Nancy K. Baym & danah boyd (2012): Socially Mediated Publicness: An Introduction, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56:3,320-329

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Digital and networked technology "reconfigures publicness, blurs 'audiences' and publics, and alters what it means to engage in public life." The authors ask, What is the nature of public life online? According to boyd and Baym publicnness is shaped by both the architecture and affordances of digital networked media, and by people's social contexts, identities, and practices. People's socially-mediated publicness is an complex and changing process of media practices that blur private/public boundaries, interaction with multi-layered audiences, and performing persoanl identities. Hence, public life changes in networked society and culture, and people is developing new literacies and strategies for navigating socially mediated publicness.

Idividuals manage their public identities for themselves and others. Networked media practices are shaped by individual characteristics such as motivation (e.g., professional, amateurish, friendship-driven, interest-driven), ability to decode other peoples messages and social cues, self-monitoring, and information skills. How do people manage their relationship to publics and audiences in a networked media rich environment?

Exploration of the dynamics that are unfolding in a social-mediated public life.

"socially-mediated publicness as an ever-shifting pro- cess throughout which people juggle blurred boundaries, multi-layered audiences, individual attributes, the specifics of the systems they use, and the contexts of their use." (328)

"social media complicate what it means to be public, to address audiences, and to build publics and counterpublics." (320)

"To the extent they could, people have always used media to create public identities for themselves, others, and groups." (321)

Digital and networked mediation blurs boundaries between public and private. The authors claim that it is necessary to re-thinkg the relationship between ‘‘audiences’’ and ‘‘publics.’’

"It is thus not the ability to use technology toward these objectives that is new with social media, but the scale at which people who never had access to broad- cast media are now doing so on an everyday basis and the conscious strategic appropriation of media tools in this process." 321

"That level of moderate, widespread publicness is unprecedented. There are more layers of publicness available to those using networked media than ever before; as a result, people’s relationship to public life is shifting in ways we have barely begun to understand." 321

What’s posted online is not necessarily visible to everyone but can spread easily.

Examples of these kind of changes:

  • home videos and youtube
  • photograps and flicker and isntagrama

People can "use the public and quasi-public qualities of social media to carve out" identities, spaces, circulate content, and coordinate actions. They struggle with both the visibility and obscurity of their mediated acts in networked mediated spaces.

"As people use these media to accomplish more than they can do without them, they juggle multiple layers and kinds of audiences, bringing into being multiple and diverse kinds of publics, counterpublics, and other emergent social arrangements." (321-322)

"Social-mediated publicness calls into question understandings of the relation between public and private and between audiences and publics." (322)

public and private—openness and closedness—are dialectic tensions inextricable from and constitutive of one another (Baxter & Montgomery, 2007).

"When private is made public through social-mediation, the nature of both experi- ence and of privacy itself can be changed. Yet, the realities of visibility and obscurity introduce new complications. There is little doubt that social media heighten the potential for visibility and introduce the possibility of public engagement that far exceeds what’s possible in an unmediated environment. Yet, it is also true that most content online is obscure and consumed by few. As a result, social media introduce a conundrum of visibility (boyd & Marwick, 2009), as people’s mediated acts are both visible and invisible in networked publics." (322)

"Audiences have thus been treated as less significant than publics, which are seen as ‘‘rational versus emo- tional, disinterested versus biased, participatory versus withdrawn, shared versus in- dividualized, visible versus hidden.’’ Dayan (2001) is among those who have argued that ‘‘audiences’’ are aggregates produced through measurement and surveillance, while ‘‘publics’’ actively direct attention." (322)

"The boundaries between audiences and publics become even harder to disentangle theoretically or empirically when people engage one another online in public and quasi-public ways." (222)

Problematizing the Audience

"Coining the phrase the ‘‘people formerly known as the audience’’ to describe the emergent collectives on social media, Rosen (2006) described them as ‘‘simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable.’’" (222)

"Mass media separated audiences from performers, making audiences into abstractions open to varied definitions and understandings that depended on the purposes for which they were being measured or considered (e.g., J. Anderson, 1996). From this broadcasting perspective, social media make audiences more visible. Yet for the person who once would have constructed a public identity primarily in face-to-face conversations, online audiences are less visible than before." (323)

"Eden Litt’s theoretical analysis of the ‘‘imagined audience’’ of social media. In it she identifies many factors that may influence how and who people take their audiences to be when they post (quasi-) public material online."(323)

"even the most private of selves are formed in relation to diverse others, and how the challenges of differing and sometimes unknown audiences can complicate self-presentation." (323)

"Having to imagine one’s audience is a fundamental human problem rather than one distinctive to social media. But social media make it particularly challenging to understand ‘‘who is out there and when’’ and raises the potential for greater misalignment between imagined and actual audiences." (323)

"In his wonderful essay on ‘‘footing,’’ Goffman (1981) took apart what he called the ‘‘participant structure’’ of face-to- face conversation, noting how single utterances may be heard by multiple kinds of audiences including those who are addressed, those who are ratified to respond, those who are by-standers allowed to hear but not respond, and eavesdroppers whose overhearing is covert." (323)

Challenges of collapsed contexts: Mass media raised their own challenges for addressing multiple audiences simultaneously.

"Navigating collapsed contexts requires a wide variety of strategies. While some people seek to engage in strategic facework and minimize visibility, others seek to publicize themselves in ways that may complicate their relationship to different members of their audience." (324)

Public and private are continuously reconfigured over time from the earliest stages of contemplating telling one’s story to managing that story’s visibility long after it has first been shared.

"The experience of making a story public in a persistent, searchable form made people more aware of the public value of the private and the potential of such sharing to create and impact unknown publics, changing how they understood the nature of ‘‘private.’’ These processes are not static, but ongoing." (324)

Networked Publics Challenge

"As people communicate publically through social media, they become more aware of themselves relative to visible and imagined audiences and more aware of the larger publics to which they belong and which they seek to create. They negotiate collapsed contexts, continuously shifting power dynamics, and an open- ended time frame. Through discussing the personal, mundane, and everyday, people negotiate a sense of public place and help new publics—both wanted and unwant- ed—to coalesce. Socially-mediated publicness may be a source of support and empowerment while simultaneously posing conflict and risk." (325)

Socially mediated publicness

"It would be a mistake to attribute all of the changes to the media themselves. Baym (1995) argued that online community should be understood as emergent, taking shape as people unpredictably appropriate elements of different influences. Two of the influences she highlighted were media infrastructures (including their temporal structure) and external contexts (emphasizing that the online was always permeated by the offline and that the online always flowed offline), each of which emerges in this issue as essential for understanding socially mediated publicness." (326)

"Sites’ architectures and the affordances they provide do shape identities, audi- ences, and publics, but not in simple ways." (326)

Architecture and affordances of networked publics allow new social dynamics and require people to manage invisible audiences, collapsed contexts, and a blurring between the public and private. These are the particular elements of design that are appropriated in the service of publicness (and privacy).

When people negotiate socially-mediated publicness, we appropriate specific affordances of the networked publics. Different strategies for negotiating publicness: limiting the audience, using a pseudonym, an avatar, deciding to hide certain content, have multiple accounts, publish status updates, photographs, who can create a page, post and comment, and the ability to report inappropriate content, block people, delete messages, moderate interaction, and engage in metrics such as ‘‘likes.’’, modes of distribution sites offer, how enduringly searchable they are, and their available privacy settings, which together affect perceptions of a site’s safety, etc.

"questions of who owns a site may also be important in shaping how comfortable and able one feels with being public through it, as well as how people’s personal information is liable to be used." (326)

"affordances are far from all in shaping the dynamics of publicity and publics. Spaces that seem designed for open engagement and democracy may become sites of hierarchy and exclusion." (326-327)

"In fact, offline contexts permeate online activities, and online activities bleed endlessly back to reshape what happens offline. As Litt discusses, social structures help to define imagined and potential audiences, and social norms influence who should be thought of as part of those audiences."(327)

Power structures out of which the internet emerged and within which it oper- ates influence mediated interaction.

"People also feel compelled to bound the information they share, even if they would personally prefer to make it visible. Vivienne and Burgess’s storytellers lim- ited the identifying information they shared, especially when it implicated others." 328

"Most of the people engaging audiences and building identities and publics through social media are not so fortunate. Some develop a sensibility through experience; others find themselves struggling to make sense of and manage their participation in networked publics; some misunderstand the consequences of their actions and make mistakes without realizing it. As Hargit- tai’s work on skill (boyd & Hargittai, 2010; Hargittai, 2008) has consistently shown, people differ in how well equipped they are to take charge of these processes and make wise choices. Given the technological nature of social-mediated publicness, the presence or absence of skills reinforces existing inequalities." (328)

"Networked technologies are reconfiguring many aspects of everyday life, complicating social dynamics, and raising significant questions about society writ large. As people engage in and reshape social media, they construct new types of publicness that echo but redefine publicness as it was known in unmediated and broadcast contexts." (328)