Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media

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Networked social media provide infrastructure that allows information
to flow far and wide. Politicians, celebrities, and corporations are
jumping in with the hopes that they can get their message out.
Sometimes messages do get widespread attention, but people complain
that these are the “wrong” messages – the inaccurate, the humiliating,
the saccharine. Understanding how information flows through networked
technologies requires moving away from the potential of the
infrastructure and focusing on the logic of the network itself. What
are people’s incentives for spreading information? How and why do
they distribute content? What social and structural barriers exist
that configure how information is disseminated? And how can we
understand the flows of content in the context of everyday practices?

Photo of Danah Boyd

Danah Boyd

Microsoft Research

Danah Boyd 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 networked publics for sociable purposes. She examined the role that social network sites like MySpace and Facebook play in everyday teen interactions and social relations. She was interested 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. This work was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of a broader grant on digital youth and informal learning.

At the Berkman Center, Danah co-directed 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 being organized by the Berkman Center.

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,, 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.

Danah maintains a blog on social media called Apophenia.

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Picture of Tim O'Brien
Tim O'Brien
11/30/2009 8:37am EST

Good presentation.

Picture of Alexandra Salomon
Alexandra Salomon
11/20/2009 7:54am EST

Really bright and insightful presentation. Thanks a million for the transcript!

Picture of John Vasko
John Vasko
11/19/2009 1:13pm EST

This was great content and I will learn much from the transcript that Danah posted.

Picture of Gustavo Sanchez
Gustavo Sanchez
11/18/2009 8:41pm EST

thanks for the script, it was great content!

Picture of Michael Turro
Michael Turro
11/18/2009 5:44am EST

danah posted a rough transcript on her site:

Picture of Shirley Bailes
Shirley Bailes
11/17/2009 11:04am EST

@jamin, we are trying to get the slides from danah. stay tuned.

Picture of Benjamin Ellis
Benjamin Ellis
11/17/2009 10:12am EST

It was a great talk, but very fast! Is there a transcript somewhere?

Picture of Mark J. Levitt
Mark J. Levitt
11/02/2009 3:49pm EST

this will be a great keynote, i trust. danah’s talks and essays are always insightful for anyone interested in the sociology underlying social media.

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