My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and 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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Upcoming fieldwork: What do you want to know?

I’m gearing up for a bunch of new on-the-ground fieldwork and intend to do a host of semi-structured interviews with American teenagers in different parts of the U.S. in the upcoming months. While I talk to teens regularly, new in-depth fieldwork allows me to really tease out core conceptual puzzles. My goal for this upcoming bout of fieldwork is to really go deep into questions surrounding privacy and publicity. But as I start fieldtesting new questions and running pilot interviews, I thought I’d throw it out to you too. So….

What do you want to know about teens and social media?

Also… if you have general questions for me about my findings, I’m trying out Formspring to field questions. Feel free to ask me questions about research at any time and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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15 comments to Upcoming fieldwork: What do you want to know?

  • clobbered

    One of the interesting issues regarding the current dominant social media platforms is that they are corporate and have corporate interests in the content they carry. (By that I mean that while telegrams were a huge part of social life in the late 19th century, the telegraph companies had no interest in what people were actually saying, whereas twitter does “look inside the envelope” so to speak).

    I’d be interested to know whether teens are aware on any level, and if so what they think of it. Do they have any resentment about their contributed content being potentially monetized, or is it something they regard as a fact of life?

  • According to an Edison study, 24% of American Twitter users are black. That compares to 13% of the U.S. population and perhaps 15% of American Facebook users. This totally fascinates me, and I suspect that some portion of the disparity among those figures can be explained by teenage Twitter users, so maybe it interests you, too. I’d like to know how Twitter is used among black American teenagers and how race figures in. (What’s going on here, for instance, and does it have anything to do with race, or just standardized testing?)

    And I wonder if this has anything to do with it:

    Not only are African-Americans the most active users of mobile Internet, they are also the fastest growing group to adopt the technology: the percentage of African-Americans using mobile phones or another type of connected gadget to share e-mail, exchange instant messages and access the Internet for information on an average day has more than doubled since late 2007, jumping to 29 percent, from 12 percent.

    By comparison, 19 percent of Americans over all log on to the Internet on a mobile device on a typical day.

    I’m sure you know a bunch about this already. I’ve been driving myself mad thinking about this since April, when the Edison study appeared. (And to think, maybe the study is just wrong!) Anyway, thanks for the chance to air my question.

  • How very cool. I can’t wait to see what findings you get from your field work.

    I’m really interested in whether youth feel any type of explicit or implicit peer or social pressure to live more public lives online. While it may come natural to some that are more extroverted I wonder if some feel a need for social validation with living public lives online even if their personal choice may be more private or introverted. My thinking on this is that those who lead public lives are more likely to receive attention or notoriety for this (often times mimicking celebrities who appear to live public lives) thus encouraging others to do so out of some sort of perceived expectation.

  • I’d love to have their own impression of their relation to religion, be it their own or other sensibilities. Teenage years is a tense period; sexuality, materialism is at stake and it seems only a few religious leaders (and couple of feminist) try to address those. Music can be heavily influenced by religious choices. Making friends outside of school but still within parents acceptable radius is often through religious organization… Most of them quote — or at least, it’s the most quoted reference— Jesus as their closest friend, the Bible as their favorite book, etc.

    Does religion influence the way their appreciate social media, bullying, nagging, pushing the limits, defending others, feeling connected to strangers? Was matters: is it practice or congregation, collective practices or intimate efforts, do declarations match actions?

    Sorry not to be a specialist about all these aspects, and to have expressed the questions as I could but… I heard so much promises and threats about social media and the young’ones that it increasingly feels like a misguided sermon.

  • I’m interested in knowing more about:

    1. Gaming: As it relates to socializing with others vs isolating & playing on their own.

    2. Friendship: Actually two things here, first, definitions of online friendship by teens, and second, more about the duration and quality of friendships teens are creating. I know that as an adult I have created some very meaningful online relationships (in my case with other educators) with people I have never met f2f, is this happening with teens as well?

    3. Content creation (trends): What are teens creating and sharing online? Here I’m actually interested in the bleeding edge, where are they taking content creation to a new level? How are they ‘mashing’ things up?

    4. Learning: How are teens taking learning into their own hands, what are they doing outside of schools to educate themselves and learn new things?

  • How common is cracking the password to each other’s social media accounts? How easy is it?
    Once you’ve cracked the password what do you do with that knowledge?

  • will your methodology allow you to explore mental health state / history. It would be interesting to see if depression/anxiety/other common mental disorders affects how teens manage privacy and publicity, especially how this might relate to help seeking

  • I would like to know more about teen’s romantic/sexual relationships and specifically how social technologies impact them in various complicated ways. When I was doing study in this area, ex-girlfriends and stalkers (real life, not internet) were always two interesting edge cases that cropped up everywhere and represent a fascinating set of design challenges.

    Things like should you remain friends with your ex and your ex’s friends after a breakup?
    Should you talk about a new romantic relationship in public and, if so, how do you do so in a sensitive manner?
    What sort of measures can you take to meaningfully engage in social technologies in a non-onerous way when you need to deal with stalkers of varying degrees of intensity?

    I was mainly talking to people in their early-mid twenties though so I’m interested in seeing how the same issues manifest themselves in teens.

  • I want to know if/how teens feel their our identities are transmitted via social networks. Do they actively create personas or do they try to accurately portray their personalities? Does it work out? That is, are they able to convey what they want? How does managing their personas online compare to doing that in person?

    Love your work!

  • I would like to know how teens see video in a social context – what kinds of things might they record to send on to their friends? is video they’ve produced themselves part of the conversations they have with their friends?

  • Hi,

    It might be interesting to ask questions regarding teens’ understanding of the dynamics around usage of social media from various aspects such as:
    1. how much they are aware of long term ramifications of their exposures ( as opposed to spontaneously using social media) -e.g on a personal level – for future public offices or harming others’ interests by exposing info about them that others would choose not to share.
    2.Also it would be interesting to see to what extent they take corporates’ goal to dominate their data as a necessary evil ( if at all) or how much they would value a reversal of control – where handles of exposure/not sharing would be user side in their hands and not depending on policies and means as offered by social networks.
    3. To what extent they are aware of the value (asset) to marketers of their personal data, social graph and influence, to what extent they realize that these are food chains created arund them where they do not enjoy being part of the rewards of these food chains.

    That would certainly interest me, hope it is useful to you as well.

  • MMRMARC

    I’ll throw out some questions off the top of my head that aren’t really that interesting:

    In the future, will it be likely that teenagers’ digital footprints will affect significantly affect employment in a positive/negative way? How conscious are teens of their digital footprint?

    Does information posted online publicly, by teens, act more as data or as story?

    Does the increase in social connections with people through social media increase the amount we view connectivity? How does the availability of more words affect their worth?

    How do parents get involved with their kids’ social media/internet usage? To what extent should they?

    How do kids feel about parents who use social media vs. those that don’t?

    Is there a clear line between cyberbullying and other forms of communication online (for example, debates, heated discussions, arguments, insults, jokes)? How does the definition of cyberbullying match up with what teenagers perceive to be cyberbullying?

    I’m also sort of interested in the sort of culture created by 4chan/Encyclopedia Dramatica. As great as 4chan can be in some ways, I wonder about the gender dynamic going on. But that’s overly vague.

    I’m also really interested in how people use forums, and what forum interaction can lead to for individuals. Political forums, art forums, etc, but I suspect their usage really isn’t that common compared to other web sites.

  • Hi Danah,

    In my own ethnographic research over the past year and a half (with 25 facebook users), I’ve found a gradual shift towards “interest-driven networks”, which is essentially changing the makeup of friend networks…of course the Digital Youth Project helped me put of lot of my findings into context. Anyway, I recently blogged on a gradual shift in digital culture towards these interest driven networks. Thought I’d (a) share that with you and get your feedback and (b) see if you’d like to explore this further?

    Here’s the post: http://marketingtoculture.com/interest-based-social-networking-will-change-the-world/

    Thanks Danah.

    Cheers,
    Ujwal

  • Shane Kempton

    Hey Danah,

    For a few years I’ve been trying to get a deeper understanding of how social media is affecting our sense of group identity. We’ve been moving away from a sense of strong national identity for a while into, what I believe, is a very diverse concept of group identity that relies less on geography and more on personal preference.

    I’d be interested to know how the teens you talk with perceive their group identities. Do they have a strong sense of nationalism? How are they forming their group identities with social media? Is social media diversifying their sense of belonging to the broader world? Do they have friends through social media in other parts of the world and if so, how does that affect their group identity? Is language the barrier to broader belonging; do these teens speak other languages and if so, do they have social media friends in countries that speak that language their native language?

    With such far reaching ramifications resulting from changes in our group identity I’d love to hear how this coming generation perceives themselves.

    Thanks for sharing your work through the blog, great stuff.

  • Jeremy

    ok I’d like to know how long it will be before our species is reduced to little more than mindless drones bound in servitude to a handful of people that represent the global elite. Sounds foreboding I know but this is why I think had some of my comments not being posted countless times. And I know it isnt because of foul language or some other foolishness. At first I thought it was because of “littlsomething like this is in store for the world. Take social media… In my recent experience with blogging and commenting, I see tightly controlled flows of information. I have e” cus words like shit and damn. lol but anyway… I started making sure I did not have anything in my post that could appear offensive. And they STILL wont post some of the things … a lot actually…. that I have to say. I’m not the only person who is aware of this. so I’m trying to share my opinion and foresight with other people about topics that should be of concern to others…. the small people…..
    I just lost my entire post and am not gonna type all that again… my question is….
    How do you think teens will deal with the rapid change tht is sweeping the planet? And do you see given the tight control of the media and everything else really…. Do you see Humans getting past the current oppressive controled society? Unless people wake up and start seeing what is really going on with all this change I give it 2-3 generations and the powers that be will have a firm grip on the minds of the worlds population never to be free again because of all the programming. I hope it doesnt turn out that way but that is what I see happening to us.

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