The costs of self-presentation: dimensions of potential harm to content producers
by David Brake, Senior Lecturer at University of Bedfordshire on Sep 05, 2009
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Historically, concerns about potential media-related harms and their mitigation in audience studies have focused almost exclusively on the need to protect audiences from harmful, misleading or ...
Historically, concerns about potential media-related harms and their mitigation in audience studies have focused almost exclusively on the need to protect audiences from harmful, misleading or offensive material. But as new digital technologies have democratised the process of public content creation, concerns have arisen about potential harms to producers that can arise, particularly when they deliberately or inadvertently reveal sensitive information about themselves. Qualitative research I have conducted into the personal webloggers (Brake 2009) and MySpace users (Brake 2008) provides empirical evidence of content producer practices and their consequences. This paper also draws on a review of the literature about risks of social network sites for young people (Livingstone and Brake in press) to summarise emerging approaches to mitigating harm to producers. I apply a predominantly symbolic interactionist theoretical framework - in particular drawing on the work of Goffman and Meyrowitz - to analyse and categorise the potential harms identified to producers of self-presentational content both on social network sites and elsewhere online. The resulting framework identifies several dimensions relevant to the assessment of risk and of harm arising from online practices. The combination of the new empirical evidence outlined above with the new analytical framework highlights areas of potential concern that appear to have been neglected by those seeking to mitigate harm and suggests avenues for future research.
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