I have to say that one of the best keynote speakers I have seen in a while was danah boyd. I don’t want to just gush in a blog, so just to elaborate, I respected the keynote because:
- We got some solid ethnographic research data (although condensed for keynote purposes).
- More importantly, she presented a balanced view of “change.” Not as an oncoming Armageddon or the next Eden, but as something normal that happens to every culture (especially the culture likes to invent new technology).
With respect to the research point, I was surprised at how many of my assumptions following the e-grapevine weren’t quite right. For instance, boyd notes that Facebook did not override MySpace, but rather that MySpace and Facebook co-exist, but are used by different socioeconomic groups.
The divide is not necessarily bad, but it is important to know that it is there when thinking about what “services” we (Penn State) provide through either platform, and what that means from a social point of view. For course work, boyd recommends a third-party “neutral” environment like ANGEL, the Blogs at Penn State or maybe Twitter.
I was also moved by how protective boyd is of her teenage subjects. A theme I seemed to hear is that despite the seeming technical prowess of modern teens in terms of Facebook, they are not techno-super heroes. She comments that they still have the same concerns, and the same fears, that we all had. The NetGen hypothesis (i.e. differently wired brains/expectations) is a common assumption, but in an extreme form, can make the next generation of college students sound a little bit like an alien species.
But boyd merely assumes they are still normal teens, with different communication devices. There will be differences, but probably nothing we can’t handle.
P.S. The Swain Interview
The interview between Jeff Swain and danah boyd has been posted. Interestingly, danah boyd wonders if teens will abandon Facebook now that their parents are finding their high school buddies. They really do sound like typical teenagers.