Social steganography: how teens smuggle meaning past the authority figures in their lives


35 Responses to “Social steganography: how teens smuggle meaning past the authority figures in their lives”

  1. Interesting, for sure, but not really anything new.   Teens have been “controlling meaning” for years.   Everything from a vast plethora of 420-like “let’s go get stoned” code words, to codifying who is hooking up with whom, to subtly indicating that Friday is a ditch day.

    Hell, my parents — who very likely knew better — thought my girlfriend and I were absolutely obsessed with The Breakfast Club in high school because we mentioned we were watching it so often.   Alone.   In a dark room.   … yeah … good times.

  2. tuckertucker says:

    It seems like the researcher has discovered… slang.

    • Boundegar says:

      In the 1990s I met some Australians and they talked just like Robert Heinlein’s Australians from the 1950s. Gday and fair dinkum. In America, slang is dated in 3-5 years, and it is the mission of every middle schooler to make the high school kids feel old.

      Why is Australia so different from USA in this regard?

      • AnthonyC says:

        Perhaps it is a distinction between slang and dialect?

      • Isolation maybe? I am reminded of the British slang which featured in the TV show Minder, some of which originated as a speech code to confuse eavesdropping police.

        • Hugh Barnard says:

          Or Polari in the days when it was against the law to be gay, backslang, verlan [French backslang] or earlier ‘thieves cant’ same use as Minder slang. So this is not a very original piece of insight…

      • Anita Graham says:

         Because they were having you on! G’day and fair dinkum are not current slang – except ironically.

        • Miles Farrell says:

           G’day is current, fair dinkum gets some use. Broundgear’s problem is extrapolating the use of language in a country from a couple of people he met (admittedly he might also have been trolled, did they warn you about Drop Bears?). 

      • Anita Graham says:

        Sorry for duplicate message. I was lost in a maze of verification processes.

  3. Garymon says:

    Nothing new. When I was a teen (in the 80′s) we instinctively made code for everything. It didn’t even have to been something we would get in trouble for.  It’s just fun. I about lost it in my 20′s when I learned of Esperanto. I tried to get my first wife to learn it with me so we could speak privately at family events but she didn’t get into it. :-(

    • er0ck says:

       let me guess.  you use a dvorak keyboard.  it’s okay, i dabbled in both as well.  thankfully i never brought it up with my other :-)

  4. er0ck says:

    TLDR; do they have numbers on claims of  “significantly rise”?

    i call ullshitbay on the iseray.

    also misspelling of “they’re” combined with the fact the authors wanted to use such conjugation at all causes me to lose all onfidencay in the esearchray. 

    i’m 36 and still remember my iglatinpay

    • knoxblox says:

      Ubi’m fuborty-subix, uband stubill rubemubembuber muby ububbi-dububbubi.

      At least, I think I do.

      • Maria Pranzo says:

         I spent a month learning to say supercalifragilisticexpialdocious in ubbi-dubbi in the 4th grade.  I can still rock it out when I’m with my old schoolmates, 40 years on.  Zoom was awesome.

  5. alfanovember says:

    Disappointing lack of steganographic examples.  It’s cold, TCB’ing as the ‘rents in the 21.  Hip me to the reet new deets,  daddy-o!

    • s2redux says:

      A better read is the paper linked in the featured article, Social Privacy in Networked Publics. It’s got the examples you want, but its high point is a thoughtful section on “What is privacy?” Plus, a good source for your daily dose of Arendt, Habermas, and Reiman.

  6. SedanChair says:

    Number one tell that the kids are trying to put one over on me: they keep smirking and stealing glances at me like I’m supposed to give a shit. GUESS WHAT KID

  7. Kids, gays, prisoners, alchemists, Freemasons, etc., every social group has their own special vocabulary.

  8. Missy Pants says:

    This is not limited to teens. This is anyone on social media. Half my twitter is usually filled up with inside-jokes and references you’d only get if you were part of the “in-crowd”. It’s interesting to watch fully fledge adults act out teen-age psycho-dramas in public, also sometimes annoying.

  9. Roy Trumbull says:

    The public at large, including teens, quickly catch up with new advertising gimmicks and attempts at manipulation. Code is spoken mostly on the streets. Only politicians and Wall Streeters fail to understand that you never put in writing anything you wouldn’t want to see in a headline.

  10. lknope says:

    Most teens aren’t worried about strangers; their worried about getting into trouble.

    Nice try!  I still know you mean they’re.  Better come up with a better code than that.

    • er0ck says:

      i liked this even though i know that the pain i feel about the current “misspelling” off there/their/they’re will be short lived and futile.   i just am not sure which singlular spelling we’ll settle upon.  i’m guessing “there”.  it seems most prevalent.
      note the article had a misspelling of “they’re”

      • ChicagoD says:

        I don’t see this as short-lived. It will probably be at least a few generations before it stops being perceived as incorrect. How long are you planning to live?

        • er0ck says:

           .. until i’m done.  :-)
          but i believe language evolution is accelerating with global communications and internet driven information society.

  11. bolamig says:

    Before the internet my grandmother didn’t know what 420 friendly meant.

  12. chrisspurgeon says:

    In true internet asshole commenter style, I now obsess on the least important part of this post…

    The author of the report always spells her name in all lower case characters — “danah boyd”. It seems like correct journalistic practice to honor a person’s preference and use that spelling.

    But by convention the first word of each sentence is capitalized. Therefore this posting begins “Danah boyd has a great summary…”

    But is that correct? Does the sentence capitalization rule trump the “spell the person’s name the way they prefer” rule? Or is it the other way around?

    I have no idea. But this question will bug the hell out of me.

  13. Art says:

    Tell us about the “donut”, Egon.

  14. This is a common strategy among surveilled people across all time. The Russians under the Soviets were past-masters of it. The teen-age argots of any era exist to conceal content/meaning.
    Like, cool, daddio…

  15. Peter Krogh says:

    Search “boontling” in wikipedia.

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