PostHeaderIcon Keynote Talk: danah boyd on “Publicity and Privacy in Web 2.0″

Thursday, 9:00–10:00 AM, Ballroom A
danah boyd

danah boyd

With brilliant repetition, an argument is espoused every few years that privacy is now finally dead because of some new web practice. Recently, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg justified his company’s decision to switch defaults to “everyone” with the logic that the youngest generation no longer cares about privacy. Similarly, Google’s Eric Schmidt claimed, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” These arguments are espoused by the most privileged technologists like clockwork.

Amidst this public discourse, individuals are battling out what it means to navigate an ever-shifting public landscape, carving out privacy in ways that are meaningful to them. In doing so, they highlight the complex and intertwined ways in which privacy and publicity operate.

In this talk, I will use various Web 2.0 and social media sites as foils for thinking about how privacy is baked into technology before turning to the practices of people as they seek to make sense of these spaces. I will lay out how we’ve moved from a “private by default, public through effort” culture to one that is now “public by default, private through effort.” I will consider the differences between PII (personally identifiable information) and PEI (personally embarrassing information) to discuss how privacy debates are necessarily shifting. Finally, I will look at the practices of celebrities and micro-celebrities, groups that are seeking publicity in new ways through mediated technologies. Woven into this analysis will be a discussion of youth practices, as their norms and expectations are shaping how privacy and publicity are playing out.

Privacy is not dead, but it is deeply misunderstood. The goal of my talk will be to provide a framework for understanding how privacy and publicity are changing and the implications that this has for designers, developers, scholars, and participants.

danah boyd is with Microsoft Research New England and a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Dr. boyd’s research “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” focuses on how American youth use networked publics for sociable purposes. She examines the role that social network sites like MySpace and Facebook play in everyday teen interactions and social relations. Her interests reside in how mediated environments alter the structural conditions in which teens operate, forcing them to manage complex dynamics like interacting before invisible audiences, managing context collisions, and negotiating the convergence of public and private life. The MacArthur Foundation funded the research as part of a broader grant on digital youth and informal learning.

At the Berkman Center, danah co-directs the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to work with companies and non-profits to identify potential technical solutions for keeping children safe online. This Task Force was formed by the U.S. Attorneys General and MySpace and is organized by the Center.

Dr. boyd received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University, a master’s degree in sociable media from MIT Media Lab, and doctoral degree from the University of California-Berkeley. She has worked as an ethnographer and social media researcher for various corporations, including Intel,, Google, and Yahoo! She also created and managed a large online community for V-Day, a non-profit organization working to end violence against women and girls worldwide. She has advised numerous other companies, sits on corporate, education, and non-profit advisory boards, and regularly speaks at industry conferences and events. She maintains a blog on social media called Apophenia.

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Host Institutions
North Carolina State University University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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