danah boyd

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danah boyd
boyd in 2008
Born (1977-11-24) November 24, 1977 (age 39)
Altoona, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Fields Social media
Institutions Microsoft Research
Harvard University
New York University
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley,
MIT Media Lab,
Brown University
Thesis Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics (2008)
Doctoral advisor Peter Lyman
Mizuko Ito
Known for Commentary on sociality, identity, and culture among youth on social networks[1]
Notable awards Technology Review TR35 Young Innovators 2010[2]

danah boyd (styled lowercase, born November 24, 1977 as Danah Michele Mattas)[3] is a social media scholar,[4][5][6][7][8] youth researcher, and advocate working at Microsoft Research, New York University Media Culture & Communication and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Early life[edit]

Boyd grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Altoona, Pennsylvania,[9] and attended Manheim Township High School from 1992–1996. According to her website, she was born Danah Michele Mattas.[10] Once she reached college, she chose to take her maternal grandfather's name, Boyd, as her own last name. She settled 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."[9][10] 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. Thanks to some online discussions, she decided to identify as queer.[11]

A few years later, her brother taught her how to use IRC and Usenet. Even though she thought computers were "lame", 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.[12]

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.[12]

Her initial ambition was to become an astronaut but after an injury, she became more interested in the Internet.[9]


danah boyd in 2005, a speaker at Digital Identity conference in Chicago.

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."[9] 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.[13]

In 2008, boyd earned a PhD at the UC Berkeley School of Information,[14] 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,[15] and was blogged on Boing Boing.[16][17]

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,[18] and then served on the Youth and Media Policy Working Group.[19]


Visualisation from one of boyd's lectures by Willow Brugh

In January 2009, boyd joined Microsoft Research New England, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Social Media Researcher.[20] 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.[21][22] 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."[23] 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."[24] 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.[25]

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)[26] and on the board of directors of Crisis Text Line (since 2012).[27]

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.[11]

In early 2014, boyd published her book It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens at Yale University Press.[28]

She was interviewed in the 2015 web documentary about internet privacy, Do Not Track.[29]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2009 Fast Company named boyd one of the most influential women in technology.[30] In May 2010, she received the Award for Public Sociology from the American Sociological Association's Communication and Information Technologies (CITASA) section.[31] Also in 2010, Fortune named her the smartest academic in the technology field[32] and "the reigning expert on how young people use the Internet."[33] In 2010, boyd was included on the TR35 list of top innovators under the age of 35.[34]

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.[35][36][37] She also appeared in the 2008 PBS Frontline documentary Growing Up Online providing commentary on youth and technology.[38]

Foreign Policy named boyd one of its 2012 Top 100 Global Thinkers "for showing us that Big Data isn't necessarily better data".[39]

Personal life[edit]

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."[3] She has two children with her partner Gilad Lotan, an Israeli computer scientist.


  1. ^ Heer, J.; Boyd, D. (2005). "Vizster: Visualizing Online Social Networks". Proceedings of the 2005 IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization (INFOVIS'05). p. 5. doi:10.1109/INFOVIS.2005.39. ISBN 0-7803-9464-X. 
  2. ^ MIT (2010). 2010 Young Innovators under 35, Danah Boyd, 32, Microsoft Research: Shaping the rules for social networks, Technology Review.
  3. ^ a b boyd, danah. "a bitty autobiography / a smattering of facts". danah.org. Retrieved November 2, 2008.  She noted her mother added lowercase 'h' in birth name "danah" for typographical balance, reflecting the lowercase first letter 'd' and later changed her last name to lowercase "boyd" in 2000.
  4. ^ Danah boyd's publications indexed by Google Scholar
  5. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  6. ^ Danah Boyd at DBLP Bibliography Server
  7. ^ Donath, J.; Boyd, D. (2004). "Public Displays of Connection". BT Technology Journal. 22 (4): 71. doi:10.1023/B:BTTJ.0000047585.06264.cc. 
  8. ^ Marlow, C.; Naaman, M.; Boyd, D.; Davis, M. (2006). "HT06, tagging paper, taxonomy, Flickr, academic article, to read". Proceedings of the seventeenth conference on Hypertext and hypermedia - HYPERTEXT '06. p. 31. doi:10.1145/1149941.1149949. ISBN 1595934170. 
  9. ^ a b c d Debelle, Penelope (August 4, 2007). "A space of her own – Encounter with Danah Boyd". The Age. Australia. 
  10. ^ a b boyd, danah. "What's in a Name?". danah.org. Retrieved March 30, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b http://www.lemonde.fr/festival/article/2014/08/20/danah-boyd-anthropologue-de-la-generation-numerique_4473731_4415198.html
  12. ^ a b http://www.danah.org/aboutme.html
  13. ^ Erard, Michael (November 27, 2003). "Decoding the New Cues in Online Society". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.  Archived June 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ boyd, danah (2008). Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics (PhD thesis). University of California, Berkeley. 
  15. ^ "Voices on Antisemtisim interview with danah boyd". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. October 22, 2009. Archived from the original on May 5, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Taken Out of Context – my PhD dissertation". zephoria.org. January 18, 2009. 
  17. ^ Doctorow, Cory (January 19, 2009). "danah boyd's PhD thesis: Teen sociality online". Boing Boing. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Members of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force". Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative". 
  20. ^ McCarthy, Caroline (September 22, 2008). "Microsoft hires social-net scholar Danah Boyd". CNET. Retrieved January 12, 2009. 
  21. ^ "MacArthur Foundation Project Summary". Retrieved January 9, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Final Report". The Digital Youth Project. Retrieved January 9, 2009. 
  23. ^ boyd, danah. Buckingham, David, ed. "Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life". Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge: MIT Press. 119–142. doi:10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.119. ISBN 978-0262026352. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  24. ^ Ito, Mimi; et al. (September 2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-01336-3. 
  25. ^ Shirky, Clay (February 28, 2008). Here Comes Everybody. Penguin Group. pp. 224–5. ISBN 978-1-59420-153-0. 
  26. ^ http://www.danah.org/danahCV.pdf
  27. ^ https://www.linkedin.com/in/danahboyd
  28. ^ boyd, danah (2014). It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300166316. 
  29. ^ Davis, Nicola (14 April 2015). "Do not Track: an online, interactive documentary about who's watching you". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  30. ^ Fast Company Staff (February 1, 2009). "Women in Tech: The Evangelists". Fast Company. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  31. ^ "2010 CITASA Awards". CITASA. 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2010. 
  32. ^ Jessi Hempel; Beth Kowitt (September 7, 2010). "Smartest Academic: Danah Boyd". Fortune. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  33. ^ Hempel, Jessi (2010). "Ones to watch: Danah Boyd". Fortune. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  34. ^ Naone, Erica (2010). "Danah Boyd, 32". Technology Review. Retrieved August 25, 2010. 
  35. ^ "danah boyd's Opening Remarks on Privacy and Publicity" (Press release). South by Southwest. March 14, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  36. ^ Kincaid, Jason (2010-03-13). "Danah Boyd: How Technology Makes A Mess Of Privacy and Publicity". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  37. ^ "Keynote Talk: danah boyd on "Publicity and Privacy in Web 2.0"". WWW 2010. April 29, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  38. ^ "PBS Frontline: "Growing Up Online" with danah boyd – January 22nd" (Press release). Berkman Center for Internet & Society. 2008-01-14. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  39. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. November 26, 2012. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

External links[edit]