“At the center of the broader societal debate is Boyd, whose views on key issues like online privacy are followed closely by tech companies and policy makers. An opponent of “regulation for its own sake,’’ as she puts it, Boyd, 32, has become a go-to source for companies (from Google on down), government agencies, and academics seeking insight into youthful behavior in a 24/7 digital universe.
She prides herself on diving deeply into what young people think and feel about their use of social media. With her tongue stud, bracelets, and neobohemian style of dressing, she fits in seamlessly with her target demographic, even while joking that they all “think I’m an old lady.’’”
“The next generation of operating environments will be social at their core. Our current operating environments are based on standard understanding of things that programmers care about, like files, directories, and access controls. The average person could care less.
We will see social operating systems where following people’s activities, or creating likes, or publishing profiles will all be built-in. These will not be features of apps, or managed as metadata in walled silos. The primitives that structure our social connections will be built into the fabric of the next generation of operating environments, just like file systems, URLs, and HTTP are well-integrated into today’s.”
“She is the reigning expert on how young people use the Internet, and she’s writing a book on the subject. Boyd’s research is the real deal, a potent blend of theory and ethnographic data. And she has real tech street cred too, courtesy of a degree in computer science from Brown.”
Other design researchers featured on the list are two people who got the designation “designer runner-up”: Jan Chipchase, Executive Creative Director Of Global Insights, Frog Design, and Indrani Medhi, Associate Researcher, Technology For Emerging Markets Group, Microsoft Research India.
Congratulations to all.
Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant) (14 May)
The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”
Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated (15 May)
What’s next is how this emergent utility gets regulated. Cuz sadly, I doubt that anything else is going to stop them in their tracks. And I think that regulators know that.
Here are a few of the reviews, from which I have distilled some telling quotes:
“Boyd says that privacy is not dead, but that a big part of our notion of privacy relates to maintaining control over our content, and that when we don’t have control, we feel that our privacy has been violated. This has happened a few times recently. [...]
To help underscore her points, she recalled and discussed a number of major privacy blunders from Facebook and Google. [...]
Boyd then transitioned to talk a bit about the fuzzy lines between what is public and private. She says that just because people put material in public places doesn’t mean it was meant to be aggregated. And just because something is publicly accessible doesn’t mean people want it to be publicized.”
“For Boyd, her years of research have been eye-opening into the divergence between what users want–and their emergent behavior–and the ways tech companies interpret those desires. “Often,” she said, “companies trying to build efficiencies into their systems profoundly misunderstand what they’re trying to be efficient about.” [...]
“There’s a big difference between publicly available data and publicized data,” she said, “and I worry about this publication process, and who will be caught in the crossfire.”
“We are going to see a continued emergence of new tools that complicate the boundaries between the public and the private, and technology will continue to make a mess of it.”
“Ultimately, then, for the people who build these systems,” Boyd said, “it is imperative that they ask questions about what people really want and what people want to achieve.”
“For marketers, it’s essential to remember that the accessibility of people’s information online doesn’t necessarily indicate that they want to be seen by you. Just because you can interpret people,” Boyd said, “doesn’t mean you’re going to get it right. Just because you see something doesn’t mean you know what’s going on.”
And to the systems designers on hand for her keynote, Boyd had one final message: “As designers, you need to think through the implications and ethics of what you’re doing,” she said. “You are shaping the future. How you handle those challenges will shape the future.”
“the thing that is blocking us from moving forward, to a better user experience centered on social interaction and not physical data, are the existing metaphors of OS’s. Since we are living in a world of general purpose computers running Unix, Mac OS, and Windows — and we need to have them interoperate — we seem stuck in the 90′s.
To have a break with the past, and to make the past a platform, we have to push it under and not pretend that its constructs are desirable. We need to push files, folders and the notion of a desktop under the surface of a better user experience, and keep it under. Let a new generation of user experience shield us from that drudgery and detail.
The only way forward is to build a new user experience on top of the physical hardware and software that form a platform for it, and conceal it’s nasty details from us.
This is one aspect of the genius of the iPhone and iPad generation of devices: we don’t need to know about the files and folders. We don’t need a desktop with data bundles lying in piles.”
But, he says, “This break with the past is made faster and less difficult if the new system is closed.”
“Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It’s about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control. Sure, many teens repeatedly tell me “public by default, private when necessary” but this doesn’t suggest that privacy is declining; it suggests that publicity has value and, more importantly, that folks are very conscious about when something is private and want it to remain so. When the default is private, you have to think about making something public. When the default is public, you become very aware of privacy. And thus, I would suspect, people are more conscious of privacy now than ever. Because not everyone wants to share everything to everyone else all the time.”
Meanwhile, MySpace encouraged self-expression and the organizing of subcultures. boyd’s latest paper entitled, “White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook” suggests that those same origins also propel race-based divisions. She likens the mass teen migration from MySpace to Facebook to “white flight”.
The Guardian – 9 December 2009
Danah Boyd: ‘People looked at me like I was an alien’
Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd talks about social networking, young people and how the web is more private than your home.
There’s one cliche in particular that annoys Danah Boyd: the “digital native”.
“There’s nothing native about young people’s engagement with technology,” she says, adamantly.
The Microsoft researcher, who has made a career from studying the way younger people use the web, doesn’t think much of the widely held assumption that children are innately better at coping with the web or negotiating the hurdles of digital life. Instead, she suggests, they’re pretty much like everyone else.
“Young people are learning, they’re learning about the social world around them,” she says. “The social world around them today has mediated technologies, thus in order to learn about the social world they’re learning about the mediated technologies. And they’re leveraging that to work out the shit that kids have always worked out: peer sociality, status, their first crush.”
ReadWriteWeb – 10 December 2009
Says Danah Boyd, Leverage the Web’s Most Disturbing Content
Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd took a decidedly different approach when considering social networking at today’s LeWeb conference [and made] the point that negative and disturbing web content can also serve as a vehicle for change.
“Boyd explains how those who monitor online profile information, tend to have something to gain from it in a negative way. For example, oppressive governments often monitor the web for signs of criminal activity in order to enforce laws or suppress certain activities. Nevertheless, Boyd believes the visibility of violence, drug use and criminal activity can also be used by regular netizens for constructive purposes.”
Danah Boyd interview – USA
Danah Boyd is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research. She met with Aleks Krotoski to discuss the changes in young people’s behaviour when online, their attitudes to privacy and the importance that might be placed upon building their identities online.
Sherry Turkle interview – USA
Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauxe Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She met with Aleks Krotoski to discuss the issues of privacy, communication and identity in the web-connected world.
Also published this week are interviews with Doug Rushkoff (author, teacher, columnist and media theorist), discussing the realities of ‘free’ content and services on the web, and Gina Bianchini (CEO and co-founder of Ning), speaking about online social networks and the changing nature of relationships and human interactions in the connected world of the web.
Digital Revolution (working title) is an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web.
“I’m 31 years old. I’ve been online since I was a teen. I’ve grown up with this medium and I embrace each new device that brings me closer to being a cyborg. I want information at my fingertips now and always. There’s no doubt that I’m not mainstream. But I also feel really badly for the info-driven teens and college students out there being told that learning can only happen when they pay attention to an audio-driven lecture in a classroom setting. I read books during my classroom (blatantly not paying attention). Imagine what would’ve happened had I been welcome to let my mind run wild on the topic at hand?
What will it take for us to see technology as a tool for information enhancement? At the very least, how can we embrace those who learn best when they have an outlet for their questions and thoughts? How I long for being connected to be an acceptable part of engagement. “
(via The FASTForward Blog)
Buxton putting design into MIX
Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research, who delivered a keynote address in Las Vegas on March 18 during MIX09, the Web Design and Development Conference, discusses his talk and his work.
>> See also: related story on eWeek’s Microsoft Watch
boyd: Taking the pulse of social networks
danah boyd of Microsoft Research New England discusses her research into the dynamics of social network sites.
danah boyd was also interviewed by Microspotting, a Microsoft blog profiling some of the company’s most notable employees:
An IMterview with NERD researcher danah boyd
The Microspotting blog got a chance to have an IM session with Microsoft Research New England’s danah boyd.
We like her new “I am the empire” look.
In his latest Dezeen column, Dan Hill examines what services like the Uber taxi app mean for cities and asks whether the designers of public services can learn something from them.
“So this [i.e. Uber], as with Amazon (and Starbucks, J Crew and the rest) is another cultural blitzkrieg, obliterating difference and leaving high-quality homogeneity in its wake. With clothes and coffee it’s a shame, but not that big a deal. However, when it ploughs into a core urban service like mobility I have, well, a few issues.
Although taxis are a form of privatised transport, they remain part of the city’s civic infrastructure, part of their character. As architect and teacher Robin Boyd wrote, “taxi-men teach the visitor a lot about their towns, intentionally and unintentionally.” Boyd was able to to demarcate Sydney culture from Adelaide culture based on whether the cabbie opens the door for you. I recall scribbling a drawing of a Stephen Holl building I wanted to visit in Beijing, as my only way of communicating my desired destination to the taxi driver. Uber makes transactions easier, but what we gain from a seamless UI, and the convenience of the global currency of apps, we lose from the possibility of understanding a place through a slightly bumpier “seamful” experience.”
In short, Hill is concerned:
“The broader issue is replacement of public services with private services. [...] “Who’s to say that similarly shiny networked services won’t also begin to offer privatised coordination of your waste collection, energy and water provision and so on, to match the trends towards private education, private healthcare and private mail delivery to gated communities?”
So what could public services and public authorities do?
“It may mean that public enterprise has to adopt the popular dynamics, patterns and systems of our age, yet bent into shape for public good. This seems possible, as the GOV.UK project from the UK’s Government Digital Service illustrates. Perhaps by marrying such supremely good interactive work with the ethos and long-term viability of the public sector, services like Uber will be left to play happily in the aspirant niches while high-quality networked public services will be available for all. It is just as viable for public transport systems to apply network logic as it is for Uber to do so, if not easier, as the public sector gets to shape the policy and regulatory environments, as well as the delivery.”
So. he ends, “the design question posed by Uber is: can public enterprises adopt the popular dynamics of private enterprises without also absorbing their underlying ideologies?”
Two talks on teens in the digital age:
The App Generation: identity, intimacy and imagination in the digital era (video – 21:18)
Talk at The RSA, London, UK – October 2, 2013
Today’s young people have grown up almost totally immersed in digital media. But have we really begun to take full stock of the impact that living in the digital era has on young people’s creativity and aspirations?
Drawing upon a unique body of new research, father of the theory of multiple intelligences, Professor Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist at Harvard University, explores the particular challenges facing today’s “App Generation” as they as they navigate three vital areas of adolescent life – identity, intimacy and imagination – in a digital world.
Addressing the areas in which digital technologies can both positively and negatively affect relationships, personal and creative growth, Gardner looks at how we might venture beyond the ways that apps are designed to be used, to ensure that technologies act as a springboard to greater creativity and higher aspiration.
It’s Complicated: Teen Privacy in a Networked Age (video – 22:14)
Talk held at Family Online Safety Institute, Washington, DC, USA – November 6, 2013
Dr. danah boyd, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, expanding on her new book It’s Complicated (Amazon link).
Perhaps not surprisingly, Howard Gardner (born in 1943) and danah boyd (born in 1977) come to quite different conclusions. boyd’s talk is quite consistent by a great one by Tricia Wang at EPIC in London, by the way.
By the way, note Boyd’s definition of privacy: “Privacy is not simply the control of the flow of information, but it is in many ways the control of a social situation.”
Recently I have embarked on trying to understand better the underlying ideology and world view of the Silicon Valley tech scene, and how this is impacting our daily lives through the products and services they create.
My mission is still far from complete and reading suggestions are more than welcome. On Twitter, Brian Schroer guided me to a few books and to this inspiring 2010 NYU doctoral dissertation by Alice E. Marwick, currently an Assistant Professor in Fordham University’s Department of Communication and Media Studies. Previously she was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England in the Social Media Collective (and therefore a frequent co-author with danah boyd), and a visiting researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Marwick’s 511 page dissertation, which she is now reworking into a book for Yale Press, is based on ethnographic research of the San Francisco technology scene and explains how social media’s technologies are based on status-seeking techniques that encourage people to apply free-market principles to the organization of social life.
Rather than re-publishing the abstract, I want to cite a few paragraphs (on pages 11-13) from her introduction:
“David Harvey defines neoliberalism as “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade” (Harvey 2007, 2). Neoliberal policies emphasize “trade openness, a stable, low-inflation macroeconomic environment, and strong contract enforcement that protects the rights of private property holders” (Ferguson 2006). [...] Neoliberalism is also an ideology of the integration of these principles into daily life; neoliberal discourse reproduces by encouraging people to regulate themselves ―according to the market principles of discipline, efficiency, and competitiveness‖ (Ong 2006, 4). Aihwa Ong identifies “technologies of subjectivity,” which use knowledge and expertise to inculcate this expertise in individual subjects. Exploring such technologies reveals how neoliberalism is experienced, and how these subjectivities are formed.
I argue that social media is a technology of subjectivity which educates users on proper self-regulating behavior. Internet and mobile technologies create the expectation that white-collar professionals should always be on the job, decreasing personal agency and creating conflicts between the often-contradictory demands of work and home life (Middleton 2007). Social media encourages status-seeking practices that interiorize the values of Silicon Valley, which is a model of neoliberal, free-market social organization. In the technology scene, market-based principles are used to judge successful social behavior in oneself and others, extended through social media. Status increases up to a point with the ability to attract and attain attention online. The ability to position oneself successfully in a competitive attention economy becomes a marker of reputation and standing. Web 2.0 discourse is a conduit for the materialization of neoliberal ideology. I isolate three self-presentation techniques rooted in advertising and marketing to show how social media encourages a neoliberal subject position among high-tech San Francisco workers: micro-celebrity, self-branding, and lifestreaming.”
Reacting to the Wired Magazine article that suggests that “the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete,” Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, lists some questions that she (and maybe other ‘small data’ people) have about the big data / data analytics trend:
- What do researchers consider the most compelling examples, the ‘showcase’ applications of big data that involve study of the social world and social behavior?
- To what end is such a research approach being put? What actions are being taken on the basis of findings from ‘big data’ analysis?
- The data analytics discussion appears to be US-centric debate … how well are researchers grappling with the analysis of ‘big data’ when dealing with data collected from across heterogeneous, international populations?
- How do ‘big data’ analysts connect data on behavior to the meaning/intent underlying that behavior? How do they avoid (or how do they think they can avoid) getting this wrong?
- How might the analysis of ‘big data’ complement projects that are primarily ethnographic?
For good measure, she also provides a couple of interesting, probing takes on big data:
- Genevieve Bell on ‘big data as a person‘
- danah boyd and Kate Crawford – Six Provocations for Big Data
Jenna Burrell is an assistant professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. Her book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana is forthcoming with the MIT Press. She completed her PhD in 2007 in the department of Sociology at the London School of Economics carrying out thesis research on Internet cafe use in Accra, Ghana. Before pursuing her PhD she was an Application Concept Developer in the People and Practices Research Group at Intel Corporation. Her interests span many research topics including theories of materiality, user agency, transnationalism, post-colonial relations, digital representation, and especially the appropriation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by individuals and social groups on the African continent.
Facebook’s IPO demonstrates the power of networks for innovation, growth and jobs, says Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP’s co-chief executive.
“A fully networked business environment means better access to customer profiles and preferences, resulting in a stronger ability to deliver individualised products that consumers want. Broader knowledge of health data and energy consumption patterns will lead directly to more efficient use of scarce resources. Direct access to all of the suppliers in a product category will lead to stronger supply chain and supplier relationship management. That in turn will result in more competitive pricing, greater flexibility and less capital tied up in inventory.
When data generated at the level of an individual – whether they are shopping preferences, energy consumption patterns, social relationships or health data – can be captured and analysed along with other relevant datasets in real-time, existing value chains are turned on their head. It benefits the consumer, because the consumer gets more directed, more personal, more economical offerings.”
In an incisive reflection, Stowe Boyd thinks that “aside from the oblique mention to network effects in Facebook use, and some almost self-congratulatory mentions of existing SAP products, [he doesn't] hear a compelling vision of the socialization of business processes.”
Boyd thinks the central “nub” is “how to create a social environment that runs above the entrained business processes of the enterprise, as opposed to creating a social sidebar to an enterprise model dominated by inflexible and mechanical business processes.”
An older post, but I missed it. So here it is, more than two years after it was published by Stowe Boyd:
“A few posts have emerged recently that recapitulate the well-worn arguments of attention scarcity and information overload in the real-time social web. So, here at start of 2010, a new decade, will try to write a short and sweet counter argument from a cognitive science/anthropology angle. [...]
There is no golden past that we have fallen from, and it is unlikely that we are going to hit finite human limits that will stop us from a larger and deeper understanding of the world in the decades ahead, because we are constantly extending culture to help reformulate how we perceive the world and our place in it.”
Social TV is a major disruption in the rapidly changing television industry.
In the free report “Social TV and the second screen“, Stowe Boyd, acclaimed futurist, managing director of World Talk Research, and a researcher-at-large at The Futures Agency, characterizes the forces at work in the emergence of social TV, presents a framework for understanding the changes that are already at work in the industry, and profiles some of the most innovative companies in the sector.
“The most significant change — from the perspective of the user, at least — will be shift in emphasis toward a rich and social user experience, and a decrease in the emphasis around the content being delivered via TV. This doesn’t mean that people will stop caring about high quality TV: they will still care about quality. But users will demand that TV content fit into the social context.”
The report is made available under creative commons licensing: not for profit, with attribution, without modification.
Social media in particular has inexorably changed the world, driving openness and fear – but it is not beyond our control, argues Danah Boyd in a long essay for The Guardian.
“Most technology designers engage in their trade to make the world a better place. Technologists love to celebrate the amazing things that people can do with technology – bridge geography, connect communities and transform societies. Meanwhile, plenty of naysayers bemoan the changes brought on by technology, highlighting issues of distraction and attention for example. Unfortunately, this results in a battle between those with utopian and dystopian viewpoints, over who can have a more extreme perspective on technology. So where’s the middle ground?
One of my favourite maxims about the role of technology in society is called Kranzberg’s first law. He argues that “technology is neither good nor bad – nor is it neutral”. It’s irresponsible to assume that the tools being built just wander out into the world with only positive effects. Technology doesn’t determine practice, but how a system is designed does matter. How systems are used also matters, even if those uses aren’t what designers intended. For example, as social media has gone mainstream, some fascinating shifts have emerged that require reflection. Yet, even as the conversation becomes more important to have, it’s often hard to talk in a nuanced way about the role that technology is playing in shifts that are already underway.”