Danah Boyd& Internet Myths

danah boyd at the Writers on Writing about Tec...Image via WikipediaI was just reading about how Harrisburg University was going to block social media from campus as an experiment. The premise of the experiment seems to be that students connected to one another, other researchers around the world, their friends and family is a a bad thing. I was just going to skip it because I realize that I use this space to report a lot of bad news and ignorance and I thought just for today I would not engage in my usual curmudgeonry and report on something positive, something I am excited about that answers the questions I think Harrisburg is trying to address, and that is Danah Boyd‘s work. I can’t recommend her blog enough. I don’t always agree with what she says but she is asking questions that no one else is and her research and writing are well worth following. A good education blog is not just about writing but engagement. One of her latest postings is a great example of that.

Danah Boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England (yes, something good can come from Nazareth) and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. I don’t trot out people’s credentials here very often. They don’t mean very much to me, but I do so here because her approach is not what I would have expected from someone from MS or Harvard. There are a lot of researchers, CEOs, and administrators who are very concerned about controlling social media. What we can’t control, we fear; and we make myths about what we fear. We try to contain our fears with our imagination. We attempt to reduce our understanding of what we fear into terms that we can control whether or not there is any justification or truth to that reduction (e.g. gay marriage will destroy heterosexual marriage; comic books, beat poetry, or dancing will lead to communism, etc.).

Dr. Boyd is writing a book about internet myths. She posted a question to her blog:

“What are your favorite news articles that reinforce these widespread beliefs?

  • Myth #1: The digital is separate from the “real” world.
  • Myth #2: Social media makes kids deceptive.
  • Myth #3: Social media is addictive.
  • Myth #4: Kids don’t care about privacy.
  • Myth #5: The Internet is a dangerous, dangerous place.
  • Myth #6: There’s nothing educational about social media.
  • Myth #7: Kids are digital natives.
  • Myth #8: The Internet is the great equalizer.”

And she is getting answers back from those who read her blog. I think this is a great way to research a book – use the medium and networks you are writing about to crowd-source the research. I love her list of myths. There is far too much fear mongering from the media, academics and administrators about social networking and the internet. I am looking forward to reading this book.

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