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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Public Displays of Connection

Judith Donath and i wrote a paper for the BT Technology Journal called Public Displays of Connection that some may appreciate. It was just published today.

Abstract: Participants in social network sites create self-descriptive profiles that include their links to other members, creating a visible network of connections – the ostensible purpose of these sites is to use this network to make friends, dates, and business connections. In this paper we explore the social implications of the public display of one’s social network. Why do people display their social connections in everyday life, and why do they do so in these networking sites? What do people learn about another’s identity through the signal of network display? How does this display facilitate connections, and how does it change the costs and benefits of making and brokering such connections compared to traditional means? The paper includes several design recommendations for future networking sites.

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16 comments to Public Displays of Connection

  • hmmm i open the paper and the first block-quote i see is “people are accostomed to seeing the online space as a social space”… all people? or just people like you and I? I disagree that all people are accostomed to that… in fact, I would go as far as to say that most Internet users do not see the “online space” as a separate social space, or even as a social space at all… I think much of the online-social-space rhetoric assumes mass use, when only a small percentage of people that use the Internet actually use it as a social space at all. Using this kind of rhetoric in a paper is misleading because it makes readers believe that you have grounds to say that everyone who uses the Internet perceives it this way. You only have basis to say that about the users of the social networking software (and I would argue that this basis is tenuous at best), which, while “wildly popular” is a drop in the bucket. Researchers in general MUST be careful about going beyond their data – there is generalizability and there is wild generalizing… the latter we must avoid if we are to do good research.

  • Do you have a non-pdf version of it around? Reading a 2-column layout like that onscreen is tiresome in the extreme, and printing it is going to wake my family.

  • Kevin – it’s a journal article. It’s a miracle that i’m able to distribute it at all. That version is the only version that i was given after it went through editing.

  • Irina – your point is well taken. I am not the biggest fan of the space construct and i agree that most people do not perceive there to be an online space. I believe that most people view the Internet to be of value for two things: communication and information. Very few Internet users do not use CMC technologies and they perceive the larger Internet to be a socially enabling technology if you consider communication to be about social engagement. PEW’s data on CMC use shows a near-100% use of CMC in Internet participants.

  • Chase McMichael

    danah

    Sent you an email not long ago and will try this method of contact. I am working on a very unique approach to using social networks and when I read your bio for being a social technologies I knew you would love what I am doing. Want to be clear this is not a YASNS.

    I believe that your insight and guidance will be very valuable and could be instrumental in shaping what we are currently involved in. I know you don’t know me from Adam but would be glad to do my intro and see if you are interested in being part of what we are developing. If you would consider a phone call or we could just post here, however, what I have to talk with you about is confidential. BTW I live in Menlo Park.

    Regards,

    Chase

  • Chase McMichael

    danah, No problem and just want you to know I totally understand. I can wait the Xmas break if that would work for you. Between semesters would be cool to just talk and can assure you that what we are doing will be highly intriguing. When do you finish your PHD?

  • Hello. I found your blog doing a google search for blogs by teenagers for my teaching writing class at my univerisity. I found your blog to be very interesting, and I ended up linking to it in my required entry for class on blogging. (I hope you don’t mind.) I also wanted to say how interesting your topic is, from your sidebar “how people negotiate their presentation of self in mediated social contexts to an unknown audience”. I’m wondering how you got into this, it seems like such an odd topic. And where do you find your sources? Do you study the mediums themselves, or are there articles elsewhere you read up on?

  • Hello. I found your blog doing a google search for blogs by teenagers for my teaching writing class at my univerisity. I found your blog to be very interesting, and I ended up linking to it in my required entry for class on blogging. (I hope you don’t mind.) I also wanted to say how interesting your topic is, from your sidebar “how people negotiate their presentation of self in mediated social contexts to an unknown audience”. I’m wondering how you got into this, it seems like such an odd topic. And where do you find your sources? Do you study the mediums themselves, or are there articles elsewhere you read up on?

  • I am not disputing that the Internet is primarily a communications technology. In fact, my own research shows communication to be the most frequent use of the Internet for most populations. Yet there is a difference between conceptualizations of the Internet as a tool vs. as a space. It is the disregard for this distinction that I was trying to point out. While most people perceive it and use the Internet as a tool for communication, some perceive it and use it as a social space. This “some” is by far not most.

  • Public Displays of Connection

    Danah Boyd and Judith Donath just published “Public Displays of Connection”: Abstract: Participants in social network sites create self-descriptive profiles that include their links to other members, creating a visible network of connections – t…

  • Public Displays of Connection

    danah boyd and Judith Donath just published “Public Displays of Connection”: Abstract: Participants in social network sites create self-descriptive profiles that include their links to other members, creating a visible network of connections – t…

  • Public Displays of Connection

    danah boyd and Judith Donath just published “Public Displays of Connection”: Abstract: Participants in social network sites create self-descriptive profiles that include their links to other members, creating a visible network of connections the ostens…

  • Public Displays of Connection

    Something to read over the weekend: Public Displays of Connection

  • Hi Danah

    I just read your pjece on “Public Displays of Connection” – nice.

    I’m writing a Master Thesis about Change Management. A point I wish to make is about the connection between personal blogging/personal networks aggregating them to corporate networks via corporate blogs resulting in better performance in terms of Radical Innovation.

    In particular in thinking of transforming vertical introvert subroutines/organisational networks into horizontal extrovert META networks.

    Is weblogs in fact a useful tool? Linkedin? Other?

    To you have any thoughts about that?

    Best regards
    Hans Henrik

  • stef

    I like the end of the article: it all makes sense. where will this article be presented? Just got back from the CARPE meeting and heard Jim Gemmell,and Gorden Bell talk about archiving all this stuff: it sort of goes with what liz was doing when she went up to the microsoft center
    .

    Networks are the extension of our social world; they also act as its boundary. We may use the network to extend the range of people we can contact; we may use it to limit the people who
    can contact us. Most of the networking sites so far are designed to grow networks, not limit them. Yet costs and limits can add value. The expenditure of energy to maintain a connection is a signal of its importance and of the benefits it bestows.

    It seems that the actual process of socially archiving is intersecting with the process of glogging: how does one store and find meaning within the vast amount of data? The idea of storage and compressing touches more and more upon compression of data and metadata. How do we search metadata or how does one data mine compressed data?

  • stef

    forgot to mention:

    respectfully yours,

    stef