Tonight at Harvard Book Store! danah boyd talks teens, technology and social media myths at book signing

 |   Lauren Metter

It's ComplicatedYour 15-year-old daughter grew up with Twitter. Before you can begin to figure out what a “hashtag” is, she’s posting a beautifully complex story of her life on Instagram. As you scroll through her photos, drinking in this online identity that you’d never seen before, she’s on to choosing which track to live-stream from the millions she has at her fingertips thanks to SoundCloud.

Then there are the protests going on in the Ukraine and Venezuela right now. Or the #Sochi2014 Winter Games. You sit down at the kitchen table ready to ask if she’s seen this or that, but your daughter already knows all about them. She looks up from her phone. She “saw it on Twitter.”

How do you feel about the social life of your networked teenage daughter?

It’s Complicated.

But also relevant as constantly evolving technologies continue to impact our lives.

Which is why we can’t wait to check out one of the world’s pre-eminent authorities on social media, youth advocate, MIT alum and principal researcher at Microsoft Research danah boyd’s new book (out today!), It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. And we don’t have to: danah will be here in Cambridge at Harvard Book Store tonight at 7pm to talk with you about it. The event is free.

danah boyd
danah boyd

In the book, danah uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media: identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. But she ultimately argues that society fails young people when too much paternalism, or over-protection, hinders teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Boyd finds that despite their elders attempting to crack down, teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity via the social sphere.

Why does Microsoft  invest in social media research? Jennifer Chayes—Microsoft distinguished engineer, managing director of Microsoft Research New England, and boyd’s manager—explains.

“Microsoft Research provides an interdisciplinary environment in which researchers can pursue basic research in a variety of areas,” she says. “Our thriving Social Media Collective, including sociologists, anthropologists, and communications and policy scholars, interacts with computer scientists who understand the structure of the Internet and the web, the security protocols, and the algorithms that enable online interaction.

“This environment leads to a holistic view of social media that informs and advances danah’s research agenda. Of course, we also are thrilled to support her fieldwork with teenagers, which reaches beyond the confines of the online world.”

That research, Chayes adds, is important for Microsoft—and others.

“Microsoft derives incredible value from danah’s research on teens and their online practices,” Chayes says. “There’s a lot of speculation and misinformation on what teens are seeking in their online experiences—how they view privacy, how they connect with each other. Danah busts those myths wide open by actually spending time interviewing teenagers from different backgrounds, on their home turf. Her groundbreaking work informs parents, legislators, and, of course, Microsoft. The more we understand about how teens interact, the more we can ensure that our products enhance these interactions in positive ways.”

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Boyd’s book and the research that influenced her findings in this super interesting Q&A via the Inside Microsoft Research blog.

And we’ll see you tonight!

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