Copy and Paste Literacy? Literacy Practices in the Production of a MySpace Profile



This paper attempts to provide an analysis on the question of how Literacy practices are used in the site of MySpace to provide Profiles. MySpace is a site where millions of members create personal Profiles and take part in a variety of social activities. For the teenagers who actively use MySpace, it is one of their primary means of communicating with each other and is an environment in which they can Participate in many facets of American Culture, especially in entertainment sectors such as music, television, and movies (Boyd 2006a). Many put significant time and effort into creating and maintaining their MySpace Profiles. In what ways can the production of a MySpace Profile represent a locus of New digital literacies? The answer depends on what is meant by “Literacy.” Here, I first analyze the creation of a MySpace Profile with respect to a framework of Literacy that integrates prior social and technical perspectives, focusing on the use of code. Then, I argue that while MySpace is not an ideal environment for learning some of the languages of web production, the expressive Power found in the creation of a MySpace Profile concerns a technically simple but socially complex practice: the copying and pasting of code as a way to appropriate and reuse other People’s Media products. Finally, I contend that this practice calls into question the dichotomies used when describing the processes of “consumption” and “production” and the activities of “reading” and “writing”. By integrating recent work in Media and cultural studies with research on Literacy, concepts such as “Participation” and “remix” provide a useful way of describing this New Literacy practice.