP website. Proudly about sharing his work, Sergio wrote: "Nice. My story is up on the page :)" Information Flows, Streams and News Feeds The "news feed" was the other major section of the Facebook social media networked space where the five Latino/Hispanic youths developed their communication, socialization, and friendship-driven practices. At the time of our fieldwork (2011-2012) this Facebook feature consisted in a dynamic list of media content (a stream) that included the status updates, photos, videos, and other activity generated by the network of friends and the pages and cultural interests that each user liked. The "news feed," therefore, was a communicative space where the stories generated by different nodes of the personal social network were displayed dynamically and aggregated in real time. It was also an interactive space that encouraged users to take various actions such as reading, watching, commenting, liking, and scrolling. Interacting with the "news feed" was one of the most important practices for the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth not only because it was featured as one of the main sections of the Facebook home page but also because of the information flows that circulated through it. As a matter of fact, hanging out on Facebook, implied going to the "news feed." Gabriela, for instance, explained her use of Facebook in the following way, "Just go on my news feed, or if I have any notifications, go look at what...whatever they did. So, that’s pretty much it." Likewise, while talking about what the expression "checking my Facebook" meant to him, Miguel said "looking at the recent posts." According to Sergio, the ability to have access to the updates of other people in a fast manner was something that he liked and one of the reasons to hang out in Facebook. As he observed, "A: I like that you can see what people are doing faster than on MySpace. It was kind of the same thing, but you don't really have to go to someone's page to see what they recently did. Whereas Facebook is kind of like Twitter, as soon as someone says something you can see it. Q: So, you get, like, feeds? A: Yeah. Q: So you like that, to get the feeds on your page? A: Yeah. " By interacting with the "news feed" these youths experienced being "in flow" (boyd 2010b) within an information landscape created not only by the content their friends actively shared, but also the content that the pages and cultural interests they followed distributed. They experimented with "social awareness streams" (Naaman, Boase, and Lai, 2010; boyd and Ellison 2013) they were part of and could actively shape. As boyd and Ellison pointed out, "streams of quotidian, ephemeral content encourage people to participate more in that they provide an initial artifact around which others can engage. Features that support actions associated with status updates—the ability to post comments to, share, or register interest in an update—also encourage a stream of activity that is prompted by an update but often takes on a life of its own in the central stream." (boyd and Ellison 2013, 4) For all of the five youths, being in flow with these streams of content helped them to be aware of U.S. current issues. Since none of them reported watching TV news, reading a newspaper, or listening to the radio, it was precisely in the content that circulated in the "news feed" where they were updated about the public issues and current events. For them, the content of the information streams was indeed like the news. Inara, for instance, explained in one interview that Facebook was her source of news. “Q: How often do you follow current news topics? A: Never. Unless if somebody is talking about it I’ll be like, “What?” “Yeah. It was on the news last night.” I’m like, “Oh. I don’t watch the news or anything.” (…) Sometimes on Facebook I would see news. I click on it and it gives you the whole article. And I would read it. I’m like, “Oh. I didn’t know that was going on.” Or I would see it or probably people here in school are talking about it. Or teachers are talking about it. I don’t know. Just stuff like that.” Even when only a few people from their social networks shared news about current events, the fact that this content was part of their streams of information indicates that these youths were exposed to some information about their local, national, and international contexts on Facebook. Hence, despite the fact that the majority of the content from their "news feed" was friendship gossip, random peer talk, and U.S. youth popular culture, there was information about public affairs and current issues in their streams. Antonio, for instance, explained that although he did not consume news on TV, radio, or newspapers, he was exposed to them sometimes in his Facebook because one of his friends shared news articles in her status updates. “Q: Would you say that people in your network share information related to politics, your community, or current affairs? A: Some of them do but not a lot of them. I know there's a friend of mine that wants to become a journalist, so she reads a lot of articles and sometimes posts them up. Q: Articles from like newspapers? A: Yes. Q: Just one of your friends? A: Yeah. Just right now there's only one.” Likewise, Sergio explained to me that on his "news feed" he was able to get not only information about U.S. politics and public affairs, but also about "a lot of different things" since he had various groups of people in his Facebook social network. He said, “A: Because on Facebook I know a lot of different groups that do a lot of different things. For example, a lot of people inform people on what’s happening politically. (...) there’s a few groups that have different music interests--so, I can tell who likes what differently from others.” Sometimes the information about current events and public affairs was consumed by these youths as visual memes, parodies, and as amateur video commentaries. As Miguel explained, one of his main uses of Facebook was for "getting informational or funny things." That kind of information circulated through his "news feed" not only by the content generated by his friends, but also by the pages he had listed as part of his cultural interests. As boyd and Ellison (2013) pointed out, in Facebook, "each person’s stream is populated with content provided by those that they’ve chosen to Friend or follow"(2013: 8). With the evolution of Web technologies, Facebook, had started to work as a news aggregator that combined not only content generated by the network of contacts, but also by the pages and cultural interests the user had liked and listed in his/her profile. Hence, by liking bands, TV shows, films, and other pages, Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths could subscribe to the content they created and it was automatically delivered to their "news feeds." This practice opened the possibility of becoming a more connected and engaged audience that could not only stay up to date with the content created by their favorite media franchises, but who was also empowered to re-circulate that content among their networks of friends. That was precisely what happened when Sergio actively re-circulated visual memes about the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign that had been aggregated to his "news feed." These media content came directly from pages such as 9Gag he had liked and listed as part of his cultural interests in his Facebook profile. It could be said that the technical affordances of the Facebook "news feed" feature allowed the friendship-driven practices to overlap with the interest-driven ones. Although it was not the case for all the five Latino/Hispanic youth, the ones who liked, and therefore, subscribed to many cultural interests and pages, interacted with streams of content that were full of content made by peers, music bands, transmedia franchises, gamer groups, microcelebrities, and TV shows. Such variety of content was also challenging since the information that appeared in the "news feeds" was neither organized by topics nor by networks. This stream usually appeared as a vibrant and messy quilt of media content created, in real time, according to the frequency of status updates and a Facebook algorithm. Hanging out on SNSs like Facebook became an experience that not only involved the network of peers from local contexts, but also included networks of content from a rich variety of sources. Although that kind of overlap of networks was experienced more intensively by the youths that liked/followed more cultural interests and pages, the other ones were also able to get a taste of it as their peers were re-circulating content generated in other networks. However, despite the overlap of information flows and the messiness of the "news feed," all the content from the social awareness streams of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths was in English. At least during our interviews and the Facebook walk-through activity, we were not able any traces of Spanish language in their profiles. And only in the cases of Inara and Sergio we saw a couple of messages in Spanish that appeared on their "news feeds." This fact revealed, that despite the fact that their social networks included many peers from the Latino/Hispanic ethnicity-race and with Mexican origins, their communication and sociability, on the Facebook semi-public space was developed using mostly U.S. cultural materials. As a consequence of that, it could be said that their participation on this social media networked space supported their assimilation to the U.S. cultural, linguistic, and social dimensions.
6.2.3. Navigating Popular Media Sharing Sites (MSSs) Each of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths navigated a unique geography of MSS that they configured according to the particular interests they had and the social, economic, cultural, and human resources they could access. While Inara and Miguel spent time in only one MSS; Gabriela, Sergio, and Antonio visited several. Although in very few cases they decided to publish their own media creations and to engage in public conversations on this kind of social media networked spaces, all the five youths found opportunities to participate in different ways. Particularly, they developed several messing around practices that were meaningful. On the MSSs they looked around, learned about different topics, explored diverse visual, audiovisual, and aural media content, and discovered pathways to different kinds of information. Name SNSs Content Publishes Content User Account Coments Activities Gabriela Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube Audiovisual, photography, images, music, text yes yes no searches, subscribes, creates, recirculates Inara YouTube Audiovisual, music no no no searches, recirculates Antonio YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud Audiovisual, photography, music no yes no searches, recirculates Miguel YouTube Audiovisual, music, news no yes yes searches, subscribes, comments, rates, recirculates Sergio YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, Reddit, 9Gag, MemeBuilder Audiovisual, photography, visual memes, music, news yes yes no searches, subscribes, creates, recirculates Table 2. Media-Sharing Sites Geography However, as it can be seen in Table 2, the chose to go to MSS that were privately owned, had millions of users, and were very visible on the Web. At the time of our fieldwork, all of these MSS had already reached massive levels of popularity and could even be considered to be dominant spaces in their specific kinds of media content. This issue had implications for the kind of engagement Latino/Hispanic youth developed. The MSSs were crowded by millions of users, rich in media content, and hosted communities and participatory cultures that where difficult to notice. Once these youths entered popular MSSs they found themselves in an ocean of media content they had to navigate by themselves according to their interests, skills, and resources they could access. Their behavior was the one of an active audience that searched and discovered media content, and re-circulated it. In some specific cases their participation became more active as they also were able to subscribe to content providers, rate the media content, join conversations, and even publish their own creative works online. 2.3.1. YouTube "...YouTube (...) it’s like a library of videos. It’s a public library for videos." (Sergio) YouTube, for instance, had already become the biggest video repository available on the Web. In its official statistics, the company owned by Google Inc., reported having 800 million monthly visitors, and 4 billion video views per day in early 2012. Founded in 2005 YouTube had experienced exponential growth and rapidly became the most popular site for watching and uploading videos. In 2012 the variety of media content on the platform included not only amateur and pro-am content but also professionally produced videos and advertisement of all kinds of genres. Hence, at this point of its rapid evolution, YouTube was not only a space were multiple participatory cultures, grassroots communities, and gift economies could thrive, but also a territory colonized by commercial culture, advertisement, and marketing logics. Hence, in 2011-2012, YouTube was already a global scale hybrid platform that supported the practices of DIY content creators, professional media corporations, and a massive audience of consumers. Not surprisingly, it was precisely YouTube a common destination for the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths. With diverse frequencies all of them invested lots of time and energy searching, watching, and discovering audiovisual media content. While some went to the platform in an everyday basis, others did it every other day. Sergio, for instance, said he usually spent between two-three hours everyday on the platform. Similarly, Inara and Miguel said she could play up to five videos everyday. In contrast, Gabriela said she went every other day, and Antonio explained he had stopped going regularly and tried to go just twice a week. Their motivations were diverse. Although all of them mentioned using the platform for "entertainment," "amusement," and "passing time," they also mentioned going there to learn and find information about topics they were interested. Diversity of Media Content On YouTube, the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths could explore, discover, and find a rich variety of audiovisual materials as if they were in a vast "cabinet of curiosities." Following their particular interests these youths searched for content and watched both commercial and amateur audiovisual materials. Inara, who wanted to pursue a career as a fashion designer and who did not have access to cable television at home, explained that she used YouTube to watch professional video programs about fashion week events. She said, "If I want to see Fashion Week, they'll have all the videos of Fashion Week and put all the videos of who did this and that..." In contrast, Miguel, who was interested in videogame design and a gamer himself, found videos about his favorite games (Minecraft and Perfect World) produced by famous youtubers like Uber Haxornova. As he explained, "A: He [Uber Haxornova] is a YouTuber that pretty much records himself playing a video game and talking [in English] about it or just talking in general, and he just -- he's like pretty much a comedian because he's pretty funny. Q: Talking over his own playing the game? A: Yeah. That's pretty much it. It's the people themselves that are entertaining to listen to. Q: Do you remember how you found out about this YouTube person? A: Yeah. I was searching up Minecraft videos -- just Minecraft videos no matter what, and I found him and I just subscribed to him." In order to subscribe to several channels of DIY video makers, Miguel created an account in Youtube he could use to receive updates from content producers he liked and to rate and comment videos. He reported having 25 subscriptions, mainly from the genres of machinima and videogame commentary, all in English language, and the majority of from the U.S. and with big audiences on the YouTube platform. Uber Haxornova, for example, was a 22 years old American youth who had more than 2.6 million subscribers and had been publishing videos since 2008 (more than 4,000). By subscribing to these channels Miguel was able to receive updates about the new releases from the youtubers he liked. Similarly, Sergio and Gabriela had also created user accounts, experimented with this practice of media syndication, and became part of the growing audience of DIY video producers. Gabriela, for instance, was subscribed to more than 30 YouTube channels from amateurs and pro-ams. As she commented, she liked to watch those videos because they "just keep her entertained." Charles Trippy Friend x Core (CTFxC), the channel of a white middle class American couple who had more than 1 million subscribers, for example, was one of her favorite ones. As she said, “A: I follow this one couple, CTFXE (phonetic), they have made a video for every day ever since they got engaged until the wedding. And I follow them and they’re still making videos. Q: What kind of videos do they post? A: Just their daily life. (...) Well, they got noticed, I guess. So I’m guessing that they’re paid to keep it going. And so they have, like, their own store for their little logo, CTFXC (phonetic). Yes, and so they sell their shirts. And then I know that he’s in a band I like (...) “We the Kings.”” Music Discovery Besides becoming members of the growing audience of DIY video producers from new media genres such as machinima, v-logging, and gaming commentary, some of the five Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youths also leveraged the YouTube platform for participating in music subcultures and developing alternative tastes. Although the practice of searching and playing music for free on YouTube was common to all of the five youths, the three boys developed a more active engagement in relation to specific genres of music. Dubstep for Antonio, death metal for Miguel, and indie rock for Sergio, were some of the music genres they explored on YouTube. For some of them being able to discover bands and artists and expand their knowledge about particular genres of music was in fact the most important service that YouTube offered. As Sergio said, "I’d say it’s more important for the music that I listen to. That’s how I found out my Indy bands. My hipster music." With some exceptions from the U.K. and Canada, the majority of these "independent alternative" bands were from the U.S. and all song in English language. According to Sergio, being able to find "not well known" bands and to follow their trajectory from their beginning was an important part of his "hipster music" fan practice. He explained, “A: I listen to bands that haven’t even started yet. Q: Like amateur musicians in their garages or-- A: Yes. Could be. Or they could have, like, gigs already and whatnot. But they’re just not well known. Q: Like who? A: “Frontier Brothers,” yes. Q: “Frontier Brothers?” A: But they have, like, live gigs, yes. And they’re kind of an Indy band. (...) They only have, like, three songs on YouTube and one album on iTunes. And there was a band called “Funeral Party.” I started listening to them before they released their first album. Q: “Funeral Party?” A: “Party,” yes. They released an album and it was all over the internet and YouTube and iTunes. And I was, like, they became big in, like, less than two years. Q: Wow. A: They started playing in backyards in Los Angeles. And it was very violent at their shows, I guess.” Likewise, for Antonio, who went to YouTube only few times a week, searching and discovering underground Dubstep artists from the U.S and U.K was an essential part of his messing around practice. Although he also used other platforms, he mentioned going to YouTube to find "a lot of good artists." He said, "I listen to Flux Pavilion (...) DJ Fresh, sometimes I’ll listen to Skrillex, Zomboy, Figure, Excision. Mostly -- there’s not a lot of dubstep out there, so -- that I really like -- I like the in your face -- loud in your face -- dubstep. Sometimes some people make the low-volume one -- I don’t really like that. I usually go on Soundcloud, Beatport, YouTube, for other artists, because I’ve found a lot of other good artists who aren’t really known on those sites." Discovering underground music on YouTube was part of music fan practice that also involved sharing links to the videos in SNSs, searching information about musicians in Google, liking the artists pages in Facebook, and looking for and downloading free MP3s. As Sergio explained, the space of YouTube was usually the point of start of a process of active music consumption. As Sergio said, “A: Sometimes I’ll be on YouTube and they have suggestion videos, and one video leads to another until I come across something new. And then I’ll do more research on their music. Find out how many albums they have. And then I’ll download all their albums. Q: Do you download them from where? A: Wherever I can find them. Sometimes they’re not available so I’ll have to wait and wait until I find a website that has them. Q: So do you just do a search in Google for albums? A: Yes. Q: And how about on YouTube? Do you do searches, as well? A: When I find out who the artist is I’ll go back and I’ll listen to more of their videos that they have on YouTube. Q: So YouTube is, like, a reference place for finding new artists and new bands? A: Yes.” The music–driven messing around practices developed on YouTube included the interaction with a recommendation system that suggested videos all the time in relation to the content that was being played. Exploring the suggestions generated by the YouTube algorithm allowed youths to immerse themselves in a vast archive of videos that included a rich variety of audiovisual formats. Professionally produced music video clips, official and unofficial recordings of live performances, amateur videos that combined music and photographs, among other formats proliferated the YouTube ocean of audiovisual content. Although the explorations did not always lead them to find music they liked, in many cases it did allow them to discover new bands and artist and to expand their knowledge of specific subcultures. Even for the youths that had eclectic taste and were not into any subcultural genre like Inara and Gabriela, interacting with the system of recommendations allowed them to expand their eclectic taste. Video tutorials and learning However, as space that supported the thriving of participatory media cultures, YouTube offered access to many video tutorials of diverse topics produced by amateur and pro-ams. From videos about dance movements to videos about computer software features, youths had the opportunity of interacting with content that helped them to learn to do things. Inara, for instance, watched video tutorials about how to do hair styles and dance steps. Miguel watched videos about how to install video game mods and master game mechanics in MMORPGs. Both Antonio and Sergio, mentioned watching tutorials for learning about media production. According to Sergio, YouTube was the main source of tutorials for him at home. He said, "Like, YouTube is blocked, here [Freeway High School], and at home, YouTube is one of my main sources for tutorials, because then I get a spoken kind of tutorial rather than just going back and reading it, because if I watch a tutorial on YouTube, I can just close the video out...I wouldn’t really need to see it. Someone would just be speaking on what I need to do, and that way it would be more efficient." Likewise, Inara explained that the video tutorials she found in YouTube were convenient and allowed her to have access to informal teachers "right there." As she said, "I guess convenient, in a way. Like, if I don't know -- let's say how to French braid or how to French braid, and there's a person who's showing you how to French braid, or even something like educational too. Like there's how to do this or how to study for this test or and stuff like that. It's kind of like you have your own teacher right there. And if you want to learn new dance, you find the video and they'll show you." Antonio, who messed around with music production at home, explained he watched video tutorials for learning how to use software for sound synthesis. As he observed, the availability of video tutorials in YouTube was part of the informal learning ecosystem he had set-up for making music. Talking about the computer software he used at home, he commented that one of his reasons for choosing it was the availability of tutorials on Youtube. He said, “A: I downloaded them [music software] off the Internet, cracked version, because it costs too much for me. Q: Which ones? A: FMA and Massive -- They’re really good for synth making -- you can also make kicks on them. I’m leaning more toward Massive right now because I find it’s simpler and there’s more tutorials on YouTube about how to do stuff. If I were to search how to make a sound that sounds like Skrillex -- he’s a dubstep artist -- there’s many tutorials on YouTube about how to do that.” Commenting and uploading content. Differences in participation. However, despite having access to many tutorials made by DIY media makers, these youths rarely decided to participate in the conversations that occurred on the YouTube platform. Although many of those videos were created as part of the collective efforts of participatory cultures, in the social media networked space of YouTube, the low barriers to participation did not always encouraged a deeper engagement. Rarely these youths decided to upload content and to engage in the conversations that formed around the videos. Due to their lack of access to social and human resources at home (the place where they usually connected to YouTube), and their little experience participating in public conversations, most of these Latino/Hispanic immigrants never wrote comments and rarely rated videos. Antonio, for instance, explained he did not leave comments because he did not "like talking through the Internet" nor "networking" online. Sergio, who reported having learned cinematic tips and photoshop software through watching DIY video tutorials on YouTube, explained that he never participated in conversations because the environment was not welcoming and characterized by what he called "snowball effect." He said, “A: I don’t really like commenting on YouTube. Q: Why? A: Because then they’ll have, like, a snowball effect, depending on what the emotion is behind the comments. If it’s a positive comment, it might get just... I always think a lot of people just comment negatively on everything on purpose just to troll. So it could be a positive comment and someone would be, like, “Oh, you suck.” And I was, like, “Okay. I don’t know how to comment to that so I’m just going to stop.” Or it could be, like, someone says, “You suck.” And then another person would be, like, “Well, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then they start insulting each other over YouTube, but they don’t know each other in real life. So I think that’s really pointless.” Interestingly, it was only Miguel, the only youth who participated in the conversations that happened on the YouTube social media networked space. He wrote comments in English and rated videos related to the two MMORPGs he played (Minecraft and Perfect World). These videos not only helped him to learn game mechanics and skills, but also allowed him to be exposed to the knowledge generated by experts from the gaming community. For instance, one of the latest comments he had written was in a video about an event in which "few famous Minecraft people" had created a map of the Hunger Games and competed against each other in overcoming several challenges. By following several Youtubers that were gamer experts, Miguel was able to connect with knowledge producers and with an active networked audience. Somehow, the gamer participatory cultures and communities formed around specific MMORPGs seemed to scaffold a more active participation on Youtube both in commentary and video production. Miguel, for instance, explained that although his use of YouTube was limited to subscribing and commenting, he wanted to make and publish his own videos about player-generated guides and commentary. He said, "A: I only use it to comment and subscribe and stuff. When I get a new computer, I want to make YouTube commentator videos. Q: On video games A: Yeah." Miguel, as a gamer, experimented a greater engagement with the new media cultures he was passionate about. Despite the constraints he confronted in terms of access to high quality technology and tools at home, he had the opportunity to develop some geeking out practices in YouTube. As a member of an active and networked audience of gamers, he felt encouraged to join conversations, rate videos, and also re-circulate the content of the videos in other SNSs such as Facebook. This fact reveals not only the fact that specialized gamer communities thrived on YouTube, but also that Miguel had developed the skills to find them and understood some of the values and rules of the community. However, as he also observed, although he wanted to make more contributions to the community, he felt he did not have access to the technology he needed in order to start creating and publishing his own videos. Among the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth, inequalities in material access at home seemed to be correlated with the ability to publish content on YouTube. Among all of them, only Gabriela, who had access to photo and video cameras at home, and who also owned an iPhone, reported having posted videos on the platform. Although she did not mentioned being interested in a specific knowledge community like the ones created by gamers, she was interested in one of the most popular DIY video genres on YouTube: creative photo and video montages set to music. This genre populated the YouTube social media networked space and was being developed by both collective grassroot communities and individual amateur producers. As she explained in an interview, although her interests on making this kind of videos started on the YouTube platform, she was able to learn about it at one of the video technology elective classes he took at Freeway High. “Q: And how did you get into this? How did you start doing this? A: A YouTuber. Yes, a YouTuber. Q: Oh, really? A: Yes. Q: So you got the idea from someone on YouTube? A: Yes. Q: And then how did you learn how to do it? A: My video tech class. Q: With Mr. Perez? A: Yes. Q: And then what application are you using to do these? A: Not Final Cut but, iMovie, there you go. Q: iMovie okay. So is this something new you’ve gotten into? A: Yes. Q: What do you like about it? A: It’s just fun, yes. It’s kind of nice to see, like, you’re working on something and the end looks really nice, a little nice final product. Q: And have you shared them with anybody? A: Just my dad and a couple friends.” The fact that Gabriela decided to keep the two video montages she had published on YouTube hidden from the public searches, reveals her lack of connectivity with a particular community on the social media networked space. "I don’t want, like, some creeper looking, like, at my life," she said. Gabriela was concerned about the visibility of her video montages on YouTube because they were made with imagery from her everyday life. One of the videos was about her vacations during a spring break, and the other one about life events in the year 2011. In both video montages she showed images about her family, friends, and her dog, and they were set up to music that "fits the moment perfectly" and that she found on YouTube. According to her, publishing the video montages on the platform allowed her to be able to easily circulate the videos among an intimate circle of family members and friends. "Just so I can have the link to share," she said. Such practice, as well as the ones of editing and composing her DIY videos, taking pictures, and recording videos with her own devices, revealed the start of a transition from messing around to geeking out activities. As Gabriela invested time and energy learning to create video and photo montages she acquired specific technical knowledge and honed her skills as an audiovisual storyteller.
184.108.40.206. Other MSS Besides going to YouTube, some of the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth had also the opportunity to travel to other MSSs making their personal social media geographies more diverse. As stated before, these MSS territories were very popular on the Web and had become dominant with millions of users and massive amounts of media content. Antonio and Sergio, for instance, visited SoundCloud, and audio distributing platform that in 2012 reported having 15 million users who uploaded approximately 10 hours of content every minute, and an audience of 180 million listeners. Although neither Sergio nor Antonio published content on SoundCloud they developed several messing around practices searching and discovering underground music from their favorite genres (dubstep and indie rock) as well as rating some of the tracks they listened. Interestingly, Antonio, who had explored music production at home and created some rough dubstep tracks preferred to not publish the tracks on this platform. According to him he felt that his tracks were not lacked the quality to be published online. This sort of belief, together with his low disposition to engage in conversations online in public spaces, limited his participation to messing around practices. Likewise, Antonio and Sergio visited the Vimeo platform in order to mainly search, discovery, and watch videos, animations, and films. By 2012, Vimeo had over 14 million active members and 75.3 million unique visitors, and was popular among indie filmmakers and their fans.  Both Antonio and Sergio mentioned liking this platform very much because its "cinematic" and "professional" quality. Although they had created user accounts during the year of our fieldwork and mentioned rating videos on this platform (giving likes), they did not publish by themselves any of the videos they had created in the Freeway High elective classes and afterschool program. With the exception of the videos from the Cinematic Arts Project in which both of them had collaborated (webisodes and the trailer of the narrative film) which were published on Vimeo by one of their mentors, their creative work did not circulate on this social media networked space. When asked about the reasons to not doing so, both of them explained that their video projects were either incomplete or they had lost access to their digital files due to hardware problems. Photography Gabriela, with a passion for photography that had been cultivated at her home since early age, developed messing around practices on MSS in which she experimented with online publishing and re-circulation of visual imagery. On the one hand, she had an account in Flickr, one of the biggest photo sharing sites with more than 6 billion images, 51 million registered members, and more than 80 million visitors per month in 2012. On the other, she also invested time and energy on Tumblr, a popular blogging platform that in 2012 had over 42 million blogs and received over 13 billion global page views. While on Flickr Gabriela had a public account for publishing her photography works; on Tumblr she had a private account where she re-circulated ("re-posted") the entries of several visually oriented blogs that she followed. In both MSSs she actively looked around, satisfied her curiosity, and discovered sources of inspiration. However, Gabriela leveraged each platform in different ways. On Tumblr she followed "more and more random, random, random people," and "re-posted" the media content she could relate to. She also kept her account private so only people with a link to it could see it. In contrast, on Flickr she had a public account where she could display her own photographs and build an online portfolio. Despite the possibilities for socializing and building mentor relationships on Flickr, Gabriela did not join groups nor contacted other photographers. Instead, she took a more messing around and individualistic approach. As she explained, her main practice was looking at the pictures taken by advanced photographers so she could learn about new forms of composition and get new ideas. Talking about Flickr, she said, "A: It’s like a lot of high skilled photographers. Like they’re really, really skilled, so... Q: Yes. So what do you like about that? A: That I see, like, “Oh, well, I don’t have to stick to this,” I can also, like, do different things, because it doesn’t just have to be this type. Q: So you get ideas from it? A: Yes. Q: Cool. And do you get feedback on Flickr? A: No. Q: No. A: I don’t...nobody follows me; I don’t follow anybody. Q: No. Do you read comments ever on Flicker? A: Nom. Q: No. So it’s more just to look. A: Yeah." Despite the lack of social interactions and exchanges on Flickr, Gabriela leveraged the affordances of the platform for building an online portfolio where she could showcase her creative work. "I just use it mainly, like, as a portfolio I guess," she said. Gabriela had opened an account in 2009 and had consistently been uploading a selection of her best photographs. At the time of our fieldwork in 2012, she had curated and published 78 photos on her Flickr gallery and had created two albums (one about dogs, other about nature). The majority of her images were about threes, pets, Austin downtown urban scenes, the city lake, and a few were portraits of her friends. Some of the pictures had been modified with Photoshop software and had color-saturation effects. Moreover, all the pictures published between 2009 and 2011 had a watermark with the nickname "Gaby" that she had layered on the top of the photographs. This nickname was also the one she used for her Flickr account and could be interpreted as a sign of creative identity construction and authorship. Although the practice of writing titles and descriptions for the photographs was supported and encouraged by the Flickr platform, Gabriela had only written a title for few, and always used the English language. Internet Visual Memes "I can of saw a meme, like, on the internet I’d seen them. I didn’t really think they were funny. I don’t remember what the first meme I saw was, but then, like, I started going into websites that had more and more memes. And then I started just getting more involved with memes." (Sergio) Besides Gabriela, the other Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth who was able to experiment with the publishing of creative media works on MSSs was Sergio. Following his passion for humor, graphic design, and visual memes he spent lots of time and energy, both at home and at school, interacting on the Cheezburger and 9Gag platforms. According to him, he loved memes because they were creative and funny. As he said, “A: I love memes. Q: Really? A: They’re really funny. Q: Tell me...give me an example. A: Some of the memes that I like are De-motivationals. Like, instead of motivating posters, they just de-motivate, they take your motivation away. And I think, some of them are really, like, creative and funny. Q: Show me, I mean, just describe to me one of those. A: Some of the memes are like, people who take pictures from somewhere, and then they’ll caption it their own way. Q: Yes. A: And, like, I believe they’re really funny. They have, like, other means, like where they take situations, and then they make jokes of them, like they have one called, “Lame Pun Coon.” It’s a raccoon that tells lame jokes. And like one of them was, like, “The camping trip this weekend was in tents,” instead of intense. And I just thought, I think those are funny. (…) They’re very creative.” On the two meme-especialized MSSs he visited, he was able to mess around and sometimes also geek out. He developed a sort of "peripheral participation" that allowed him to learn despite the massive number of users and vast ocean of media content he encountered. As a matter of fact, the two MSSs he went were dominant and big and had several participatory cultures and communities that were not as easy to identify given their size and overlap. Cheezburger was a platform that served as a meme hub for all the MSSs from the Cheezburger Network, a big Internet humor company from the U.S. In 2011 the platform had more than 16.5 million users a month and generated more than 375 million monthly page views. Cheezburger social media networked space offered not only a vast media repository of visual memes and millions of users to network but also a web application for creating memes. 9Gag, in contrast, functioned as a more traditional MSS allowing the users to upload images, GIFs, and videos they had already created using software or some of the meme generators available on the Web. 9Gag was also one of the biggest spaces for sharing visual memes online and was popular worldwide. In the year 2012 it had an average of 80 million visitors and a total of 2 billion page views. In an effort to become more knowledgeable about Internet visual memes, Sergio invested time and energy on these two spaces exploring and discovering a vast repository of multimodal designs. On these MSSs he encountered vibrant participatory cultures and grassroot communities that actively remixed and circulated media content. Although he did not participate in conversations, contact mentors, nor make friends, he experienced a sort of "peripheral participation" that allowed him to learn and be aware of the lower barriers to entry. Eventually, by being aware of his capacity to participate, he created and published some memes he composed by himself. For instance, using the memebuilder application from the Chezzburger platform, he had the opportunity of developing a multimodal design practice that included the layering and remix of images and texts with the purpose of composing a humorous message. As Sergio explained, using Cheezburger’s memebuilder, "You can change the font, and stuff. Each image is different, but it's just like LOL cats. (...) It gives you the option of uploading whatever you want. You have the option of uploading, or choosing from the stock photos, and stock memes that they have." Sergio created several memes using this feature and published them on his Cheezburger user page. During the time of our fieldwork he reported creating 5 different memes on this platform. Looking at his user page around that time, I found 11 different memes in which visual elements of U.S. popular culture and Internet culture had been remixed and captioned in English. From images of Moby Dick cover books to screen captures of YouTube videos personalities to photographs of U.S. politicians, Sergio actively remixed visual content creating humorous multimodal media texts. Similarly, in 9Gag, he also published visual memes he had created using the vast repertoire of imagery that was available online. During our fieldwork he uploaded only three multimodal compositions to 9Gag and on his user page one could only found five different memes including two designs he had just re-circulated from other user accounts. However, despite publishing content in Cheezburger and 9Gag, Sergio did not participate in the forums nor leave comments in other people’s memes. Although he was interested in learning about the language of humorous visual memes, his activities, for most of the time, remained at the level of messing around. Although his practice involved the acquisition of specialized knowledge, he did not connect to other meme makers or 9gaggers beyond up-voting media content. He was not interested in meeting mentors on these platforms nor wanted to earn a reputation and status on them. For Sergio, these MSSs served as social media networked spaces he could navigate by himself, participating from the periphery, and eventually geeking out while publishing his own creations and deploying his knowledge of the meme language. By doing so he was able to develop a "meme literacy" (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006; Milner, 2012; Shifman, 2014) that he actively practiced by creating his own multimodal designs, exploring extensive image collections, and re-circulating a variety of memes with his friends outside the meme-related MSSs. 6.3. New Media Skills Participating in friendship-driven and interest-driven activities on multiple social media networked spaces fostered the acquisition of several new media skills. As the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth hanged out, messed around, and sometimes also geeked out on SNSs and MSSs they gained technical and sociocultural abilities that help them to navigate their process of assimilation to the U.S. Particularly, in relation to the U.S. cultural, linguistic, and social dimensions, skills such as networking, performance, negotiation, transmedia navigation, and appropriation were very important. Gaining these competencies allowed Latino/Hispanic youths to exercise different levels of agency on social media networked spaces and to experience some of the affordances of the new communication environment. As social actors, active consumers, explorers, re-circulators, and producers of media content, they encounter opportunities of exercising their agency and expand their communication capacity. By doing so, they were also able to practice the English language (reading/writing/listening), socialize with their high school peers, articulate public and semi-public identities, and develop an understanding of U.S. popular and civic cultures, current events and politics. Although Inara, Gabriela, Antonio, Sergio, and Miguel were able to acquire, with different levels of expertise, all these new media skills, I will only be able to focus my analysis on two of them: networking and appropriation. 6.3.1. Networking: Search, Synthesize and Disseminate. Perhaps the most important skill that the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths acquired through their online activities was networking. This skill consisted in "the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information" (Jenkins et al. 2006) and was acquired through both friendship-driven and interest-driven practices. As the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths interacted, communicated, explored, and socialized on spaces rich in information flows and streams of media content, they developed the networking skill. Despite their little access to social, human, and economic resources, they figured out ways of navigating the complex social media networked spaces and, exercising their agency, expanded their communication capacity. Each of them, for instance, searched, discovered, looked around, circulated, re-circulated, subscribed, and interacted with media content on both SNSs and MSSs. However, the networking skill was not evenly developed among all the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths. According to their interests and their access to resources, they navigated different social media geographies and expanded their networking capacity in specific ways. While some of them went to a few social media networked spaces, others visited several. All of them hanged out and messed around on SNSs and MSSs but only a few geeked out. Hence, although all participated on these spaces, they did it in a different manner. For instance, the ability to "effectively tap social networks to disperse one's own ideas and media products" (Jenkins et al. 2006; 51) was developed differently by Gabriela, who published content on Facebook and MSSs, than by Inara, who only published content on Facebook. In the case of Gabriela, being able to move across several MSSs and engage in publishing and re-circulation practices allowed her to gain a greater networking capacity (although still pretty basic) than the one of Inara who only created and re-circulated content on one SNS. Each of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths navigated their geographies of social media with little support from their parents and teachers. Although they arrived to mainstream MSSs that were rich and diverse in social networks, they were not always able to find participatory cultures that offered them the scaffolding they needed for deep engagement. Although some of them were able to mess around on MSS, searching, exploring, and discovering media content, only few were able to synthesize (even at a basic level) and disseminated information on these spaces. In contrast, it was on the dominant SNS, Facebook, where all the five youths were able to develop their networking skill. On this space, they amplified the social networks they had offline and felt comfortable socializing, communicating, sharing and publishing content. They did so in a semi-public way, keeping their profiles and activities visible only to their contacts. Their social networks were characterized by homophily, composed peers of similar age, and similar socioeconomic background. Although they had friends from diverse race-ethnicity, the majority were minorities, and particularly Latino/Hispanic. As a result, the information they searched, synthesized, and disseminated on Facebook was predominantly related to U.S. popular culture, Internet culture, and the English language. Despite the lack of diversity (in terms of social class and age) that characterized the social networks of the five Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths on Facebook, they were dynamic in terms of circulation of media content and information flows. Thanks to the evolution of web technologies, all the five youths actively combined their explorations and discoveries in other MSSs with their dissemination practices on Facebook. The practice of re-circulating and spreading media content on Facebook was developed by all the five youths and it supported their acquisition of the networking skill. Re-circulating media content they found on MSSs (especially YouTube) allowed these youths to experiment with the expanded communication capacity that the evolution of social software and the Web had made available to ordinary users. By experiencing the ability to shape information flows they became aware of their capacity to support bands, projects, cultural products, and any other project they wanted. At a basic level, when they embedded videos, images, and links in the messages they posted on their Facebook walls/timelines, they were able to acquire the networking skill. That is, search, synthesize, and disseminate information. Especially Antonio, Miguel, and Sergio articulated an understanding of their ability to leverage their social network on Facebook. As Miguel explained, Facebook was useful, "because your voice can be heard a little bit better or better whenever." He continued, "Because instead of trying to tell people individually -- people might be busy or they might not have time -- on Facebook, you can just post a quick message or a quick status and people can read it and if they want to join they can apply or something." All of the five youths became, at different moments of our fieldwork, resourceful networkers that searched, synthesized and disseminated information they found across the social media geographies they traveled. Although this information was mainly about youth popular cultures, it also contained sometimes elements of U.S. political and civic cultures. Generally speaking, it could be said that the five youths were not interested in politics nor shared links to news, immigration debates, or ethnic/racial community organizations. However, at certain moments, some of them developed civic and political actions in where they used their networking skill. That was precisely the case of the activities developed by Sergio and Miguel during the last phase of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign in January 2012. Both of them decided to take an action and tried to mobilize their networks on Facebook in order to stop a U.S. bill. Embedding visual memes in their status updates they expressed their concerns about Internet censorship and actively made an effort to inform their audience of friends about the need to "keep the Internet free" and protect their rights to share media content. As Sergio explained, "I kind of talked about it because a lot of people were saying wrong information. So, I talked about what it really was. (...)I don’t like that idea [SOPA/PIPA bill]. It’s like the Internet is a free and open place for anyone to go and said what they need to say, or share what they need to share, and no one has the right to stop that." Besides visual memes, Sergio and Miguel also shared links to the action-websites created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Google, where people could easily send a message to the Congress and sign a petition in opposition to the SOPA/PIPA bills. As Miguel explained in an interview, he did not only sign the petition form that Google had made available online but also spread the link through his social network on Facebook. He said, “Once when it was the SOPA act, I linked a petition form (…) for my friends to sign and stuff.” Interestingly, it was precisely the two Latino/Hispanic 1.5 generation boys who lacked smartphones and who had more limited points of access to the Internet the ones who were mobilized, at least for one cause during the period of our fieldwork, to take an action and participate in a civic campaign. Both Sergio and Miguel were also highly invested in new media cultures such as gaming and Internet visual memes. These two cultures and their communities actively participated on the discussion of the SOPA/PIPA bill on the networked public sphere and generated many pieces of media that circulated shaping the information flows. Hundreds of visual memes explaining the consequences of the SOPA/PIPA bill, for instance, were created and distributed during the 16 months the campaign lasted. Hence, interacting with the gaming and visual meme cultures, Sergio and Miguel found a gateway to the civic engagement and an opportunity to deploy their networking abilities with a political purpose. For instance, both of them articulated a voice and an identity expressing their concerns over Internet censorship, and were able to circulate information about their communication rights and the need to keep the Web free. In a certain sense, their civic action was intended to protect their ability to network online and to be able to search, synthesize, and disseminate the information that matters to them. Through their engagement with new media cultures they felt they had certain freedoms and rights in the U.S. and took an action to try to defend them. Explaining his reasons for participating in the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign, Miguel said, "Because that pretty much takes away some of our rights, like freedom of speech -- we can't, you know, -- like even like making parodies, they would be considered copyright fraud." Although the activism of Sergio and Miguel was temporary and only lasted for the last phase of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign, it revealed their networking skill in action and with a civic purpose. The success of this civic campaign in stopping the U.S. SOPA/PIPA bill confirmed in a certain way the potential of the networked environment to allow a more participatory and democratic culture. Sergio and Miguel, as participants in this mobilization, felt empowered by their networking skill and were able to develop a civic dimension of their assimilation process that was rarely experienced in other contexts. It could be said that by actively participating in some of the anti-SOPA/PIPA distributed actions they became aware of an important aspect of U.S. citizenship and civic culture such as the freedom of speech and communication rights. By exercising their networking skill they experimented with how those rights looked in practice. The outcome of it made them not only proud of their affiliations to the gaming and visual meme cultures, but also allowed them to advance in their assimilation process to the U.S., particularly in the civic and political dimensions. 3.2. Appropriation Understood as "the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content" (Jenkins et al. 2006), appropriation was an important new media skill for Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth. Because this skill required "taking culture apart and put it back together" (Jenkins et al. 2006, 32) it was useful for developing the assimilation process in the cultural and linguistic dimensions. All the five youths had opportunities to acquire this skill, at least at a basic level, when navigating their social media geographies. For instance, when crafting their Facebook profiles or creating multimodal messages in status updates and comments, they could remix U.S. popular culture materials and communicate by means of sampling U.S. media content. Some of the conversations they had on the semi-public space of Facebook could be analyzed as complex multimodal designs where videos, photographs, images, sounds, movie quotations, and other textual references were appropriated for expressing a message and communicating with friends. Let’s consider for instance the Facebook conversation that Sergio had with Jen Lee, one of his Asian American female friends from Freeway High, when he posted a status update about a blog entry he wrote for the CAP website. The status update was a multimodal message that included a text typed by Sergio ("Nice. My story is up on the page :D"), an URL link, a photograph of the Freeway High kitchen classroom taken by a CAP photographer, the title ("Freeway High classes collaborate on Cooking Show") and four lines of text from the blog entry. Following this message, Jen Lee, who was quoted in the blog entry as one of the producers of the Cooking Show replied: "Jen: I don't remember saying any of that..." and then Sergio said, "Sergio: it was word for word..." After that, the conversation became like a collaborative remix in which text and images of Internet visual memes (Rage Faces) were published one after the other.
Jen: ...no.... Jen: [Troll Face image] Sergio: I hate you. Jen: [Okay Guy image] Sergio: [OMG Face image] The use of visual memes like the Troll Face, the Okay Guy, and OMG Face, was common on Facebook semi-public comments and status updates. Especially Miguel, Sergio, and Antonio sampled images of the Rage Comics meme genre in their messages with the purpose of expressing their emotions and also signaling their knowledge of Internet culture. This meme genre included a growing set of amateur-looking cartoon faces (usually created with simple drawing software) that were associated with a particular emotion or behavior. The Troll Face, for instance, was used for expressing enjoying and harming people; the Okay Guy for communicating agreement and self-deprecation; and the OMG face for astonishment and revelation. Although these Rage Comics started in 2008 as elements of four-panel comics dedicated to the adventures of Rage Guy, the characters rapidly became popular and started to be used independently (exploited), as symbols that could be easily sampled for creating new meanings. Several websites provided ready to use images of the different Rage Comics characters that could easily be embedded in status updates, and re-contextualized in collages and other remixes. With the growth of the Rage Comics genre, the characters diversified and included not only amateur-looking cartoons but also vector drawings of politicians, athletes, and other famous U.S. personalities. One of the most common memes appropriated by Antonio and Sergio on their status updates and comments, for instance, was the Obama Not Bad rage face. This visual meme resembled a sturgeon face that the U.S. President made during a visit to the Buckingham Palace while visiting the Queen of the United Kingdom in 2011. Although in its origins, this meme was used with the catchphrase "Not Bad" written below, as the image became widely popular, the text was no longer necessary. As Antonio explained to me, “A: I know there’s a meme of Obama. (...) it looks like he’s going, “Not bad” with his face. And I mean, whenever I like something that’s not bad, I’ll usually post that on somebody’s wall or something. Q: Really? A: Yeah. Q: Just to say like something is not bad? A: Yeah. Q: And it has like words? A: Yeah. It says “not bad” on it. Most of the time — if you know the meme you don’t need it.” Rage Comics images became part of a reservoir of cultural materials Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths, especially the boys, used when communicating online. By actively instantiating these images on Facebook semi-public conversations, they developed the skill of appropriation at a basic level. They experimented with intertextuality and learned to speak/write/play with the most popular symbols used by U.S. youth (especially males) on the Internet. Appropriation, even at the basic level of embedding visual memes in multimodal conversations demonstrated that these youths were not only aware of popular forms of expression among U.S. youth but also capable of sampling U.S. cultural resources for communicating and socializing with their friends. Interestingly, although they could have combined the use of these cultural resources with the rich Mexican visual repertoire, they didn’t do it. On their online media practices, these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth didn’t seem to appropriate the ethnic-racial symbols from the country of origin of their families, nor the Spanish language. When they composed their status updates and participated in semi-public conversations with their Facebook friends they always seemed to prefer the English language and the U.S popular culture materials. However, beyond the simple act of instantiating memes in comments and status updates, the appropriation skill was developed to a greater extent when these youths created their own memes. Sergio, for instance, created and published several memes on Cheezburger and 9Gag. Usually, the way in which he produced his visual remixes was using the memebuilder application that the Cheezburger platform provided. As he explained, the technical part of the remix was not difficult. He said, "Basically, you can go to memebuilder, and the original memes are found from other websites, so they'll just upload the main photo, and that way they'll let you write whatever text you want on it." Although he had the technical skills for using Photoshop software and could access school computers for doing so, he preferred to use the web application because it speeded up the process of remixing and also automatically published the new memes on the Cheezburger platform. While the technical tools for remixing memes could be accessed and mastered easily on the Web, the understanding of the Internet visual memes culture required investing more time and energy. Through almost two years of messing around, and sometimes also geeking out on meme-related MSSs, Sergio was able to learn the language of memes, its aesthetics, and logics, and eventually also to express himself through it. Making visual memes required analysis and commentary, and a deep understanding of the vocabulary, structures, and different genres of memes. Sergio, in particular was interested in the genres of Rage Comics, Advice Animals, and Stock Character Macros. The remixes he created were derivatives of memes from these genres, and had a humor purpose. According to Sergio, creativity and humor were the most important aspects of memes and the reason why he loved them. One of the memes that Sergio created and published on Cheezburger, for instance, was a joke about iPod batteries. For this remix, he tried to follow the conventions of Stock Character Macro genre, using an iconic picture and captioning with a "catchphrase." Specifically, he used the macro image of Jimmy McMillan, an African-American political activist and founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. The image was a photograph in where McMillian appeared speaking in a debate with his right hand pointing up (signaling making a point) and holding white papers on the other. According to the conventions of the genre, Sergio captioned the photograph (using the Impact font, white bold letters, and black borders) with the upper text: "The Life of this Battery," and a bottom text: "is too damn high." Given the Stock Character Macro genre a twist, and taking a distance from a mere meme derivative, Sergio juxtaposed this image over the one of an iPod screen indicating "Low Battery status of 5000299008%." By designing this multimodal text, Sergio was able to create a new meaning, and a funny commentary, about the short duration of iPod batteries. By creating memes and developing his appropriation skill Sergio was able to increase his knowledge of the U.S. popular culture, and, particularly, about the humor that was being developed by U.S. youth online. In making the visual meme about iPod batteries, for instance, Sergio took apart U.S. cultural resources and put them back together creating a new meaning. He combined cultural materials that were part of the meme repertoire, analyzed them, and re-contextualized them using the logic and structures of the meme language. He followed the genre conventions and updated them with his own commentary. Although is remixes never became popular nor gained more than a couple of votes on the MSSs where he published them, they still stood as signs of an attempt to become a more active participant on the participatory cultures and communities he discovered on MSSs. Humor, remixes, and visual memes, furthermore, could also be gateways for political awareness and civic participation. For Sergio, developing the skill of appropriation through the practice of meme making helped him to become aware of U.S. news and political processes. Even from his peripheral participation, navigating Cheezburger and 9Gag, allowed him to develop a little understanding of U.S. politics and to recognize his capacity to act through making remixes. That was precisely what he did when he made a Facebook profile image remixing a photograph of him with a black banner over his eyes. "I took a picture of myself and put a censor bar over my face, like my eyes," he said while explaining to me one of the actions he did during the last week of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign in January 2012. By making this visual composition and using it as a profile picture on Facebook, Sergio deployed the appropriation skill he had acquired. In this case he was able to, on the one hand, use the technical skills for layering the censorship symbol of a black banner over a picture of himself. On the other, he demonstrated a certain level of understanding of U.S. current affairs, and an interest in a particular civic and political action.
4. Conclusions Social media networked spaces were an important multi-context of activity for Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth. They offerd a multi-setting where youth could not only socialize and communicate with their friends but also interact with a rich world of information and media content. Moving across their particular social media geographies, Gabriela, Inara, Sergio, Antonio, and Miguel developed friendship-driven and interest-driven practices and acquired new media skills according to the resources they could access. While all of them hanged out and messed around on Facebook and Youtube, some of them also explored other MSSs finding sometimes opportunities to geek out on spaces like Flickr and Cheezburger. Their social media navigation was marked by a preference to go to popular and densely populated spaces that had millions of users, vast collections of media content, and where privately owned. With differences in the quality of their participation and engagement on SNSs and MSSs, all of these youths acquired new media skills that helped them to advance in their process of assimilation to the U.S. in several dimensions. Navigating the information flows and dynamic streams of media content they found on social media networked spaces was a complex task that each of the five Latino/Hispanic youths did according to the motivations and resources they had. Common to all of them, was the little support and mentorship they had from adults, teachers, parents and other family members. Their online experiences were mostly supported either by their peers from school or by themselves. That is precisely why their hanging out practices on Facebook turned out to be the more dynamic ones. They had active participation, social relationships, feedback communication, creation of multimodal content, and circulation of media content. Activities on this SNS where structured by their local networks of peers from school and other friends they had met in person. These experiences were a continuation of their everyday process of communication and socialization, and were marked by the use of the English language, and the use of U.S. popular culture materials. Moreover, because all the five youths have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings, the experiences on this space where semi-public and had certain level of intimacy. This characteristic seemed to encourage a more active participation perhaps because youths felt more comfortable in a space that was only visible to their Facebook contacts than one that was public and visible to the whole Internet. On Facebook they felt greater freedom to express themselves, be in flow, and shape the streams of media content that circulated through their network of friends. In contrast, when participating on MSSs, these youths encountered spaces that were open and public, and where information flows and social networks were way denser and messier. They visited MSSs that had vast amounts of media content, were densely populated, and hosted several participatory cultures and communities that overlapped in complex ways. Navigating these MSSs was a more complex task than the one they did on Facebook, and each of the five youths did it with little support, mostly only by themselves, guided by their interests on U.S. popular culture and creative media production. Although the possibility of connecting with the grassroots communities and expanding their social networks by building bridges was latent on the MSSs, none of the five Latino/Hispanic youths did so. All of them preferred to develop messing around practices in which they searched, explored, discovered, and re-circulated media content. Even the youths that had interest in media production and who had made their own media, rarely developed geeking out practices in which they could gain greater expertise, build mentor relationships, cultivate a reputation, and tap a bigger audience. Their participation, therefore, was peripheral. They were motivated to go to these spaces by a need to explore, discover, and access media content for free. After their explorations and findings they re-circulate it this media content outside the MSSs through the more intimate social network of friends they had on Facebook. Gabriela and Sergio, the only ones who published their own creative works online, also did so motivated more by a need to host their own media content online and to share links to them with their friends, than by gaining status or power in Flickr, 9Gag, or Cheezburger. As Gabriela explained in a follow-up interview, she did not connect to other users, groups, and communities in Flickr. She said, "I haven't really figured out how to work Flickr. I've had it for the longest time and I haven't figured out how, like, to work it." The fact that even Gabriela, the one with greater social, economic, human, cultural, and technological resources among the five Latino/Hispanic youths, couldn't figure out "how to work" a MSSs where she actually published content, is revealing of the evolving digital inequalities and participation gaps non-dominant youth has to confront. Although the networked communication environment’s technical affordances expand the possibilities of a more democratic and participatory culture and society, not all youths are inclined to get involved in complex collective tasks, tap networks that they are not familiar with, and connect with the communities that they find on popular and public MSSs. Having access to technology and even being able to produce and publish their own media content also does not warranty that youths will enrich and diversify their social networks. It could be said that the experience of the five Latino/Hispanic youth was paradoxical, marked by both increasing connectivity and access to media content, and a lack of social bridging and connection to online communities. They were at the same time, networked and disconnected. Their participation was mostly peripheral on MSSs and they navigated those social media networked spaces without finding the support and scaffolding needed for becoming more active participants. Moreover, they did not feel motivated to gain status on those communities or to find mentors. In contrast, they preferred to navigate MSSs in a more solitary, but at the same time networked way, that allowed them to be in flow with information and vibrant streams of media content. However, despite the paradoxical nature of their activities online, the five Latino/Hispanic youth were able to gain several new media skills that helped them to advance in their assimilation process. For instance, they gained networking and appropriation skills with different levels of expertise. All of them experienced, at least at a basic level, the power of networked communication and became aware of their capacity to search, discovery, spread media, and shape information flows. Given the characteristics of their social networks, however, that capacity was shaped by the kind of interests and resources that they and their peers from school had. Although their peers were diverse in terms of ethnicity-race, all of them had lower socio-economic status, and the majority were minorities. While in terms of cultural interests and taste, their social networks were highly invested in U.S. popular culture, in terms of language they preferred to communicate in English. Furthermore, with the exception of Inara who had family members from Mexico on her network, the other youths had networks of peers that were all living in the U.S. As a result, the information they searched, synthesized, and disseminated online, as well as the cultural materials they appropriated and re-contextualized, were mostly from the U.S. In conclusion, the activities that the five Latino/Hispanic youth developed on social media networked spaces supported their assimilation to the U.S. in multiple dimensions. Not only did they find informal pathways to participate in sociocultural exchanges (in English) with their peers from school, and to be aware of some of the U.S. current events (through popular culture), but also, eventually they found opportunities to participate in civics and politics. The analysis of the experiences of Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth on the computer-mediated multi-context of SNSs and MSSs revealed that the networked communication environment is being leveraged by immigrant youth and helping them to assimilate to the U.S. Technological affordances and sociocultural practices can indeed support immigrant assimilation process to the cultural, social, linguistic, and even the civic and political dimensions of the host country. This kind of assimilation, however, is marked by the socioeconomic status of the families and friends, and by the quality of their access, education, and social supports. Hence, although Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth are participating on social media networked spaces, they are not diversifying their social networks nor enriching them. Although they are indeed gaining new media skills at a basic level, they are not fully developing them given the lack of scaffolding, mentorship, and guidance they encounter online as well as their lack of motivation and necessity to do so. 5. References