Social networking websites have become the hub for the UK's cultural underground, with a new generation turning to the likes of MySpace to make money, collaborate on creative projects and share ideas with their friends, according to a study.
An extensive social networking research project commissioned by MySpace has identified a host of emerging trends and tribes that the website says have previously gone undetected by the mainstream.
Researchers from the Future Laboratory set up a "virtual hide" in MySpace over six weeks, interviewing 1,000 users who explained how they define themselves as part of groups including "mindies", "cheemos"', "slash/slash kids" and "rudettes".
Mindies are teetotal under-18s who follow the teen bands Pull in Emergency, Lion Club and Kid 4077; cheemos combine chav and goth looks (the word is a cross between chav and emo); and slash/slash kids are multi-skilled MySpacers who like to create their own music and fashion. Rudettes follow Lily Allen's rude-girl style.
The study, MySpace 08: People. Content. Culture., also identified "double dressers" - friends who co-ordinate matching or complementary outfits.
Hot on the heels of the nu-rave fad last year, MySpace's musicians are creating their own music genres, including "toystep" - dance music made with plastic kids' toys; and "power pop" - a mix of rock, hip-hop and rave.
Researchers picked up hot tips for 2008 bands, including the toystep band Partyshank, rockabilly band Peggy Sue and the Pirates, and the Glaswegian indie/folk/pop band Make Me a Model.
Future Laboratory identified six types of MySpace user, classifying 38% as "essentialists", who primarily use social networking sites to stay in touch with friends.
Just under a third, 28%, are "transumers" – those who follow new trends rather than make them.
Around 10% are "connectors", who specialise in identifying and linking to cool content; and 5% are "collaborators", who create events and projects online by teaming up with other users.
One in 20 MySpace users get their thrills from "scene breaking" – hunting down new bands and talent online and sharing that through the site; and 4% classify themselves as "netrepreneurs", who use social networking sites to make money.
Future Laboratories also profiled a number of individuals who use MySpace as a platform to promote and develop their businesses.
The underground, hand-photocopied magazine Fever Zine coordinates contributors and subscribers through its MySpace page.
Fever Zine has 5,000 friends and a cult following; editor Alex Zamora said MySpace was essential to help find the new talent that he wants to feature in the lo-fi publication.
Researchers also focused on the fashion stylist Richard Shoyemi, who has secured work with Italian and Japanese Vogue through his MySpace exposure.
"They are essentially buying into me as a person as well as a talent, which all comes from my celebrity status on MySpace.
"I feel in order to expand as a brand it's important to reach out to all; everyone who expressed interest in me is important in my eyes," Shoyemi said.
Slash/slash kid Paul Griffiths started designing and selling T-shirts through the site and now employs three friends. He has sold 10,000 garments so far.
With a talent for self-promotion, 20-year-old Griffiths says he is completely self-taught and that his MySpace business has allowed him to ditch a career in telesales.
"We get up to 1,000 friend requests a day but only ever confirm a small number of the coolest MySpacers," he said.
Social networking sites have evolved beyond their original purpose of communication, said the report, to become "highly articulate, heavily visual, extremely collaborative and creative hubs, which have become for many a vibrant and engaging way to keep up to date with, and comment upon, changes in the cultural scene".
MySpace's "culturpreneurial" culture is part of the maturing of the internet economy, the research concludes, enabling users to collaborate to create, sellers and buyers.
"It is a mass experiment in collaborative creativity and cross-cultural pleasure and enjoyment, where the end goal is a currency of a different, and some would argue far more vibrant, sort," said the report.
"Social networking is entirely about playing, experimenting and redefining our understanding of creativity."