Introducing danah boyd

In many social media circles, danah boyd is a woman who needs no introduction. Next Thursday, I get to introduce her to attendees of danah’s social media practices master class, presented by

danah boyd
danah boyd (@zephoria on Twitter)
This masterclass — officially titled “Embracing a Culture of Connectivity: Understanding the Social Media Practices of Young Adults” — offers a rare chance to hear from one of the leading social media researchers of our time. And from what I’ve heard and read, she’s also one of the most engaging presenters on social media.

(If you haven’t yet signed up for this master class, better hurry. Registration closes next Tuesday, July 12.)

danah (@zephoria on Twitter) is probably best known for her 2008 Ph.D. dissertation, Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics (PDF). That dissertation provides some revealing insights into how teens essentially lifehack via social networks to navigate their adolescence. I hope she shares some of those insights with us next Thursday.

I also hope danah delves into her latest project, a literature review on risky behavior and online safely. She recently released for public feedback a draft of that research, and Boing Boing followed up by posting an excerpt from the document:

Concerns about online predators are pervasive, but the image that most people hold doesn’t necessarily match with the data about sexual crimes against minors. For starters, the emphasis on what takes place online tends to obscure the fact that most cases of sex crimes against children do not involve the Internet at all. As we seek to help youth who are victims, we must continue our efforts to address victimization in the home and in the community; addressing Internet- initiated victimization alone will not help the vast majority of children who are victimized. When facing interventions to address Internet-initiated victimization, we must be attentive to research that highlights that some youth are more at-risk than others. Youth who have psychosocial issues, family and school problems, and those who are engaged in risky behaviors are far more likely to be victimized than the average youth using the Internet. Targeting those who are more at-risk will allow us to help more youth. Research also suggests that most youth who are victimized are not deceived about the abuser’s age, do discuss sex online before meeting up offline, and are aware of the abuser’s sexual intentions when they decide to meet them. These youth often believe that they are in love and have no mental model for understanding why statutory rape is a crime. In order to help these youth, we cannot focus solely on preventing adults from engaging with youth; we must also help youth recognize that these encounters are abusive before they occur.

While the Internet has affected the contours of bullying and harassment, research continues to emphasize the interplay between what occurs online and what takes place offline. Many of the same youth are susceptible to victimization and those who engage in online bullying are not wholly distinct from those who bully offline. While much research is still needed to stabilize definitions and measurements, there is little doubt that bullying is prevalent both online and offline, affecting all communities even if it doesn’t affect all individuals. We need interventions that get at the root of bullying, regardless of where it takes place. Because research consistently shows a connection between psychosocial troubles, family and school issues, and bullying, we cannot presume that parents are always equipped or present to intervene (and may in fact be part of the problem). Although countless programs have been developed to educate kids about bullying, far too little is known about the effectiveness of these programs. Finally, what happens online is more visible to adults, but we cannot assume that the most damaging acts of bullying are solely those that we are able to witness.

I’m looking forward to hearing what danah has to say next week. I’m also very honored that my friend Karine Joly asked me to introduce danah.

P.S. – My Caps Lock key is not broken. danah boyd intentionally writes her name in all-lowercase letters, so I’m sticking with her preference.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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