My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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NY vs. SF

I’ve always been a bit obsessed about the differences between New York and San Francisco. As such, i really enjoyed reading Auren’s reflections on the difference (even if he’s a Republican – ::wink::).

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6 comments to NY vs. SF

  • he says “And clubs … how many people in SF do you know that joined a social club? I think I might know three.” well…… he must live in a different SF than I do.

  • mike

    It’s such sweeping generalizations of American cities and geographies like this that make my skin absolutely crawl.

    What makes so many people go to great lengths at making such HUGE generalizations about people and their collective personalities in different cities ? I call 100% bullshit, unless they make that very important disclaimer that they’re opinions are not founded in fact, but in their own experience.

    His sample size of cheating men, social club members, etc. I’m sure has never touched anyone I know in San Francisco, even with his 12 years of living there. I find these declarations of social theories, whether its Boston, SF, NY, LA, or Chicago so tedious and void of value.

    Say that these are the things you’ve noticed. Don’t pretend that you are somehow coming up with any theories, or expect to be argued with by many people who will disagree with you. Its just not as simple as “I have seen blah happen with people here” somehow magically come to mean “All (or even most, or even some minority) of people in this city follows that same theory.

  • Mike – the point is that it *IS* personal. And Auren goes out of his way to express how this is different for him. This isn’t a sociological study, but a personal expression of difference based on his experience. It’s not meant to be generalized but to express his different experiences in those different cities. Each of us would have a different view and that is equally valid.

  • mike

    I understand, but that doesn’t seem to be how it’s presented. He isn’t “owning” these opinions, to use therapy speak….he’s declaring them. The title is “NY vs. SF”. I do see how he supports some of his theories with anecdotal evidence, but I guess I just get peeved when I hear perceived ‘downsides’ of a city, and presented as some complaint of the city as a whole, when in reality, it should be a complaint of your own circle of friends. Or should I say…”social network”. 😉

    Like a complaint of a single woman friend who declared that San Francisco is the worst city to meet good single men. When I asked her what lead her to that theory, she told me that it just didn’t work out for all four guys she dated within a 2 month period who she met in bars in the Financial District. Some sample size. (she now has a long term boyfriend who she met about 2 months after she made that statement)

    Maybe another example would help.

    “Though New York is certainly not the bastion of religious zeal, it does promote more adherence to God. That might be because tradition is much more ingrained in NY society (and there is a historic church or synagogue on every corner).”

    I have, and know many people in SF who “adhere to God”, and whose families and communities are absolutely steeped in tradition, here in SF. My observation is different than his, and that certainly is fine, and should be fine, expected or not. I won’t extend my observation to include the entire city, tho. It’s just my observation.

    But once “observations” get extended to the context of entire cities…that’s when I feel annoyed. I just have a big sensitive button with generalizations being made when it doesn’t need to be. If you have a good or bad experience, then I say express it, for sure. But consider that it’s your experience, and not something that can at all extend to some characterization of a city.

    Sorry for being so long/sensitive to this. 🙂

  • Mike- i disagree with you, but it’s in part because of 1) knowing Auren; 2) knowing the audience that reads his blog. I think that this is one of the problems with blogging. People assume that the tone has to be formalized, that there needs to be an explicit ownership of the ideas presented. The ownership is in the making. There’s nothing more irritating than hearing people constantly say “it’s my opinion that..” “personally…” “i think that…” The point of a blog is to present your ideas in the way that you see fit, the way appropriate for your audience. I have no issues with Auren addressing Auren’s views in Auren’s blog. There’s a lot embedded into that post that is clearly Auren and his values (and also, clearly, his socio-economic class).

    There are parts of his post that resonate with me and parts that don’t. But i really appreicate his reflections on his personal experience with those two cities. And i think that it is not Auren, but you, that is trying to assume generalizations from the post.

  • mike

    I see your point, and I’ll own my own hot button on the topic of city comparisons. Being from the Boston area, I hear many stereotypes and complaints from people who have been transient there.

    Just as the culture differs from Berkeley to Fremont to the Mission to the Marina, so does Cambridge, Medford, South Boston, and Back Bay.

    I’m bringing my baggage of past judgements of my hometown to this conversation, which isn’t fair whatsoever. 🙂

    p.s. I find that the Mission is a great place for this Boston transplant. Thanks for the thoughtful response.