JSB Symposium: danah boyd

"Youth-Generated Culture: Growing Up in an Era of Social Media"

October 13, 2009

danah boyd is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Her research examines social media, youth practices, tensions between public and private, social network sites, and other intersections between technology and society.

boyd observes that today’s youth — whether on social networking sites, texting, or blogging — leverage the power of social media to create, communicate, share, and learn. Yet there are consequences.

This keynote presentation focused primarily on how American teenagers navigate the world of social media as a part of everyday life, with an eye toward privacy, sociality, and learning. She discusses the costs and challenges of unequal access and the complications that occur when social stratification is reproduced in digital environments.

In recent years, boyd has studied Twitter, blogging, social network sites (e.g. Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook), tagging, and other forms of social media. She has written papers on a variety of topics, from digital backchannels to social visualization design, and sexing of Internet interactions to creating artifacts for memory work.

She earned her master’s degree at the MIT Media Lab’s Sociable Media Group. Her master’s thesis focused on how people manage their presentation of self in relation to social contextual information in online environments.

Her doctoral dissertation at the University of California-Berkeley investigated how American teenagers socialize in networked publics, such as MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal, Xanga, and YouTube. Of interest to boyd were the architectural differences between unmediated and mediated publics and how they affect sociality, identity, and culture. The MacArthur Foundation’s Initiative on New Media and Learning funded her dissertation research.

Outside of academia, boyd has worked at various nonprofits and corporations. For five years, she worked at V-Day, an organization working to end violence against women and girls worldwide. “I helped build an online community to support activists around the world, and I continue to do volunteer work for them,” she says. She has also worked as a researcher at Intel, Tribe.net, Google, and Yahoo! She serves as an advisor to LiveJournal, Blyk, Standard Answer, Youth Media Exchange, and Technorati. In addition, boyd has consulted with a variety of companies and spoken at numerous conferences and meetings.