danah boyd

danah boyd headshot

danah is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley.

danah’s dissertation project, Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics, analyzes how American youth use networked publics for sociable purposes. She examined the role that social network sites like MySpace and Facebook play in everyday teen interactions and social relations. She was interested in how mediated environments alter the structural conditions in which teens operate, forcing them to manage complex dynamics like interacting before invisible audiences, managing context collisions, and negotiating the convergence of public and private life. This work was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of a broader grant on digital youth and informal learning. The findings of the broader team are documented in a co-authored book: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media.

At the Berkman Center, danah co-directed the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to work with companies and non-profits to identify potential technical solutions for keeping children safe online. This Task Force was formed by the U.S. Attorneys General and MySpace and is being organized by the Berkman Center. Currently, danah is co-directing the Youth Media and Policy Working Group, funded by MacArthur.

danah received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and a master’s degree in sociable media from MIT Media Lab. She has worked as an ethnographer and social media researcher for various corporations, including Intel, Tribe.net, Google, and Yahoo! She also created and managed a large online community for V-Day, a non-profit organization working to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

danah maintains a blog on social media called Apophenia – http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/


Blogs (17)


Thoughts on Pew’s Latest Report on Teens: Notable Findings on Race and Privacy

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

woman sitting on bench in park working on her computer phone Yesterday, Pew Internet and American Life Project (in collaboration with Berkman) unveiled a brilliant report about “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy.” As a researcher who’s been in the trenches on these topics for a long time now, none of their finding surprised me but it still gives me absolute delight when our data is so beautifully in synch. I want to quickly discuss two important issues this report raises. Race is a factor in explaining differences in teen social media use. Pew provides important measures on shifts in social media, including the continued saturation of Facebook, the decline


Is Facebook Destroying the American College Experience?

Monday, March 04, 2013

typical college dorm small bed posters desk Sitting with a group of graduating high school seniors last summer, the conversation turned to college roommates.  Although headed off to different schools, they had a similar experience of learning their roommate assignment and immediately turning to Facebook to investigate that person.  Some had already begun developing deep, mediated friendships while others had already asked for roommate transfers.  Beyond roommates, all had used Facebook to find other newly minted freshman, building relationships long before they set foot on campus. At first blush, this seems like a win for students.  Going off to college can be a


Three Conversations for Parents: Navigating Networked Publics

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

young girl taking picture on her cell phone Parenting is hard. Many parents find parenting in an era of social media to be confusing, in part because they must advise their children to make sense of spaces that they don’t understand themselves. It’s easy to be afraid of what’s new, but by focusing on technology, parents often lose track of the underlying social issues that their children are trying to navigate. In many ways, the advice that children need to negotiate networked publics parallels advice that parents have always given when their children encounter public spaces. To address online safety concerns, parents need to


Reflecting on Dharun Ravi’s Conviction

Monday, March 19, 2012

artistic black and white photo of man looking through shades blinds On Friday, Dharun Ravi — the Rutgers student whose roommate Tyler Clementi killed himself in a case narrated through the lens of cyberbullying — was found guilty of privacy invasion, tampering with evidence, and bias intimidation (a hate crime).  When John Palfrey and I wrote about this case three weeks ago, I was really hopeful that the court proceedings would give clarity and relieve my uncertainty.  Instead, I am left more conflicted and deeply saddened.  I believe the jury did their job, but I am not convinced that justice was served.  More disturbingly, I think the


Four Difficult Questions Regarding Bullying and Youth Suicide

Monday, December 12, 2011

photo of girl crying and depressed with the word hope written over Over the last couple of years, I’ve laid awake at night asking myself uncomfortable questions about bullying and teen suicide. I don’t have answers to most of the questions that I have, but I’m choosing to voice my questions, fears, and doubts because I’m not confident that our war on bullying is taking us down the right path. I’m worried about the unintended consequences of our public discourse and I’m worried about the implications that our decisions have on youth, particularly in this high-stakes arena. So I’m asking these four tough questions in the hopes that


How Age Restrictions Complicate Digital Media & Learning

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

kids playing in field and climbing over fence Digital media and learning scholars have long understood the importance of access when it comes to digital technologies.  Whether we’re talking about the digital divide or the participation gap, we all recognize that access is the first step.  Once we can assume access, we can talk about skills and digital literacy.  But access is still key. So what happens when children are systematically excluded from accessing digital media environments?  This, in many ways, is the conundrum resulting from how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) has been implemented by many general-purpose communication platforms and social


The Unintended Consequences of Cyberbullying Rhetoric

Friday, September 23, 2011

portrait of young girl laying on the ground looking sad bullied We all know that teen bullying – both online and offline – has devastating consequences.  Jamey Rodemeyer’s suicide is a tragedy.  He was tormented for being gay.  He knew he was being bullied and he regularly talked about the fact that he was being bullied.  Online, he even wrote: “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens.  What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”  The fact that he could admit that he was being tormented coupled with the fact that he asked for help and folks didn’t help


How Can We Help Miguel?

Friday, April 08, 2011

photo of man walking in alley and sun flare One of the hardest parts of doing fieldwork is hearing difficult, nuanced stories that break my heart.  The more complicated the story, the harder it is to tell, but I feel a responsibility to at least try.  Given how many educational reformists read this blog, I want to provide a portrait of some of the teens I’ve met who are currently being failed by the system.  My goal in doing so is to ask a hard question: how do we help these specific teens?  Let me start with Miguel. Miguel is 17 and in the 10th


Digital Self-Harm and Other Acts of Self-Harassment

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

portrait of woman with hair covering face representing self harm Sometimes, things aren’t what they appear to be.  And, in those cases, jumping to the wrong conclusion can be a disservice to everyone.  After I first wrote about Formspring seven months ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about teens who chose to respond to vicious or harassing questions (since only responses are ever posted publicly).  Listening to teens, I had concluded that many out there were trying to prove that they were tough and could handle anything.  And I’ve continued to hear that story in the field.  But as I started looking into the negative commentary on teens’


“Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers

Monday, November 15, 2010

group of girls with mean looks on their faces representing bullies Ever had one of dem days you wish woulda stayed home / Run into a group of niggas who getting they hate on / You walk by they get wrong you reply then shit get blown / Way outta proportion way past discussion / Just you against them, pick one then rush em / Figure you get jumped here thats next / They don’t wanna stop there now they bustin / Now you gushin, ambulance rushin you to the hospital / with a bad concussion / Plus ya hit 4 times bullet hit ya spine paralyzed


Social Steganography: Learning to Hide in Plain Sight

Monday, August 23, 2010

drawings of sad faces with one green happy face in the middle Carmen and her mother are close.  As far as Carmen’s concerned, she has nothing to hide from her mother so she’s happy to have her mom as her ‘friend’ on Facebook.  Of course, Carmen’s mom doesn’t always understand the social protocols on Facebook and Carmen sometimes gets frustrated.  She hates that her mom comments on nearly every post, because it “scares everyone away…Everyone kind of disappears after the mom post…It’s just uncool having your mom all over your wall. That’s just lame.”  Still, she knows that her mom means well and she sometimes uses this pattern


How COPPA Fails Parents, Educators, Youth

Thursday, June 10, 2010

large data center lobby hall green and red light Ever wonder why youth have to be over 13 to create an account on Facebook or Gmail or Skype? It has nothing to do with safety.  In 1998, the U.S. Congress enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with the best of intentions.  They wanted to make certain that corporations could not collect or sell data about children under the age of 13 without parental permission, so they created a requirement to check age and get parental permission for those under 13. Most companies took one look at COPPA and decided that the process of


Harassment by Q&A: Initial Thoughts on Formspring.me

Monday, April 26, 2010

young black male struggling sitting on the ground in front of locker Questions-and-answers have played a central role in digital bonding since the early days of Usenet.  Teenagers have consistently co-opted quizzes and surveys and personality tests to talk about themselves with those around them.  They’ve hosted guest books and posted bulletins to create spaces for questions and answers.  But when teens started adopting Formspring.me this winter, a darker side of this practice emerged.  While teens have always asked each other crass and mean-spirited questions, this has become so pervasive on Formspring so as to define what participation there means.  More startlingly, teens are answering self-humiliating questions and


ChatRoulette: Devil Incarnate or Accessible Public?

Monday, March 15, 2010

roulette game It’s easy to see new Internet phenomena and panic, especially when the technology in question opens up a portal to all of the weird parts of the Internet.  This is precisely what is happening around ChatRoulette, a new peer-to-peer webcam-based video chat site. Although the site was built by a 17-year-old Russian high school student to connect with other teens, nearly every adult who has visited the site runs screaming that this is a terrible space for young people.  In some senses, they’re right.  But the more that they panic and talk about how bad this


Public by Default, Private when Necessary

Monday, January 25, 2010

person shadow behind window With Facebook systematically dismantling its revered privacy infrastructure, I think it’s important to drill down on the issue of privacy as it relates to teens. There’s an assumption that teens don’t care about privacy but this is completely inaccurate. Teens care deeply about privacy, but their conceptualization of what this means may not make sense in a setting where privacy settings are a binary.  What teens care about is the ability to control information as it flows and to have the information necessary to adjust to a situation when information flows too far or in unexpected


Sociality Is Learning

Monday, November 30, 2009

2 students sitting on subway texting listening to music As adults, we take social skills for granted… until we encounter someone who lacks them.  Helping children develop social skills is viewed as a reasonable educational endeavor in elementary school, but by high school, educators switch to more “serious” subjects. Yet, youth aren’t done learning about the social world. Conversely, they are more driven to understand people and sociality during their tween and teen years than as small children.  Perhaps it’s precisely their passion for learning sociality that devalues this as learning in the eyes of adults. For, if youth LIKE the subject matter, it must


The Rhetoric of MySpace vs. Facebook

Monday, October 26, 2009

myspace is for losers graffiti on building From Eszter Hargittai’s scholarship to more recent work by marketing analytics firms, we know that race and socio-economic status shape MySpace and Facebook usage. Yet, it is the rhetoric used by participants that highlights how these distinctions play out.  In an upcoming paper entitled “White Flight in Networked Publics?” (to be published in Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White’s upcoming anthology on Race and Digital Technology), I map out the language used by teenagers – and, to a lesser degree, adults – to explain the divisions between MySpace and Facebook.   When one of the teens that I