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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can i have an -ist please?

At the end of any press interview, i’m inevitably asked to label myself. What they really want is an easy -ist word. Y’know – computer scientIST, anthropologIST, biologIST, psychologIST, artIST… This part of the interview always makes me squirm more the most. I don’t have an ist and usually, i don’t want one but it’s really becoming a pain in the ass. I usually try to squeeze out of it by saying that i’m a PhD student in the School of Information at the University of California, but sometimes, that’s not enough.

I often sheepishly call myself an anthropologist which, when concerning MySpace would be mostly accurate given that i’m doing a full-on ethnography of it situated in anthropological theories but i’m also not really accepted by the anthropologists as one of them. Sometimes, i think that i should call myself a cultural theorist since that’s sorta right, but at the same time, i’m more of a cultural observer and documenter than a theorist. At least so far. And the observer part sounds so not professional. I’ve tried accepting informationist but that just sounds so wrong. While i love what information schools are trying to do, i don’t think of them as creating -ists. Of course, that’s true for most “schools” like law, education, business. Could you imagine being a businessist? Ugg.

So i want an -ist. Who wants to bestow me an -ist?

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56 comments to can i have an -ist please?

  • How about just responding with, “I’m not into labels.”?

  • hop

    The important thing is what you say in these interviews, not being reduced to one word.

    “I’m not a number (oops a word in -ist)” 🙂

  • parth

    “ist”….these are some of the issues i also get trapped into when i try myself defining the role i need to perform.

    well, i am a designer. i am a visual communication designer. i am an information designer. i am a new media designer. woh woh….but wait. when is say these things…do i really know how many strings i am trying to stretch alongwith it.??!!! which is to say, i have dived in philosophy,psycholohy,sociology,ethnography,architecture,computing,meditation,trascendental consciousness, rave parties, kundalini workshops..blah.blah.blha.blahh…blh., when i work on one project in design.

    so, design is about taking a coherent approach to define and taking different perspectives to look at the same thing.( remember “doors of perception”???).

    and lately, what i feel, is that different discplines like information design, new media, interface design, interaction design, electronic arts are blurring the boundaries of expertise and forming a communal and a collective approach( from djs,vjs, ledartist, designers, architects to psychologist,sociologist,new genre of physicists( film: what the bleep do we know?) to define and derive solutions for an intensive research on the on going subjects like pervasive computing, immersive spaces, social computing, ambient spaces.

    and to define a system which works on the mechanics of collective intelligence, is hard to render by one node of information or an “ist”. it is a collective process to thrive, govern,evolve and sustain it.

    we as sociable designers, have been always disguising ourself or to put it in a better format, have been always in a state of fluidity, in a constant flux, to place ourself in different containers or rather wearing this glasses to change our landscpae of information.

    its as though we are constantly connnecting the dots within a great connect-the-dots drawing book, or discovering the patterns within patterns of an infinite cosmic mandala.

    hope so it has helped you, if not define, but atleast to ponder upon for a while….

  • OK, revisions – I didn’t like media ecologist, but a few of my fellow ecologists were chatting at Ace in the Hole last night , and somehow the subject of myspace, friendster, etc, came up, which led to mentioning your blog, which lead to the term Internet Ecologist.

    Someone who studies the factors regulating the distrubution and abundance of life on the internet.

    Kind of apt. And, hey, you could even say you were in internet community ecologist, putting us in similar disciplines – with only the internet standing between. HA!

  • strangehill

    How about Infospherist.

  • Well – omnivorist has to get my vote