danah boyd

Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

Expert on "big data" and youth culture in a
networked era — from online bullying to privacy.

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Fast Company's 1000 Most Creative People in Business 2014
The TIME Tech 40: The Most Influential Minds in Tech

danah boyd is an internationally recognized authority on the ways people use networked social media as a context for social interaction — who uses technology, what they do there, and why as well as the privacy and data-related implications of these practices. She has been called the "high priestess" of online social network sites by the Financial Times.

danah researches how social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are integrated into people's daily practices. Historically, her work focused on American youth practices. More recently, she is examining issues of privacy, “big data”, and the possible unintended consequences of data-driven technologies.

In 2014, she published It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. In this eye-opening book, danah uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Her conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come.

danah's newest book is Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics (coauthors Mimi Ito and Henry Jenkins). In this book the authors examine the ways in which our personal and professional lives are shaped by experiences interacting with and around emerging media.

Currently, she is running Data & Society, a research institute focused on examining the social and cultural issues that emerge around data-driven technologies, including issues as varied as automation and intelligent systems, networked privacy, and the civil rights implications of “big data.”

Previously, danah was one of the researchers in a major 3-year study of digital youth funded by the MacArthur Foundation, resulting in the publication of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media.

She is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, the President of Data & Society, and a Visiting Professor at New York University.

She has worked as an ethnographer and social media researcher for various corporations, including Intel, Tribe.net, Google and Yahoo! She has advised and consulted for dozens of other companies. She also spent five years creating and managing a large-scale online community for V-Day, a non-profit organization working to end the violence against women and girls worldwide.

danah is on the board of the Crisis Text Line, an organization that provides counseling services to struggling youth through text messaging. She's also a Trustee of Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. She is a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Data Advisory Council. She is on the advisory boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and both University of California at Berkeley and University of Michigan’s School of Information. Perviously, danah was Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

She also regularly writes academic publications and mainstream essays, published in a range of venues, including the Guardian, New York Times, and TIME. danah is one of Foreign Policy's 2012 Top 100 Global Thinkers. She was named by Fast Company to their list of the Most Influential Women in Technology and named the smartest academic in tech by Fortune Magazine. She won CITASA's Public Sociology Award. And in 2010, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.


  • Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research
  • Research Assistant Professor, New York University Department of Media, Culture and Communication
  • Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New South Wales
  • Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012
  • Funded by the MacArthur Foundation
  • Formerly a researcher for: Yahoo!, Google, Tribe.net, Intel.
  • One of the Most Influential Women in Technology, Fast Company
  • Smartest Academic in Tech, Fortune Magazine
  • CITASA Public Sociology Award
  • World Economic Forum Young Global Leader
  • MIT Presidential Fellow
  • PhD, School of Information, University of California-Berkeley
  • Masters in Sociable Media, MIT MediaLab
  • Bachelors in Computer Science, Brown University
  • Former Advisory Board for LiveJournal, Blyk, Technorati, Youth Media Exchange, O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference, SXSW-Interactive, and Blogher
  • Former Director of New Media Consortium
  • Co-director of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force and the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative
  • Member of the Ad Council's Internet Safety Coalition
  • Commissioner on the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy Profiled in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, and Financial Times

Academic credentials

  • Ph.D in Information, University of California-Berkeley, 2008; Master’s in Sociable Media, MIT Media Lab, 2002; Bachelor’s in Computer Science, Brown University, 2000.
  • Her Ph.D. dissertation focused on how American youth engage in networked publics like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. This work was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of a broader grant on digital youth and informal learning.
  • She has published dozens of academic articles in venues like New Media & Society, First Monday, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, International Journal of Communication, and Information, Communication, and Society. See the full list at danah.org.


Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics

danah boyd, Mizuko Ito and Henry Jenkins

In the last two decades, both the conception and the practice of participatory culture have been transformed by the new affordances enabled by digital, networked, and mobile technologies. This exciting new book explores that transformation by bringing together three leading figures in conversation. Jenkins, Ito and boyd examine the ways in which our personal and professional lives are shaped by experiences interacting with and around emerging media.

Stressing the social and cultural contexts of participation, the authors describe the process of diversification and mainstreaming that has transformed participatory culture. They advocate a move beyond individualized personal expression and argue for an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.”

Participatory Culture in a Networked Era will interest students and scholars of digital media and their impact on society and will engage readers in a broader dialogue and conversation about their own participatory practices in this digital age.

Polity; 1 edition (October 5, 2015)
Polity; 1 edition (November 16, 2015)


"Jenkins, Ito and boyd offer us all a wonderful gift in the form of this book — it’s as though one gets a chance to listen in on a great dinner party conversation between three brilliant scholars, reflecting on more than twenty years of trenchant scholarship on culture, play, identity, and the emergence of the digital world."
— John Palfrey, Phillips Academy

"These authors practise what they preach! To unlock the promise of participatory culture, Jenkins, Ito and boyd invite us to join their intellectual conversation as they puzzle over the dilemmas, insights and challenges of living in a networked era. This is an exciting way to engage with a fast-developing field of research, knowledge and experience."
— Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics

"The idea of scholarship as dialogue is one that lies buried deep within the humanities. In the pages of this engaging and accessible book, Jenkins, Ito and boyd have brought the ethos of dialogue very much to the surface. Their conversation is an entirely apt technique for reflecting on what is by now a sustained history of collaboration on questions of informal learning, participation and power in the evolving digital media environment."
— Jean Burgess, Queensland University of Technology

It's Complicated

The Social Lives of Networked Teens

danah boyd

What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.

Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.

Yale University Press (February 25, 2014)

Why Teens Are Innovators of a New Public Form of Privacy — Fast Co Exist

Audio Interview
Online, Researcher Says, Teens Do What They've Always DoneNPR

It's Complicated

A wise guide for parents worried about the webThe Irish Times
Status UpdateThe New York Times Sunday Book Review
(must, MUST read) — boing boing
Book Review — BlogHer
Teenage angst in a digital worldFinancial Times

“In explaining the networked realm of teens, boyd has the insights of a sociologist, the eye of a reporter, and the savvy of a technologist. For parents puzzled about what their kids are doing online, this is an indispensable book.”

— Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, author of Steve Jobs

“Painstakingly researched through interviews and close study for more than a decade, boyd’s book is the most important analysis of networked culture I’ve yet to read.”

— Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“If you want to understand the digital worlds inhabited by today’s young people, this is the book to read.”
— Howard Gardner, coauthor of The App Generation

“boyd has done her homework and listened well. She is a high-tech medium translating the language and meaning of teenagers and social networking.”

— Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and In the Body of the World

“I want to get this publication into the hands of every teacher, parent, policy maker, and journalist. Thoughtful in her analysis and adept at skewering the most common misunderstandings and anxieties about teens’ online lives, boyd is the best possible person to write a book like this, and this book does not disappoint in any way.”

— Henry Jenkins, coauthor of Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture

“Astute, nuanced, provocative and hopeful, boyd does it all in this must-read treatise on teens and their digital lives.”

— Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO, Family Online Safety Institute

“danah boyd is one of the smartest people thinking about how teenagers use the Internet — a topic of enormous importance to parents, me included. Her book is smart, sophisticated, and imbued throughout with a rare and wonderful sensitivity to the real, lived experiences of teenagers. Read it to understand what they’re doing online, and why — you’ll come away enlightened!”

— Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

“Impeccably researched, written and argued, danah boyd’s It’s Complicated is essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in teens or social media.”

— Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar and Zombies versus Unicorns

“Crucial reading for anyone who wants to understand the nuances and hard realities of being a teenager in our networked world. (I’m looking at you, parents, policy makers, and YA writers.)”
— Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies

“Finally, a book about youth and social media that actually gives youth a voice! The insights here offer unprecedented perspective for parenting and teaching in this networked world of ours.”

— Anne Collier, co-director ConnectSafely.org, writer NetFamilyNews.org

“For the price of two grande frappucinos, you can buy this book . . . and young people will make sense.”

— Nancy Lublin, CEO, DoSomething.org

It’s Complicated is essential reading for anybody who has ever wondered about the lives of teens online. The extensive online fieldwork and interviews with young people from around the country provides the reader with a rare teens’-eye view into the massive and often mystifying changes to our everyday communication with the advent of social media. Written with both sensitivity and a critical eye, boyd offers a voice of reason in the often heated debates over teens and technology.”

— Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine

“boyd always moves beyond conventional wisdom when it comes to understanding teen online behavior. It’s invaluable to have here the results of her years of study.”

— Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder, BlogHer

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out

Kids Living and Learning with New Media

danah boyd, Mimi Ito and many other contributors

This book was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

Conventional wisdom about young people's use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today's teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networks sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youth's social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings — at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. By focusing on media practices in the everyday contexts of family and peer interaction, the book views the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.

Integrating twenty-three different case studies — which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music-sharing, and online romantic breakups — in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

The MIT Press, (November 2009)


danah tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Youth Culture and Social Media

How youth use social media is of great interest and concern to many, including parents, teachers, government, and industry. Over the last decade, danah has studied a wide range of topics related to young people's use of social media. She has examined why they adopt the tools they do and what they do with them, including Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, MySpace, YouTube, texting, etc. Curious about the widespread belief that "kids don't care about privacy," danah has developed work that shows how teens seek to achieve privacy in light of very public tools. Likewise, her work has addressed a wide variety of issues under the umbrella of "online safety," including sexual crimes against children, bullying, sexting, eating disorder communities, and other concerns.

Youth Engagement with Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities

Why do young people spend so much time using social media? How can they value privacy when they share so much online? How do we help them navigate the challenges of drama and bullying? How does their social media use give us hints about where the future is heading? And what does all of this mean for forward-looking educators and schools? These are some of the questions that danah boyd will address in her talk. She will discuss young people's practices and attitudes, provide insight into how social media is affecting their lives, and describe new opportunities for leveraging technology to empower youth.

Sociable Media and Online Communities

The technologies that enable sociable media are changing how we interact, get information and do business. danah boyd studies how society and identity work in this new networked world:

  • How we perceive other people online.
  • What a virtual crowd looks like.
  • How social conventions develop in the networked world.

Networked social media

Definition: mediated environments where people can use their computer or mobile phone to connect with friends, share information, and generate content. Example tools include:

  • Social network sites — e.g., Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn
  • Media sharing platforms - e.g., YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest
  • Blogging and online journaling - e.g., Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter


How Many Teens Are Using WhatsApp? | Bloomberg

Youth Culture in the Networked Era | NAIS

Teen Privacy Strategies in Networked Publics


An association that supports northeast regional independent schools:
danah was wonderful: smart, intense, knowledgeable, funny, and clearly committed to her work and its importance. We loved her!

A recreational equipment company:
This is a belated note of thanks for the truly wonderful presentation you made at the [...] Leadership Conference last month. Your presentation was really well received and has continued to be the topic of conversation. I personally appreciate how you took what I assume to be part of your standard presentation and wove in a discussion unique and important to [us]. I’ve never seen anyone do quite as good a job of that as you did.

I know you don’t do many talks and having seen you present makes me feel all the more honored that you took the time and energy to share with us. Our VP of the web came up to me afterward and said that we just moved the entire room forward because of your insights.

A book publishing conference:
Thank you so much for your contribution to [our] Conference. You were the perfect way to end the day. You spoke with intelligence and confidence, and although you stressed the new networks and their importance to our industry and beyond, you also addressed the general love of the physical book that you feel and is shared by so many. You were great with the questions. And I, personally, enjoyed our 'social' conversations very much. The day was a success and your participation helped make it so.

A youth marketing Conference:
Brilliant, definitely provocative.

A media-sponsored leadership conference:
Dear danah — Thank you so much for hosting such an inspiring session during our BBC Leadership Conference last week. We had some wonderful feedback from the delegates! It was lovely to meet you, danah, and thank you so much for fitting us into your schedule.


— Business Standard
— Apophenia
— LinkedIn
— Data & Society
— Points | Data & Society
— The Social Science Research Council
— The Huffington Post
— Inside Higher Ed
— The New York Times
— Medium
— Medium
— Forbes
— apophenia
— apophenia
— Medium
— Library of Congress
— Knowledge@Wharton
— Medium
— Medium
— The Christian Science Monitor
— Medium
— The New York Times
— Los Angeles Times
— The Verge
— Re/Code
— Salon
— Fast Company
— Fast Company
— MIT Technology Review
— Slate
— apophenia
— boing boing
— Linkedin
— aplatformforgood.com
— The New York Times