C.J. Pascoe: You Have Another World to Create: Teens and Online Hangouts
8.15.07 | Reading the New York Times several months ago, an article about teenagers’ use of public libraries as “hangout” spots caught my eye. In it experts bemoaned the lack of “third places,” or those places which weren’t home or school, where teens could engage in a tradition of American adolescence, “hanging out.” As Americans perceive that their streets grow more dangerous, as suburban family life increasingly takes place in atomized homes, and the number of shared spaces declines, public venues for youth disappear. Digital settings may provide a way to compensate for the decline of public space.
Clarissa is one of the many teens who uses the internet as a “third space” to “hang out” with her friends. An avid online role player and she spends most of her time on her favorite site, Faraway Lands. Clarissa describes Faraway Lands as a “really nice quality, good, inviting, comfortable, fun place to be.” She finds the community to be a “nurturing” one, where she is “able to fully develop intricate personalities and plots that in computer games, sports and academics are simply not possible.” Through chatting on the site’s Internet Relay Channel she has made friends from all over the world. While members’ ages vary, “most of the people that I’ve interacted with are in my age group. It’s sort of cool ‘cause they’re far away and sort of fun.” Clarissa told me, “I know a guy in Spain now and fun stuff like that.” She and her friend from Spain are currently in the middle of planning a new role play in which his “evil” character tries to hire one of Clarissa’s characters as an apprentice.
Faraway Lands is Clarissa’s “third place,” a place where she can make friends, hang out, chat and write fantastical stories. Clarissa sums it up aptly: “This is just a nice little world that you can control and you can make your own drama. But you can do it in a creative in-depth story telling fun way that’s all artistic. You have another world to create. It’s fun.”
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