The Interesting Point in danah boyd’s Web 2.0 Expo Speech

As some of you may have learned 2 months ago, danah boyd was rather nastily critiqued on the Twitter screen behind her during her Web 2.0 Expo keynote video.

For those of you “not in the loop”, what happened was that she was presenting the keynote address with a trendy Twitter backchannel feed in the background. This can be interesting, but in this case it backfired because the audience decided that her peformance wasn’t up to par and decided to tweet about it. danah boyd wrote later that she knew something was wrong (due to laugter) but didn’t know what it was until later. In the meantime, she said had problems adjusting to the atmosphere so didn’t give her best performance. Oh well.

Actually when I watched the official Web 2.0 video, I really only noticed some slight hesitancy (and only because I was looking for it). In terms of content, I thought was very good, although I will admit there was some jargon (but it was good jargon IMHO).

In fact, my favorite term was probably homophily

or the tendency for networks to self-segregate (or be in the process of self-segregation). In other words, the current media situation is often pushing us into smaller pockets that interact primarily only with each other. Another term for this is echo chamber.

boyd points out that many of us could theoretically receive information from multiple sources, the reality is that people often receive the same information from the same sources their friends and colleagues do. For instance, all of us here at ETS know an amazing array of Web 2.0 tools and continue to learn more, but outside of ETS, it’s still a new concept.

To expand the implications – on a political level, NPR listeners often receive different information than Fox News radio listeners do (I know because I’ve heard hours of both). It’s not that either source is lying or enacting a conspiracy, but rather that each live in their own echo chamber. Whenever information does cross the network boundary, the result is often “Wow, I didn’t know THAT!”

For the record, I have nothing against getting information interesting to you from people you trust, but homophily is always something to be wary of. Are you getting information from the same sources or more than one? How can you tell? For me, if I hear two divergent points of view, I know I’ve hit pay dirt. It may be that one of them really is completely kooky, but at least I’ve had a gut check on my assumptions. More often than not, it’s been good for my character.

boyd closes the speech with a plea to stop with visions of utopia or disutopia and think realistically about what this new Internet phenomenon really means. As the Twitterfeed incident shows though, more people seem interested in competing for attention rather than really listening. Too bad because it was a lost opportunity for danah boyd and the audience.

This entry was posted in Web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply