Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances



This study examines how a social network profile’s lists of interests—music, books, movies, television shows, etc.—can function as an expressive arena for taste performance. By composing interest tokens around a theme, profile users craft their “taste statements.” First, socioeconomic and aesthetic influences on taste are considered, and the expressivity of interest tokens is analyzed using a semiotic framework. Then, a grounded theory approach is taken to identify four types of taste statements—those that convey prestige, differentiation, authenticity, and theatrical persona. The semantics of taste and taste statements are further investigated through a statistical analysis of 127,477 profiles collected from the MySpace social network site between November 2006 and January 2007. The major findings of the analysis include statistical evidence for prestige and differentiation taste statements and an interpretation of the taste semantics underlying the MySpace community—its motifs, paradigms, and demographic structures.