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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“Digital Handshakes on Virtual Receiving Lines”

I gave a short talk at the Personal Democracy Forum today. I put together a crib for anyone who wishes to get a sense for what i said. Very simple talk with one point: politicians should reach out and shake virtual hands with young people rather than just putting up flat profiles on social network sites. Anyhow, if you’re interested, enjoy!

“Digital Handshakes on Virtual Receiving Lines”

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6 comments to “Digital Handshakes on Virtual Receiving Lines”

  • FG

    Hi Danah, can you give me a reference to a published article where you explain the 4 properties?

    I often want to cite it but have’nt find a reference yet.


    “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” in the MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning, Identity Volume (ed. David Buckingham).

  • Steve


    I know the “not enough time” response you reported getting must sound like just another politician’s lame excuse. I think it is actually a symptom of a more profound issue which underlies much of the structure of online activity.

    I like to refer to it as the “human bandwidth problem” which is a high falutin’ way of saying that no individual has anywhere near enough time to interact with all the online content they might reasonably wish to.

    The application of this to online political schmoozing is straightforward. There is a continuum of personalized versus massified communication styles available to the politician who wishes to engage young people (or others) online. At one extreme, the politician can operate in broadcast mode (think identical automated comments to their entire friends list – or spamish bulletins) and receive input in an analogous fashion (think faceless staffers preparing an abstract of expressed concerns). At the other extreme, the politician can engage in one to one dialogue and seek a meeting of minds with the concerned (or not yet concerned) potential voter. Option 2 is obviously better – or not? Because, who gets the individualized treatment. Not everybody. Not enough hours in the day, the year, or even the most optimistic of lifetimes. So who? First come first served? Random selection? Browse until you find someone who strikes your fancy? Formalized selection? (think orchestrated “town meetings” or focus groups). Many choices – all with some degree of dubiousness.

    So your perspective, which I’m not saying is a bad one, raises questions. Where on the massification versus personalization continuum should the politician place themself. And how should they manage the practical limitations of communicating in the chosen mode?

    What do you think?


  • Sounds good Danah. At European Schoolnet we’ve organised chat sessions with schools and politicians, so that pupils can quiz them. But – they usually bring along a whole team to answer the questions. After all, most politicans rely a great deal on speech writers, this is pretty much analogous.

  • I’ve heard this kicked around a few times but this is the first explanation as to why that a) makes a certain amount of sense and b) answers the whole issue of the scale of interaction we’re talking about. I’m still convinced that Obama doesn’t post his own twitter tweets, though…