Bookmarked (

Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being. And yet, when there are numbers beckoning, I am no better than a moth who sees a fire.

Source: My name is danah and I’m a stats addict by danah boyd

Danah Boyd questions the merit and meaning of measuring endless amounts of stats online. This is not to say that statistics are all bad, but the incessant amount of numbers associated with hits, follows, likes are not helpful.

Bookmarked In the Pursuit of Knowledge, There Be Dragons – danah boyd – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

When you build a visualization tool, you will want to see it for all that it can be, for all that it can do. That is only natural. It takes significant effort to see the complexity of your own work. But doing so is important. Visualizations have power. They can convey information and amplify certain interpretations. This means that they are political artifacts, regardless of what you may wish them to be. My ask of you today is simple: pay attention to the limits and biases of your data and the ramifications of your choices. Put another way, there be dragons everywhere. Design with care and intention, humility and flexibility.

In a keynote for IEEE Vis 2021, danah boyd asks us to see data and information differently. Rather than being seduced by the illusion of precision, we need to consider the limits of data and the biases embedded within visualisations.

Data cannot speak for themselves. Data are never neutral. Data have biases and limitations, vulnerabilities and uncertainty. And when data are put into a position of power, data are often twisted and contorted in countless ways. As the economist Ronald Coase once said, “if you torture the data long enough, it will confess.”

Learning how to truly see data is one of the hardest parts of doing data science. The first step is recognizing that data cannot be taken for granted. Data must be coaxed into showing their weaknesses. The weaknesses are not always obvious. As a tool, visualization can help reveal data’s weaknesses, or obscure them.

Associated with all of this is the context in which data is used. boyd argues that visualizations can help reveal data’s weaknesses, or obscure them.

The work of visualization — like the work of animation — is fundamentally about communication. Even if your data are nice and neat, the choices you make in producing a visualization of that data shape how those data will be perceived. You have the power to shape perception, whether you want to or not. There is no neutral visualization, just as there is no neutral data. Thus, in building your tools, you must account for your interlocutors. What are you trying to convey to them? When do you need to stretch the ball so that the viewer sees the information as intended?

The challenge we face is being conscious of these limitations and the way in which data is politicized and perverts.

When you build a visualization tool, you will want to see it for all that it can be, for all that it can do.

It is interesting to consider this in regards to my work with schools and absence data. I am often asked to represent seemingly simple questions, such as how many days was x away or how many days was x late? One of the biggest problems is that this is often based on assumptions that the data has been entered both correctly and uniformly. For example, what constitutes a ‘late’? Is it when a student arrives at 9:15am? What about 10:30am after an appointment? In addition to this, when you count absences or attendances, are you counting excursions? Days that students have been asked to work from home? Days when students have stay home due to having symptoms? I feel this only becomes more confusing when you step back and view the numbers at large.

Bookmarked Knitting a Healthy Social Fabric. – danah boyd – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

Our civic infrastructure and social contract are crumbling. We all know that education has a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy. Yet, what I want you to take away from my talk today is that building and knitting the social fabric connecting your students is as important as the material you teach. You have the power to construct social networks in a healthy way. And those of you who build tools have the ability to enable such connections through your design decisions. Ignoring this won’t make it go away, but it may help our country fall apart. My ask of you today is to take this need seriously and strategize ways to knit the social fabric collaboratively.

In a keynote at Educause’s annual conference, danah boyd the role played by schools in building the social fabric of the future.

Beyond interests, we look for people who are like us because this is easier, more comfortable. Sociologists call this “homophily” — birds of a feather stick together. But there are choices that we make in an education context that increase or decrease the diversity of people’s social networks. And those choices have lifelong and societal consequences. Those choices happen whether we intend for them to or not.

boyd argues that there are three ways in which people bond: an intrinsic alignment, extrinsic enemy and shared vulnerability. I guess this is why things like school camps and outdoor education activities are so powerful. However, with all this, building bonds and social ties seems to have been something overlooked during the pandemic and offsite learning.

For the last year, as students have negotiated K-12 and college during a pandemic, the lack of awareness about the importance of social tie development became even more profound. We’ve seen countless tools built to help students obtain the school material. Teachers invested in finding ways to transfer classroom pedagogy to the internet, to produce more interactive and compelling video content, often using tools like polls to interact with students. But the primary relationship that was considered was one rooted in a notable power differential — the dynamic between the teacher and the student. Yes, students have still been required to negotiate group projects on Zoom, but how many tools have been rolled out this year that are really about strengthening ties between students? Helping students connect with others in a healthy way? Most of what I’ve seen has focused on increasing competition and guilt. Tools that are designed so that everyone can see each other’s assignments, complete with timestamps that reveal the complex lives students face navigating virtual school. Tools that privilege those who can perform. And tools that are rooted in accounting and accountability. Why are we not seeing tools to help students bond across difference?

The problem is that in a world of polarisation and social fracture, connections are the strongest weapons we have. As boyd explains,

To radically alter how people see the world, you have to alter their connections to those who might challenge these new frames.

boyd puts forward some ideas for a more thoughtful social fabric. These include pushing back on drumbeat around stranger danger so that we can actually speak to others, creating digital outreach programs to support those in pain online, and being more deliberate about social networks within schools.

If you put the social network at the center of your work, how might that change some of your practices? As an administrator, you could assign classrooms strategically. As a teacher, this could shape how you constructed group projects, how you seated students. You do much of this by feel already, but a tool lets you shift your goals. Rather than making your goal be about the success of the group project, imagine a goal that’s about strengthening the graph of the students.

Although boyd’s focus is on the American education system, it is still an interesting concept to consider. Personally, I have not seen a lot of opportunity to build social ties. Sadly, when there is a will there is a way and some students find their own way to connect in less structured spaces. Although I am an advocate for more deliberate social spaces in education, someone has to support such spaces.

Liked danah boyd | apophenia » I AM OFFLINE! On Email Sabbatical from December 9 – January 12 (

I am offline, taking a deeply needed break while traveling. During the duration of my break, no email will be received by my computer. All email sent to me during this period will be redirected to /dev/null (aka “the trash”). If you send me a message during this period, I will never receive it and never respond to it. If you need to contact me, please send your email after January 12. If it is urgent and you know how to reach my mother, I will be in touch with her every few days. But I am intentionally unreachable during this period. Please respect that a girl needs a break and this is mine.

via Cory Doctorow
Bookmarked The case for quarantining extremist ideas (

The emphasis of strategic silence must be placed on the strategic over the silencing. Every story requires a choice and the recent turn toward providing equal coverage to dangerous, antisocial opinions requires acknowledging the suffering that such reporting causes. Even attempts to cover extremism critically can result in the media disseminating the methods that hate groups aim to spread, such as when Virginia’s Westmoreland News reproduced in full a local KKK recruitment flier on its front page. Media outlets who cannot argue that their reporting benefits the goal of a just and ethical society must opt for silence.

danah boyd and Joan Donovan explain that sometimes not sharing is in fact caring, especially if ideas being shared are extreme and doing so will simply amplify them further. It is also interesting reading this alongside Ian O’Byrne’s discussion of trading up the chain.

When memes, fake accounts, bots, and algorithms unite and trade up the chain, the average is unable to critically examine this content and use it to make decisions. When it is picked up by journalists, the rumor becomes fact.

via Digitally Literate newsletter

Bookmarked Teens Are Addicted to Socializing, Not Screens (

when physical distancing is no longer required, we’ll get to see that social closeness often involves meaningful co-presence with other humans. Adults took this for granted, but teens had few other options outside of spaces heavily controlled by adults. They went online not because the technology is especially alluring, but because it has long been the most viable option for having meaningful connections with friends given the way that their lives have been structured. Maybe now adults will start recognizing what my research showed: youth are “addicted” to sociality, not technology for technology’s sake.

danah boyd reflects on the current flip to online learning suggesting that days spent in a Zoom meeting is not what teens crave.

TV may have killed the radio star, but Zoom and Google Hangouts are going to kill the delight and joy in spending all day in front of screens.

Discussing her research into teens and technology, she explains that what they have always craved is social interactions. I have noticed this with Ms 9 who counts down the minutes to her WebEx sessions.

Replied to When A Stumble Goes Viral by Kevin’s Meandering Mind | Author | dogtrax (

My son was running an event he had not run before at his high school indoor track meet the other day. We were cheering him on — he’s fast — when he took a turn and began to stumble. He fell to the track but then muscled his way back to his feet and crossed the finish line, unhurt but very frustrated.

The next day, he told us that a friend on the track team had been shooting video of his race, caught the stumble, and had remixed the footage for Tik Tok. My son said he was fine with it. The video clip does not show my son’s face or any other identifying features. It’s shot from the back. Strangely, the friend edited the video to indicate to the audience in the opening frame it was him (the friend) in the video. Maybe this was to protect my son’s privacy.

Kevin, I was left wondering about the ethics of sharing. I imagine that ‘technically’ videoing the incident is ok, even if it does seem a bit weird. However, sharing is a different problem. It reminds me of danah boyd’s discussion of Star Wars kid in her book It’s Complicated.

The “Star Wars Kid” video is a classic example of a widely viewed video that was shared online to embarrass a teen. In 2002, a fourteen-year-old heavyset boy created a home video of himself swinging a golf ball retriever as though it was a light saber from Star Wars. A year later, a classmate of his found this home video, digitized it, and put it up online. Others edited the video, setting the action to music and dubbing in sound effects, graphics, and other special effects. The resultant “Star Wars Kid” video spread rapidly and received extensive media attention. It became the source of new memes and mocking video spin-offs. Even comedians like Weird Al Yankovic and Stephen Colbert produced their own renditions. Although people gained attention for spreading the video or creating their own versions, the cost of this mass attention was devastating to the teenager in the video. His family sued his classmates for emotional duress because of
the ongoing harassment he faced.

The “Star Wars Kid” video exemplifies how mass public shaming is a byproduct of widespread internet attention and networked distribution. Teenagers commonly face a lesser version of this when they receive unexpected and unwanted attention, when they become the target of a rumor, or when others share their content beyond its intended audience. Social media complicates the dynamics of social sharing and gossip because it provides a platform for information to spread far and wide, and people are often motivated to spread embarrassing content because others find it interesting. Spreadable media can be used to drum up productive attention, but it can also be used to shame.

Bookmarked danah boyd | apophenia » Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On (

The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good. But it’s not enough to say that we’re going to do good; we need to collectively define — and hold each other to — shared values and standards.

People can change. Institutions can change. But doing so requires all who harmed — and all who benefited from harm — to come forward, admit their mistakes, and actively take steps to change the power dynamics. It requires everyone to hold each other accountable, but also to aim for reconciliation not simply retribution. So as we leave here tonight, let’s stop designing the technologies envisioned in dystopian novels. We need to heed the warnings of artists, not race head-on into their nightmares. Let’s focus on hearing the voices and experiences of those who have been harmed because of the technologies that made this industry so powerful. And let’s collaborate with and design alongside those communities to fix these wrongs, to build just and empowering technologies rather than those that reify the status quo.

Accepting the 2019 Barlow/Pioneer Award, danah boyd reflects on her journey through technology, her experiences of abuse and learning to stay small.

Let me be clear — this is deeply destabilizing for me. I am here today in-no-small-part because I benefited from the generosity of men who tolerated and, in effect, enabled unethical, immoral, and criminal men. And because of that privilege, I managed to keep moving forward even as the collateral damage of patriarchy stifled the voices of so many others around me. I am angry and sad, horrified and disturbed because I know all too well that this world is not meritocratic. I am also complicit in helping uphold these systems.

I am here today because I learned how to survive and thrive in a man’s world, to use my tongue wisely, watch my back, and dodge bullets. I am being honored because I figured out how to remove a few bricks in those fortified walls so that others could look in. But this isn’t enough.

This all comes on light of all those who have benefited from the ties with Jeffrey Epstein.

boyd explains that we are now faced with a challenge to build, rather than break, a better web.

The Great Reckoning is in front of us. How we respond to the calls for justice will shape the future of technology and society. We must hold accountable all who perpetuate, amplify, and enable hate, harm, and cruelty. But accountability without transformation is simply spectacle. We owe it to ourselves and to all of those who have been hurt to focus on the root of the problem. We also owe it to them to actively seek to not build certain technologies because the human cost is too great.

Listened Emotions, relationships & technology from Radio National

Our emotions are being manipulated, hacked and shared like never before. So what does this mean for their future, our relationships and the technology that’s reading them?

Edwina Stott facilities a dive into children’s engagement with online spaces. Keith Stewart discusses the use of Fortnite as as modern skatepark where kids are able to congregate online. This reminds me of danah boyd’s point in her book It’s Complicated, that where teens may have gone to the mall in the 80’s, they have been forced online as the last refuge available:

The social media tools that teens use are direct descendants of the hangouts and other public places in which teens have been congregating for decades. What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now. Teens flock to them knowing they can socialize with friends and become better acquainted with classmates and peers they don’t know as well. They embrace social media for roughly the same reasons earlier generations of teens attended sock hops, congregated in parking lots, colonized people’s front stoops, or tied up the phone lines for hours on end. Teens want to gossip, flirt, complain, compare notes, share passions, emote, and joke around. They want to be able to talk among themselves—even if that means going online.(Page 20-21)

This episode also raises the question about the internet of things and the potential to gather emotional data. This is a topic touched upon by Ben Williamson in his book Big Data in Education.

Bookmarked Agnotology and Epistemological Fragmentation (
In a talk at the Digital Public Library of America conference (DPLAfest), danah Boyd lays out the information war that we are currently involved in. Doug Belshaw added some thoughts to this discussion, highlighting the particular challenges associated with networks.


Epistemology is the term that describes how we know what we know. Most people who think about knowledge think about the processes of obtaining it. Ignorance is often assumed to be not-yet-knowledgeable. But what if ignorance is strategically manufactured? What if the tools of knowledge production are perverted to enable ignorance?

What’s at stake right now is not simply about hate speech vs. free speech or the role of state-sponsored bots in political activity. It’s much more basic. It’s about purposefully and intentionally seeding doubt to fragment society. To fragment epistemologies. This is a tactic that was well-honed by propagandists.

One of the best ways to seed agnotology is to make sure that doubtful and conspiratorial content is easier to reach than scientific material. And then to make sure that what scientific information is available, is undermined. One tactic is to exploit “data voids.” These are areas within a search ecosystem where there’s no relevant data; those who want to manipulate media purposefully exploit these. Breaking news is one example of this. Another is to co-opt a term that was left behind, like social justice.

Listened Ep. 102 danah boyd “Seeing New Worlds” from Team Human

Playing for Team Human today, technology and social media scholar, founder of Data & Society Research Institute, and author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, danah boyd.

In a conversation between danah boyd and Doug Rushkoff, she explains that at the heart of our current problems with media, facts and trust is capitalism. By design capitalism gives you what you want. The problem though is that capitalism and democracy are no longer constrained within nation states as they may have been in the past. There is neither the opportunity for nationalistic paternalism to moderate wants nor a means of managing different groups. Media in a multi-national environment has become confusing. We are now in a world of networks and graphs. All media companies are in the business for amplification, the problem has therefore become what is amplified, which as so many have pointed out is often at the extremes. danah boyd says that we need an intervention, but to achieve that we firstly need to be appreciate all the micro-decisions that got us to here. How do we deal with these well intended decisions when they have negative implications? One of the challenges is filling the data voids, rather than blocking various search terms we need to develop the content that maybe missing. This is particularly important for today’s young people, for

if we don’t support young people in building out a strategically rich graph, they will reinforce the worst segments of our society (1.10)

For those who may not have kept up with boyd’s work since It’s Complicated, this is a really good introduction.

Bookmarked Media Manipulation, Strategic Amplification, and Responsible Journalism by danah boyd (Points | Medium)

You are not algorithms. But you are also not neutral. And because you have the power to amplify messages, people also want to manipulate you. That’s just par for the course. And in today’s day and age, it’s not just corporations, governments, and PR shops that have your number. Just as the US military needed to change tactics to grapple with a tribal, networked, and distributed adversary, so must you. Focus on networks — help connect people to information. Build networks across information and across people. Be an embedded part of the social fabric of this country.

Democracy depends on you.

In a talk given at the Online News Association conference in Austin, Texas on September 13, 2018, danah boyd continues the challenge as to how we respond to the current state of play. Although the speech and attached notes ask a number of questions of the web we have today, I always find boyd’s responses to the Q and A at the end of her presentations really insightful. She discusses the changes to journalism and the need to fill the gaps within the news.
Replied to Reply to dailyponderance on public reading by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (BoffoSocko)

Replied to a post by Greg McVerry Greg McVerry (INTERTEXTrEVOLUTION)
Today’s #dailyponderance comes from us via Cheri Who read about @hypothesis in @chrisaldrich’s last #dailyponderance post. Your point to ponder what does public reading mean? Does performative nature come into play?
Join the…

Chris, although boyd’s book is not cutting edge, it provides a useful starting point for those – particularly in education – who have run from or ignored the evolution of teens and online spaces.
Liked The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

Many Americans — especially conservative Americans — do not trust contemporary news organizations. This “crisis” is well-trod territory, but the focus on fact-checking, media literacy, and business models tends to obscure three features of the contemporary information landscape that I think are poorly understood:

  • Differences in worldview are being weaponized to polarize society.
  • We cannot trust organizations, institutions, or professions when they’re abstracted away from us.
  • Economic structures built on value extraction cannot enable healthy information ecosystems.


Doctorow creates these oppositional positions to make a point and to highlight that there is a war over epistemology, or the way in which we produce knowledge.The reality is much messier, because what’s at stake isn’t simply about resolving two competing worldviews. Rather, what’s at stake is how there is no universal way of knowing, and we have reached a stage in our political climate where there is more power in seeding doubt, destabilizing knowledge, and encouraging others to distrust other systems of knowledge production.

As the institutional construction of news media becomes more and more proximately divorced from the vast majority of people in the United States, we can and should expect trust in news to decline. No amount of fact-checking will make up for a widespread feeling that coverage is biased. No amount of articulated ethical commitments will make up for the feeling that you are being fed clickbait headlines.

It doesn’t take a quasi-documentary to realize that McDonald’s is not a fast-food franchise; it’s a real estate business that uses a franchise structure to extract capital from naive entrepreneurs.

no amount of innovative new business models will make up for the fact that you can’t sustain responsible journalism within a business structure that requires newsrooms to make more money quarter over quarter to appease investors. This does not mean that you can’t build a sustainable news business, but if the news is beholden to investors trying to extract value, it’s going to impossible. And if news companies have no assets to rely on (such as their now-sold real estate), they are fundamentally unstable and likely to engage in unhealthy business practices out of economic desperation.

ROI capitalism isn’t the only version of capitalism out there. We take it for granted and tacitly accept its weaknesses by creating binaries, as though the only alternative is Cold War Soviet Union–styled communism. We’re all frogs in an ocean that’s quickly getting warmer. Two degrees will affect a lot more than oceanfront properties.

There are three key higher-order next steps, all of which are at the scale of the New Deal.

  • Create a sustainable business structure for information intermediaries (like news organizations) that allows them to be profitable without the pressure of ROI.
  • Actively and strategically rebuild the social networks of America.
  • Find new ways of holding those who are struggling.

Trust cannot be demanded. It’s only earned by being there at critical junctures when people are in crisis and need help. You don’t earn trust when things are going well; you earn trust by being a rock during a tornado.

Replied to Bildungs Punk at Re:publica 18 (bavatuesdays)

I am holding off because I have not watched boyd’s version of this talk at SXSWedu a couple of months earlier, and I wanted to given it came up in the Virtually Connecting session later that day.

Having watched boyd’s lecture, I thought that it continued the conversation from Digital Media Lab, last year, rather than SXSW.

That presentation is worth watching (or listening) too as well.

How is it that its not necessarily [technologies] intentions, but the structuring configuration that causes the pain

danah boyd continues her investigation of algorithms and the way in which our data is being manipulated. This is very much a wicked problem with no clear answer. Data & Society have also published a primer on the topic. I wonder if it starts by being aware of the systemic nature of it all? Alternatively, Jamie Williams and Lena Gunn provide five questions to consider when using algorithms.

via Jenny Mackness and Ian O’Byrne.

danah boyd discusses concerns about the weaponising of media literacy through denalism and says that there is a need for cognitive strengthening. This includes:

  1. “Actively taking things out of context can be helpful for analysis”
  2. “help students truly appreciate epistemological differences”
  3. “help students see how they fill in gaps when the information presented to them is sparse and how hard it is to overcome priors [confirmation bias and selective attention]”

Benjamin Doxtdator raises the concern that focusing on the individual:

Would boyd’s cognitive strength training exercises have helped here? No. Turning inwards to psychology, rather outwards to the political context, is precisely what gives us ‘lone wolf’ analyses of white supremacy.

Instead Doxtdator suggests considering the technical infrastructure. Interestingly, she does touch on platforms in the Q&A at the end:

One of the things that is funny is that these technologies get designed for a very particular idea of what they could be used for and then they twist in different ways.source

The original text that the keynote was based on can be found here, while a response to some of the criticism can be found here.

Liked The Reality of Twitter Puffery. Or Why Does Everyone Now Hate Bots? (Medium)

I’ve never been one to feel the need to put on a lot of makeup in order to leave the house and I haven’t been someone who felt the need to buy bots to appear cool online. But I find it deeply hypocritical to listen to journalists and politicians wring their hands about fake followers and bots given that they’ve been playing at that game for a long time. Who among them is really innocent of trying to garner attention through any means possible?

Bookmarked Panicked about Kids’ Addiction to Tech? by danah boyd (NewCoShift)

Many people have unhealthy habits and dynamics in their life. Some are rooted in physical addiction. Others are habitual or psychological crutches. But across that spectrum, most people are aware of when something that they’re doing isn’t healthy. They may not be able to stop. Or they may not want to stop. Untangling that is part of the challenge. When you feel as though your child has an unhealthy relationship with technology (or anything else in their life), you need to start by asking if they see this the same way you do. When parents feel as though what their child is doing is unhealthy for them, but the child does not, the intervention has to be quite different than when the child is also concerned about the issue.

danah boyd suggests that there is a lot of hype associated with kids addiction and suggests that some of the problems may be associated with the parents themselves:

Parents don’t like to see that they’re part of the problem or that their efforts to protect and help their children might backfire.

In response, she suggests two things for parents to do:

  1. Verbalize what you’re doing with your phone’
  2. Create a household contract

After reading this, I tried verbalising my actions and it soon becomes apparent when maybe the phone could go away.

Bookmarked Beyond the Rhetoric of Algorithmic Solutionism by dana boyd (Points)

Rather than thinking of AI as “artificial intelligence,” Eubanks effectively builds the case for how we should think that AI often means “automating inequality” in practice.

danah boyd reviews a book by Virginia Eubanks which takes a look at the way(s) that algorithms work within particular communities. Along with Weapons of Math Destruction and Williamson’s Big Data in Education, they provide a useful starting point for discussing big data today.