boyd in 2008
November 24, 1977 |
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley,
MIT Media Lab,
|Known for||Commentary on sociality, identity, and culture among youth on social networks|
|Awards||Technology Review TR35 Young Innovators 2010|
New York University
|Thesis||Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics (2008)|
|Doctoral advisor||Peter Lyman
danah boyd (styled lowercase, born November 24, 1977 as Danah Michele Mattas) is a social media scholar, youth researcher, and advocate working at Microsoft Research, New York University Media Culture & Communication and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
boyd grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Altoona, Pennsylvania, and attended Manheim Township High School from 1992-1996. According to her website, she was born Danah Michele Mattas. Once she reached college, she chose to take her maternal grandfather's name, boyd, as her own last name. She decided to spell her name in lowercase so as "to reflect my mother's original balancing and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization." After her parents' divorce, in 1982, she moved to York, Pennsylvania, with her mother and her brother. Her mother married again during danah's third grade and the family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She used online discussions forums to escape from high school. She called Lancaster a "religious and conservative" city. Having had online discussions on the topic, she decided to start identifying as queer.
A few years later, her brother taught her how to use IRC and Usenet. Even though she thought computers were "lame" at the time, the possibilities for connecting with others intrigued her. She became an avid participant on Usenet and IRC in her junior year in high school, spending a lot of time browsing, creating content, and conversing with strangers.
Though active in many extra-curricular activities and excelling academically, boyd had a difficult time socially in high school. She assigns "her survival to her mother, the Internet, and a classmate whose misogynistic comments inspired her to excel."
Her initial ambition was to become an astronaut but after an injury, she became more interested in the Internet.
boyd initially studied computer science at Brown University, where she worked with Andries van Dam and wrote an undergraduate thesis about how "3-D computer systems used cues that were inherently sexist." She pursued her master's degree in sociable media with Judith Donath at the MIT Media Lab. She worked for the New York-based activist organization V-Day, first as a volunteer (starting in 2004) and then as paid staff (2007-2009). She eventually moved to San Francisco, where she met the individuals involved in creating the new Friendster service. She documented what she was observing via her blog, and this grew into a career.
In 2008, boyd earned a Ph.D. at the UC Berkeley School of Information, advised by Peter Lyman (1940-2007) and Mizuko Ito (aka Mimi Ito). Her dissertation, Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics, focused on the use of large social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace by U.S. teenagers, and was blogged on Boing Boing.
During the 2006-07 academic year, boyd was a fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California. She has been a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University since 2007, where she co-directed the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, and then served on the Youth and Media Policy Working Group.
In January 2009, boyd joined Microsoft Research New England, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Social Media Researcher. She was also involved with a three-year ethnographic project funded by the MacArthur Foundation and led by Mimi Ito; the project examined youths' use of technologies through interviews, focus groups, observations, and document analysis. Her publications included an article in the MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning, Identity Volume called "Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life." The article focuses on social networks' implications for youth identity. The project culminated with a co-authored book "Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media." In addition to blogging on her own site, she addresses issues of youth and technology use on the DMLcentral blog. boyd has written academic papers and op-ed pieces on online culture.
As of today, boyd has been working for Harvard University (since 2007), Microsoft Research (since 2009) and New York University (since 2011). She's also the founder of the Data & Society Research Institute (since 2013) and on the board of directors of Crisis Text Line (since 2012).
Her career as a fellow at MIT started in 2007. She published untraditional research on youth using Facebook and MySpace the same year. She demonstrated that most young users of Facebook were white and middle-to-upper class, while MySpace users tended to be lower-class black teenagers. Her work is often translated and relayed to major media.
In 2009 Fast Company named boyd one of the most influential women in technology. In May 2010, she received the Award for Public Sociology from the American Sociological Association's Communication and Information Technologies (CITASA) section. Also in 2010, Fortune named her the smartest academic in the technology field and "the reigning expert on how young people use the Internet." In 2010, boyd was included on the TR35 list of top innovators under the age of 35.
boyd has spoken at many academic conferences, including SIGIR, SIGGRAPH, CHI, Etechm Personal Democracy Forum and the AAAS annual meeting. She gave the keynote addresses at SXSWi 2010 and WWW 2010, discussing privacy, publicity and big data. She also appeared in the 2008 PBS Frontline documentary Growing Up Online providing commentary on youth and technology.
She has an "attraction to people of different genders," but identifies as queer rather than lesbian or bi. "I very much attribute my comfortableness with my sexuality to the long nights in high school discussing the topic in IRC." She has two children with her partner Gilad Lotan, an Israeli computer scientist.