danah boyd

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danah boyd
boyd in 2008
Born (1977-11-24) November 24, 1977 (age 38)
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" as "spelled all funky because my mother loved typographical balance."[3] Once she reached college, she chose to change to her maternal grandfather's name, "Boyd" as her own last name, and eventually she settled on giving her name as lowercase "danah boyd" 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 discovered herself as a queer (persons who do not want to be defined by their sexual orientation or their own sex).[11]

A few years later, her brother taught her how to use IRC and Usenet. As she was discovering the Internet, she noticed that some relationships were created between the different users and she began to speak about a few subjects (fears of teenagers as sex or identity) with anonymous users.[12]

She had a very difficult time when she was in middle school. She assigns her survival to her mother, Internet and one of her friends who were her support during this period. Internet became an open-door to multiple possibilities: it allowed her to meet her colleagues and find some ideas. Strangers helped her have a better knowledge of the world and herself.[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.

She initially studied computer science at Brown University where she worked with Andries van Dam, and wrote an undergraduate thesis on how "3-D computer systems used cues that were inherently sexist."[9] She then pursued her master's degree in sociable media with Judith Donath at the MIT Media Lab. She worked for the New York-based 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]


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 the director of Crisis Text Line (since 2012).[27]

She begins to look into social media in the early 2000 when she was still at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. She has a major interest in youth's uses of social medias as Friendster, MySpace and Facebook.

Her career as a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology starts in 2007. She published an untraditional research on youth using Facebook and MySpace the same year. She demonstrated that Facebook was at the time, more used by white and well-offs kids and on the other hand, MySpace members were mostly lower class and black teenagers. A lot of medias translated and relayed her research.[11]

Visualisation from one of boyd's lectures by Willow Brugh

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 as stated on her website, 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] With her partner Gilad Lotan, a male Israeli computer scientist, she has two children.


  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 c 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, a service provided by Google
  5. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  6. ^ Danah boyd's publications indexed by the DBLP Bibliography Server at the University of Trier
  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. ^ 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. [dead link]
  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. 2009-10-22. 
  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. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

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