danah boyd

Microsoft Research

Transparency Is Not Enough
15 minutes, 7.2mb, recorded 2010-05-26
danah boyd

Data transparency is not enough; danah boyd powerfully argues to the Gov 2.0 audience how the character of data depends on its interpretation and why the public must acquire data literacy. If people are ignorant about how data is generated, selected and interpreted, power accrues to those who can 'spin' the data to support their opinions and biases. Using the example of publicly available sex offender data, released under Megan's Law, boyd shows that understanding the complexity of data is just as important as making it transparent.

boyd applauds those who are working to make data transparent, however she argues we have to take it one step further. Information is complicated, and understanding how datasets are created, what is included and excluded, and how it's interpreted is imperative to avoiding data misinterpretation and manipulation by those in power. According to boyd, as data, and access to data, becomes more and more ubiquitous, it's crucial the public also has the tools to understand and interpret it wisely.

danah boyd (who prefers to lower case her name) is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. boyd’s dissertation “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” focused on how American youth use social media. She examined the role that social network sites like MySpace and Facebook play in everyday teen interactions. She was interested in how mediated environments alter the structural conditions in which teens operate. Teens are forced to manage complex dynamics like interacting before invisible audiences, managing context collisions, and negotiating the convergence of public and private life. This work was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of a broader grant on digital youth and informal learning.

Dr. boyd received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and a master’s degree in sociable media from MIT Media Lab. She has worked as an ethnographer and social media researcher for various corporations, including Intel, Tribe.net, 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 and sits on corporate, education, and non-profit advisory boards. She regularly speaks at industry conferences and events.


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