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Rushes Sequences - Danah Boyd interview - USA (Video)

Danah Boyd is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research. She met with Aleks Krotoski to discuss the changes in young people's behaviour when online, their attitudes to privacy and the importance that might be placed upon building their identities online.

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Transcript:
(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Alex        Danah, are the kids behaving differently on line?

Danah        You know, it's not so much that they're behaving differently as much as that we have a sense of visibility that we've never seen before.  So we're used to having, you know, we'll see a certain group of kids in certain places right.  The mall we can see kids hanging out with their friends that way.  But as adults we don't typically have a, a really good sense of all the kids and a good sense of where they are and what they're doing when they're with their friends.  What's going on on-line is it, in many ways it's youth space.  So they're there, they're goofing around as through it, they're there just with their friends. And so what ends up happening is you can get a sense of what's going on really in, in broad sweeps.  And it isn't just the kids like the kids in your community but the kids who are in different communities all around the world with all sorts of different ideas of what is normative behaviour.  Right, and that what, what is ......... or what is common really differs and so we see these behaviours on line and we're like oh my gosh it's radically different today than it ever was before.  That's not really.  Its.

Alex         Well yeah I, I was going to ask that actually.  How different is it from like when I was a kid I'd come to the mall and I'd do stuff at the mall or I'd go to the movie theatre or whatever.  How different is this?

Danah        Think about what happens when you were doing that with your friends right?  You were there, you were joking around, you were gossiping, you were flirting you were kind of consuming culture and consuming merchandise.  But it was part of this all, all encompassing social experience. The same thing is actually happening fully on line right.  So all of those everyday practices, the gossip, the flirting, the joking around that's taking place on line.  And it's taking place on line with the same kinds of friends that it took place in the mall right.  You met up with all the kids at school but you also saw the kids at the neighbouring school and you're like hey who are you what's that about?  That same thing is, is where we're seeing it play out. So young people who are engaged on line they're primarily engaged with the people they already know; their friends, their friends from school, their friends from after school activities, their friends from around the community.

Alex        And of course it's that visibility though that's freaking people out.

Danah Oh yeah.

Alex       Because there's this longevity associated with that.  You know, you put something up on I don't know, you put something on Facebook like a social networking site or you put something on My Space or any of these spaces and it's there, it's there for life. So are there ways that the kids are starting to protect themselves?  How do they, how do they stop what they're putting up there?

Danah   Well they're not going to stop what they put up there because the, the trick with on line material is everything is persistent by its nature right.  That's one of the powers of the internet.  And we think of, it, it really is a useful ............ right because if something is persistent that means you can get access to it at a different time.  That's the opportunity of ......... synchronicity.  But it's also how this material is available 10, 15, 20 years later. And right now we're in that moment of, of transition, that point of absolute confusion.  Um, the uncertainty of you know, what does it mean that you have everything up there?  Down the road it just becomes the way things are you know, and it's interesting to see the individuals for whom that's already part of their story. And that's' the power of the early adopters right.  So you, you know, I think about it, I've been blogging since you know, 1997, that's a really long time at this point.  And sure, you can go back and you can read all sorts of things about me as a teenager working out all sorts of issues.  Hopefully you won't um, but more importantly it's, it's about constantly moving forward.  And so if someone wants to engage with that level of stalking and see my teenagedom they can. But you have to read it in the light of the whole shift.  And so I think for the teenagers today they're going to be living out their teenage lives in this very persistent, very searchable manner but 10, 15 years from now it's going to be part of a longer trajectory and the people are going to be looking at the things they're doing as 20 something's.  And sure, we look back and go oh that was stupid what I did when I was you know, 14 and it was, it always was. Um, but when you have this cultural element where everybody's got this track record it's not going to be as shocking as it is right now for the people who are you know, learning that and figuring it out.

Alex     That's interesting you say that cos I've heard a theory that you know, some, that people won't trust people in the future.  Say they run for political office, if they don't have that exposure, if they haven't thrown themselves all up on line because they won't have that track record people will say well why not, what were you trying to hide?  And do you think that that's, that that is an aspect of naivety?  Do you think I'm naïve because I'm part of this, this culture that I think well our privacy is, our concepts have shifted so much?

Danah    The concepts are shifting but we all, always have to take in to account privilege.  Who has privilege in this system and who doesn't?  I, I have the great privilege to be able to say this is who I am you will deal with me like it or not.  When I'm in a very particular position you know, professionally, socially etc.  Now a lot of people ......... that's not true.  And the classic example that everybody can reach out er, can make sense of is the teacher right. The teacher we think of is a perfectly reasonable character in our lives but the teacher is supposed to have a big boundary between what they do in the classroom and what they do elsewhere right.  And for example sex is not supposed to enter the classroom and yet teachers have a right to have a sex life.  They you know, they're old enough to be allowed to drink and it not be an issue.  Um, and so what happens when their students get to see access of their personal lives in another context, how does that use, how is that used to shift the power roles in the classroom? And for many teachers it's a point of deep struggle and frustration right.  What does it mean to be in an on line dating site and your students track down your profile that was never meant for them where no name was ever explained?  But it was meant to try to live a life outside of the classroom.  And what happens when it gets interpreted by you know, those, those teenagers parents of like what are you doing, why do my kids have to see you dating? You know, and that becomes a really interesting boundary problem.  And so for all of the ways in which yes we're going to expect people to be online for certain roles right.  If you're building um, credibility in public um, in the future, that will include public on I, on line.  Just like if you're running for you know, to be a politician, you should have a track record of TV of you know, newspaper articles of all of this material, that's your track record, that's your story.  Um, but not everybody wants to be in public at that level and what are the different boundary issues for those who being in public is actually very costly?

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Danah  Yeah we're seeing, we're seeing patterns and a lot of it has to do with their particular social positions right.  So the popular kids are using the technologies to try to maintain and reinforce popularity in very particular ways.  And that's when we see social status becoming really critical.  So it's no longer the Nikes that are the particular status.  With markers it's the way of actually maintaining certain kind of friendships and getting certain kinds of you know, responses from certain celebrities, all of that play goes on. Um, we also see marginalised kids who, who are desperately seeking some sort of support um, and who are often at loss um, you know, out in more traditional senses of schools or what not.  Finding a community on line and this is one of the more powerful narratives of the internet right.  Your, your queer kids who can actually find people like them who can support them.  They're much more willing to be public in a traditional sense because they're desperate for somebody who might be like them. For the, the popular kid it's much more about being public to the school; people who will give them credit, that will give them status.  And so we see these different groups contending with it differently.  We also see the power of certain public figures you know, in negotiating with teenagers.  So if you think about which teenagers are using Twitter in the, in the earliest of stages a lot of it comes down to who's talking to celebrities?  And you know, this wasn't that different from when I was growing up you know, and the idea of writing to the New Kids on the Block right, the, you know, the Boy Band of the day you know, in a hopes that you would get a letter um, you know, in response right which was inevitably a form letter. Um, was the possibility of, of reaching out and getting, getting a response you know, feeling as though that person really existed and they really recognised your existence.  This, the Twitter is a modern day incarnation of that for a lot of the celebrity teenager relationships right. Can I get validation from you know, Miley Cyrus who's now left Twitter or even Demi Levado or any number of these particular celebs?  Um, the idea that you know, may be I can actually get to meet Shakil O'Neil in person cos he'll announce where he is.  I mean all of that possibility.  So you see that as another component.  So there's always these publics, these publics keep coming back.  But the same practices are there.

Alex        The, one thing that keeps coming up is this idea of the exchange of private information you know.  How is, how are kids exchanging or using private information as currency in a different way than perhaps adults are using private information as currency?

Danah      Well again what, what constitutes private information?  Right.  From an adults perspective it's identifying information is their absolute fear right.  The idea that it's your name, your address, your phone number, anything that will identify you. And this has to do with the idea of physical risk.  But for young people it's about the you know, alright fine you can call me by my name why is that a big deal?  It's more about the things that make you vulnerable.  And so when we think about privacy and private information it's really a question of vulnerability.  And so from adult perspective we're really concerned about physical vulnerabilities.  Um, and increasingly about psychological vulnerabilities. And for a lot of young people it's about social vulnerabilities.  So you know, how do I make certain that I don't get teased, harassed, bullied um, because of the things that I make available out there?  How do I make certain that what I put out there makes me seem cool and not, and not lame?  How do I balance that?  So the social vulnerability is the privacy fight for young people.  The physical and psychological is the fight for parents. And so we see these two constantly at odds.  Because part of putting things out in public is to achieve status you need to actually make yourself a, vulnerable at a certain level. And how do you actually do that in a way that balances the risk and the benefits?

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