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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Understanding Socio-Technical Phenomena in a Web2.0 Era

Earlier this week, I had the honor of giving a talk at the opening of the Microsoft Research New England Lab. I have uploaded a crib of that talk, entitled “Understanding Socio-Technical Phenomena in a Web2.0 Era” for anyone who is interested in what I had to say. The abstract is here:

Web2.0 signals an iteration in Internet culture, shaped by changes in technology, entrepreneurism, and social practices. Beneath the buzzwords that flutter around Web2.0, people are experiencing a radical reworking of social media. Networked public spaces that once catered to communities of interest are now being leveraged by people of all ages to connect with people they already know. Social network sites like MySpace and Facebook enable people to map out their social networks in order to create public spaces for interaction. People can use social media to vocalize their thoughts, although having a blog or video feed doesn’t guarantee having an audience. Tagging platforms allow people to find, organize and share content in entirely new ways. Mass collaborative projects like Wikipedia allow people to collectively create valuable cultural artifacts. These are but a few examples of Web2.0.

Getting to the core of technologically-mediated phenomena requires understanding the interplay between everyday practices, social structures, culture, and technology. In this talk, I will map out some of what’s currently taking place, offer a framework for understanding these phenomena, and discuss strategies for researching emergent practices.

Videos of my talk along with the other talks at the event can be found here. For those interested in computer science education (or CS in general), I strongly recommend the one by Erik Demaine (where he makes a compelling case for how computer science is everywhere). For those into design, definitely check out the talk by Bill Buxton (where he refutes the notion that everyone is a designer). Both of these talks had me giggling and smiling for hours.

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6 comments to Understanding Socio-Technical Phenomena in a Web2.0 Era

  • Oh dear, this sounded great. I can’t watch any of the videos because they are in a proprietary Microsoft format my computer won’t play! 🙁

  • Sarah

    What does “iteration” mean? And yes, Microsoft = sell out! Not cool!

  • anon

    This is the first time I’m having trouble watching a video of yours. Not a good omen for this dalliance with Microsoft… I’ll try to watch the talks by Venkatesh Narayanamurti and Jennifer Chayes as well (even though it’s likely there will be little candor to be found in).

    One question you didn’t address in your earlier post is Microsoft’s attitude to any comments you might have on the company itself. How restrictive will they be if you wish to make derogatory rants on your blog and not just merely use the competitor’s products? If your research concerns Microsoft will you be encouraged to keep it in house?

  • For better or worse, few people record my talks which is why I try to make cribs of new talks available. Unfortunately, when I don’t have copies of the videos, I have no way of doing anything about the format.

    As for Microsoft, I’m welcome to say what I want provided that I don’t break confidentiality. In other words, I can talk about what’s public. That said, I’ve always refrained from talking about my employers in great detail (mostly because I’m bad at figuring out what’s public and what’s not). You won’t see me doing much promoting of products, but I will occasionally critique what I think is stupid. I suspect you’ll hear about Microsoft about as often as you do now on my blog.

    MSR is NOT encouraged to keep things in-house. My incentives are quite the opposite. If I don’t publish, if I don’t make a dent in my field, I put my job at risk.

    Realistically, time will tell. Hopefully by this time next year everyone will be confident that I will continue to do public work. Hell, when my dissertation ends, I expect that I’ll be doing a lot more publishing and public engagements.

  • Joe

    Thanks for posting your notes. Very interesting stuff, as always. I had the unique opportunity of presenting to the California Governor’s emergency services communications staff this summer. When I showed them how to follow an event like this summer’s wildfires or the Chino Hills earthquake using Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube I heard a ton of jaws drop. They never knew these tools existed. I found it kind of amazing since they spend so much time crafting a message and yet one is already out there and from first-person eye witnesses.

  • Danah, i understand web 2.0 but european commision (
    is talking about web 3.0! what do you think about it?