Oh, danah!

danah boyd wrote a humdinger (viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace) last night and now is surprised that she got more attention for her writings, which she says were NOT up to her standard well-thought-out, well-written analysis.

Here’s why I was interested in her paper last night where some of her other, more “researched” writings just leaves me cold.

1. It clearly defined a conflict. And a big one at that between two classes of people.
2. It fit my already pre-defined stereotypes. My brother, Ben, for instance, is on MySpace. He’s a blue collar kind of guy. His MySpace page? For the bar, Benny’s Tavern, he owns in Virginia. Actually, I’m partially responsible for the belief that college students dislike MySpace. When I gave a speech to a class at San Jose State University the entire class said they switched from MySpace to Facebook since leaving high school. Of course these kids totally fit into danah’s post last night.
3. Most of danah’s posts are written for an academic audience. Put a little simpler: they are information dense and hard to get through. The one last night had a breezy, conversational feel to it. It was more approachable than her usual writings. I think that in our RSS “J, J, J, J” fast track world we just give up on posts that are too academic and not interesting to us as humans.

Oh danah, do you forget that we live in a world that pays 1,000,000 times more attention to Paris Hilton in jail than we do to whatever our President is doing? And you wonder why your article yesterday got so much attention? You hit the same nerve that Paris Hilton does.

One other thing, though. Danah’s previous work made her an authority on the topic (yeah, we do pay attention to her denser, more academic work, and even if we don’t word gets around that danah is doing the deepest thinking on social media and culture out there). That’s another reason why this got pushed around so many conversations today. It was danah’s perfect media storm.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. I think that only *some* of us give up on posts that are too academic. Others of us are incredibly interested in those types of papers.

    My area of academic research is in the rhetorical analysis of women’s voices in blogs (and other social networks) that deal with trauma. danah’s research is right up my alley.

    That being said, the topic of classist issues in social network sites like MySpace and Facebook is one that requires more study. While I think it could have been true at one point, Facebook is now an open community much like MySpace. With that openness, comes a more generalized user base. The lines are blurring more and more with the homogenization of Facebook.

  2. I think that only *some* of us give up on posts that are too academic. Others of us are incredibly interested in those types of papers.

    My area of academic research is in the rhetorical analysis of women’s voices in blogs (and other social networks) that deal with trauma. danah’s research is right up my alley.

    That being said, the topic of classist issues in social network sites like MySpace and Facebook is one that requires more study. While I think it could have been true at one point, Facebook is now an open community much like MySpace. With that openness, comes a more generalized user base. The lines are blurring more and more with the homogenization of Facebook.

  3. I think that only *some* of us give up on posts that are too academic. Others of us are incredibly interested in those types of papers.

    My area of academic research is in the rhetorical analysis of women’s voices in blogs (and other social networks) that deal with trauma. danah’s research is right up my alley.

    That being said, the topic of classist issues in social network sites like MySpace and Facebook is one that requires more study. While I think it could have been true at one point, Facebook is now an open community much like MySpace. With that openness, comes a more generalized user base. The lines are blurring more and more with the homogenization of Facebook.

  4. I agree with the appreciation for non-pedantic posts but disagree with Boyd’s hypothesis or status as an expert. I think Myspace is more about LA and New York and non-tech related people. Nobody who has accumulated more than 5,000 friends on myspace is going to give up their presence on myspace. It’s very attractive for artists, artists, writer’s, filmmakers, DJ’s, party throwers. I know a ton of people who just avoid the whole social media applications altogether because it’s not crucial to their professional development and they’re snobs but nice snobs.

  5. I agree with the appreciation for non-pedantic posts but disagree with Boyd’s hypothesis or status as an expert. I think Myspace is more about LA and New York and non-tech related people. Nobody who has accumulated more than 5,000 friends on myspace is going to give up their presence on myspace. It’s very attractive for artists, artists, writer’s, filmmakers, DJ’s, party throwers. I know a ton of people who just avoid the whole social media applications altogether because it’s not crucial to their professional development and they’re snobs but nice snobs.

  6. I agree with the appreciation for non-pedantic posts but disagree with Boyd’s hypothesis or status as an expert. I think Myspace is more about LA and New York and non-tech related people. Nobody who has accumulated more than 5,000 friends on myspace is going to give up their presence on myspace. It’s very attractive for artists, artists, writer’s, filmmakers, DJ’s, party throwers. I know a ton of people who just avoid the whole social media applications altogether because it’s not crucial to their professional development and they’re snobs but nice snobs.

  7. There is another way of looking at the point I think you are hinting at here that is important from a tactical POV – all too often paper’s and essay’s that are written from perspectives of authority, with that authoritative language are just hard to relate to. While some like Andrew Keen and others in teh academic community decry typos, slang and profanity, it is precisely the embodiment of the very human condition and our fallibility that broadens its appeal. As you and I have discussed before, the way in which you humanized Microsoft was one of the most intangible and invaluable contributions you made there.

    While many rightfully decry Bush’s foibles, it is exactly those things that endear him to so many and why Gore had such difficulty in gaining wider support last time. In a sense though, it is only classism from a 3rd party perspective – as is similar to those who think about ‘managing the community’ rather than participating in it. When you are in the middle of it, on one side or the other, it often boils down to the simple fact that these other people don’t share my values, beliefs or experiences. “I would rather hang out with people like me”…

    Obviously it is not possible to simplify this complex issue, and I don’t mean to deny real classism, racism and discrimination in any way… just adding my quick $0.02 while I should be working :)

  8. There is another way of looking at the point I think you are hinting at here that is important from a tactical POV – all too often paper’s and essay’s that are written from perspectives of authority, with that authoritative language are just hard to relate to. While some like Andrew Keen and others in teh academic community decry typos, slang and profanity, it is precisely the embodiment of the very human condition and our fallibility that broadens its appeal. As you and I have discussed before, the way in which you humanized Microsoft was one of the most intangible and invaluable contributions you made there.

    While many rightfully decry Bush’s foibles, it is exactly those things that endear him to so many and why Gore had such difficulty in gaining wider support last time. In a sense though, it is only classism from a 3rd party perspective – as is similar to those who think about ‘managing the community’ rather than participating in it. When you are in the middle of it, on one side or the other, it often boils down to the simple fact that these other people don’t share my values, beliefs or experiences. “I would rather hang out with people like me”…

    Obviously it is not possible to simplify this complex issue, and I don’t mean to deny real classism, racism and discrimination in any way… just adding my quick $0.02 while I should be working :)

  9. There is another way of looking at the point I think you are hinting at here that is important from a tactical POV – all too often paper’s and essay’s that are written from perspectives of authority, with that authoritative language are just hard to relate to. While some like Andrew Keen and others in teh academic community decry typos, slang and profanity, it is precisely the embodiment of the very human condition and our fallibility that broadens its appeal. As you and I have discussed before, the way in which you humanized Microsoft was one of the most intangible and invaluable contributions you made there.

    While many rightfully decry Bush’s foibles, it is exactly those things that endear him to so many and why Gore had such difficulty in gaining wider support last time. In a sense though, it is only classism from a 3rd party perspective – as is similar to those who think about ‘managing the community’ rather than participating in it. When you are in the middle of it, on one side or the other, it often boils down to the simple fact that these other people don’t share my values, beliefs or experiences. “I would rather hang out with people like me”…

    Obviously it is not possible to simplify this complex issue, and I don’t mean to deny real classism, racism and discrimination in any way… just adding my quick $0.02 while I should be working :)

  10. I thought it was a good piece that you immediately felt hit on something. It’s not saying one is better, but there does seem to be a class feel about it. In a blog reaction (http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/06/class-divide-in.html) I commented that in the UK you used to be either a BBC or an ITV household. Now this can read Facebook and MySpace (which further supports the argument that social networking is the new broadcast).
    Martin

  11. I thought it was a good piece that you immediately felt hit on something. It’s not saying one is better, but there does seem to be a class feel about it. In a blog reaction (http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/06/class-divide-in.html) I commented that in the UK you used to be either a BBC or an ITV household. Now this can read Facebook and MySpace (which further supports the argument that social networking is the new broadcast).
    Martin

  12. I thought it was a good piece that you immediately felt hit on something. It’s not saying one is better, but there does seem to be a class feel about it. In a blog reaction (http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/06/class-divide-in.html) I commented that in the UK you used to be either a BBC or an ITV household. Now this can read Facebook and MySpace (which further supports the argument that social networking is the new broadcast).
    Martin

  13. Interesting

    Though I suspect that the switch from high/upper school from myspace -> face book may have more do do with the changes kids make when going to Uni than a pure class thing.

    Changing from liking teeny popbands to grungy emo punk bands for example.

    It also my be a realisation that a myspace page with semi pornographic glittery pink unicorns doesn’t normaly play well with potential employers.

  14. Interesting

    Though I suspect that the switch from high/upper school from myspace -> face book may have more do do with the changes kids make when going to Uni than a pure class thing.

    Changing from liking teeny popbands to grungy emo punk bands for example.

    It also my be a realisation that a myspace page with semi pornographic glittery pink unicorns doesn’t normaly play well with potential employers.

  15. Interesting

    Though I suspect that the switch from high/upper school from myspace -> face book may have more do do with the changes kids make when going to Uni than a pure class thing.

    Changing from liking teeny popbands to grungy emo punk bands for example.

    It also my be a realisation that a myspace page with semi pornographic glittery pink unicorns doesn’t normaly play well with potential employers.

  16. I got annoyed at the BBC’s poor reporting on the subject, treating it as a formal study.

    Following on from martin, i’d like to see this assessment in the UK where Bebo is near enough the biggest social network so how does that play into it.

  17. I got annoyed at the BBC’s poor reporting on the subject, treating it as a formal study.

    Following on from martin, i’d like to see this assessment in the UK where Bebo is near enough the biggest social network so how does that play into it.

  18. I got annoyed at the BBC’s poor reporting on the subject, treating it as a formal study.

    Following on from martin, i’d like to see this assessment in the UK where Bebo is near enough the biggest social network so how does that play into it.

  19. I was shocked to see it on BBC, treated as a full academic study. I tend to believe this facebook or myspace relation is less a direct link to class and more related to the individuals peer group.

  20. I was shocked to see it on BBC, treated as a full academic study. I tend to believe this facebook or myspace relation is less a direct link to class and more related to the individuals peer group.

  21. I was shocked to see it on BBC, treated as a full academic study. I tend to believe this facebook or myspace relation is less a direct link to class and more related to the individuals peer group.

  22. Actually, I was thinking something similar about Salon yesterday. We Net veterans remember that Salon grew out of The Well, which attracted media pros and professionals. A nerdy demographic that expressed itself well. I don’t read Salon nearly as much as I used to, so I was surprised to see the discussion threads have become as semiliterate as what one finds on the average site, say Yahoo comments. I wonder if the democratization of Salon drove the old, well-educated demographic away from commenting. Lord knows there are time when I don’t want to follow someone’s ‘X sucks!’ with a substantive remark.

  23. Actually, I was thinking something similar about Salon yesterday. We Net veterans remember that Salon grew out of The Well, which attracted media pros and professionals. A nerdy demographic that expressed itself well. I don’t read Salon nearly as much as I used to, so I was surprised to see the discussion threads have become as semiliterate as what one finds on the average site, say Yahoo comments. I wonder if the democratization of Salon drove the old, well-educated demographic away from commenting. Lord knows there are time when I don’t want to follow someone’s ‘X sucks!’ with a substantive remark.

  24. Actually, I was thinking something similar about Salon yesterday. We Net veterans remember that Salon grew out of The Well, which attracted media pros and professionals. A nerdy demographic that expressed itself well. I don’t read Salon nearly as much as I used to, so I was surprised to see the discussion threads have become as semiliterate as what one finds on the average site, say Yahoo comments. I wonder if the democratization of Salon drove the old, well-educated demographic away from commenting. Lord knows there are time when I don’t want to follow someone’s ‘X sucks!’ with a substantive remark.

  25. MySpace is great for indie musicians. I helped Jimi M’baye set up a Myspace page ( http://myspace.com/jimimbaye ) after I started hosting his website. I also ended up setting up my own myspace page to promote WorldBeatPlanet ( http://myspace.com/worldbeatplanet ). Not too long after Jimi set up his page, I notice a lot of other Senegalese musicians joined him. Thanks to myspace, Jimi sems to have more exposure online than Youssou N’dour, whose band he plays in.

  26. MySpace is great for indie musicians. I helped Jimi M’baye set up a Myspace page ( http://myspace.com/jimimbaye ) after I started hosting his website. I also ended up setting up my own myspace page to promote WorldBeatPlanet ( http://myspace.com/worldbeatplanet ). Not too long after Jimi set up his page, I notice a lot of other Senegalese musicians joined him. Thanks to myspace, Jimi sems to have more exposure online than Youssou N’dour, whose band he plays in.

  27. MySpace is great for indie musicians. I helped Jimi M’baye set up a Myspace page ( http://myspace.com/jimimbaye ) after I started hosting his website. I also ended up setting up my own myspace page to promote WorldBeatPlanet ( http://myspace.com/worldbeatplanet ). Not too long after Jimi set up his page, I notice a lot of other Senegalese musicians joined him. Thanks to myspace, Jimi sems to have more exposure online than Youssou N’dour, whose band he plays in.

  28. @5 – you obviously haven’t been reading Danah’s blog! Give her credit for a capacity to mediate between worlds – including those inimically hostile to academics.
    A related question is whether opening up LinkedIn is going to have the kind of ‘democratising’ effect as described in relation to Salon.

  29. @5 – you obviously haven’t been reading Danah’s blog! Give her credit for a capacity to mediate between worlds – including those inimically hostile to academics.
    A related question is whether opening up LinkedIn is going to have the kind of ‘democratising’ effect as described in relation to Salon.

  30. @5 – you obviously haven’t been reading Danah’s blog! Give her credit for a capacity to mediate between worlds – including those inimically hostile to academics.
    A related question is whether opening up LinkedIn is going to have the kind of ‘democratising’ effect as described in relation to Salon.

  31. My reason for avoiding MySpace is different: too many ads, and too much flashing. hard to find things and navigate. But I will admit that I am happily on Facebook and my foster kids are happily on MySpace.
    Why should one social network be for everybody? Aren’t there differences, class, race, whatever in real life? And don’t people create them? Social networks won’t be different. Eons is for people my age. Another form of discrimination. I don’t go there, either.

    I have a tendency to try everything and then settle on what’s truly useful to me.

  32. My reason for avoiding MySpace is different: too many ads, and too much flashing. hard to find things and navigate. But I will admit that I am happily on Facebook and my foster kids are happily on MySpace.
    Why should one social network be for everybody? Aren’t there differences, class, race, whatever in real life? And don’t people create them? Social networks won’t be different. Eons is for people my age. Another form of discrimination. I don’t go there, either.

    I have a tendency to try everything and then settle on what’s truly useful to me.

  33. My reason for avoiding MySpace is different: too many ads, and too much flashing. hard to find things and navigate. But I will admit that I am happily on Facebook and my foster kids are happily on MySpace.
    Why should one social network be for everybody? Aren’t there differences, class, race, whatever in real life? And don’t people create them? Social networks won’t be different. Eons is for people my age. Another form of discrimination. I don’t go there, either.

    I have a tendency to try everything and then settle on what’s truly useful to me.

  34. I saw a cartoon/comic on the web a while ago that seems applicable, thing is I can’t remember the link. It was funny though.
    It compared Wikipedia, YouTube, and My space. the guy in the first pane was chatting intellectually about something or other, and he was wikipedia. The guy in the second pane was laughing uproariously at something, and he was YouTube. The guy in the final pane was staring vacantly into space and drooling, guess who he was…
    Sorry, I know that descriptions of cartoons are nowhere near as funny as the cartoons themselves but as I said I can’t remember where I saw it (and yes I have tried looking for it.)

  35. I saw a cartoon/comic on the web a while ago that seems applicable, thing is I can’t remember the link. It was funny though.
    It compared Wikipedia, YouTube, and My space. the guy in the first pane was chatting intellectually about something or other, and he was wikipedia. The guy in the second pane was laughing uproariously at something, and he was YouTube. The guy in the final pane was staring vacantly into space and drooling, guess who he was…
    Sorry, I know that descriptions of cartoons are nowhere near as funny as the cartoons themselves but as I said I can’t remember where I saw it (and yes I have tried looking for it.)

  36. I saw a cartoon/comic on the web a while ago that seems applicable, thing is I can’t remember the link. It was funny though.
    It compared Wikipedia, YouTube, and My space. the guy in the first pane was chatting intellectually about something or other, and he was wikipedia. The guy in the second pane was laughing uproariously at something, and he was YouTube. The guy in the final pane was staring vacantly into space and drooling, guess who he was…
    Sorry, I know that descriptions of cartoons are nowhere near as funny as the cartoons themselves but as I said I can’t remember where I saw it (and yes I have tried looking for it.)

  37. This is not an academic study … why? Because there is no data… at least not enough data to make conclusions. for example … Facebook was launched as a school friends network. MySpace was for everyone. Are we comfortable about the demographic results? Of course we are…….. they are precisely as we would have exected.

  38. This is not an academic study … why? Because there is no data… at least not enough data to make conclusions. for example … Facebook was launched as a school friends network. MySpace was for everyone. Are we comfortable about the demographic results? Of course we are…….. they are precisely as we would have exected.

  39. This is not an academic study … why? Because there is no data… at least not enough data to make conclusions. for example … Facebook was launched as a school friends network. MySpace was for everyone. Are we comfortable about the demographic results? Of course we are…….. they are precisely as we would have exected.

  40. It would be interesting to see a comparison between America and the UK, as in England, class differences are more defined and accepted, although fading out with each generation.

    But I think it’s hard to seperate the social reasons for a teen picking Myspace or Facebook from other factors, such as the fact Myspace frequently crashes, or the fact it offers far greater scope of self-promotion (based on numbers alone). I see Myspace as a social network to broadcast from, and Facebook as a social network to connect with.

    It would also be interesting to see the correlation between social groups in the UK and use of Bebo and Faceparty. Certianly if you were looking for predominantly white, teen, trashy UK social networkers, then Faceparty would seem the most appropriate starting point.

  41. It would be interesting to see a comparison between America and the UK, as in England, class differences are more defined and accepted, although fading out with each generation.

    But I think it’s hard to seperate the social reasons for a teen picking Myspace or Facebook from other factors, such as the fact Myspace frequently crashes, or the fact it offers far greater scope of self-promotion (based on numbers alone). I see Myspace as a social network to broadcast from, and Facebook as a social network to connect with.

    It would also be interesting to see the correlation between social groups in the UK and use of Bebo and Faceparty. Certianly if you were looking for predominantly white, teen, trashy UK social networkers, then Faceparty would seem the most appropriate starting point.

  42. It would be interesting to see a comparison between America and the UK, as in England, class differences are more defined and accepted, although fading out with each generation.

    But I think it’s hard to seperate the social reasons for a teen picking Myspace or Facebook from other factors, such as the fact Myspace frequently crashes, or the fact it offers far greater scope of self-promotion (based on numbers alone). I see Myspace as a social network to broadcast from, and Facebook as a social network to connect with.

    It would also be interesting to see the correlation between social groups in the UK and use of Bebo and Faceparty. Certianly if you were looking for predominantly white, teen, trashy UK social networkers, then Faceparty would seem the most appropriate starting point.

  43. I like Danah. I lost her email when I lost my laptop. She’s a cool cat.

    She’s in L.A. now, I think. Thank you for the reminder to track her down :)

  44. I like Danah. I lost her email when I lost my laptop. She’s a cool cat.

    She’s in L.A. now, I think. Thank you for the reminder to track her down :)

  45. I like Danah. I lost her email when I lost my laptop. She’s a cool cat.

    She’s in L.A. now, I think. Thank you for the reminder to track her down :)

  46. This is why I love your blog. Its not just the tech stuff, but articles like this that you link to that spark great conversations.

  47. This is why I love your blog. Its not just the tech stuff, but articles like this that you link to that spark great conversations.

  48. This is why I love your blog. Its not just the tech stuff, but articles like this that you link to that spark great conversations.