Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

December 7, 2018

An Un-Complicated Review of It's Complicated by dana boyd

The following is a book review and analysis completed for my graduate Qualitative Methods class... enjoy!

An Un-complicated Review of “It’s Complicated” by dana boyd

This book review could literally take on a hundred different directions of analysis in light of the methods, theories, and self-exploration of ourselves that we have learned this semester. “It’s Complicated” by researcher dana boyd is a novel approach to explain the new digital frontier that our young people are navigating on a daily basis, exploring the meanings of privacy and how young people establish their identities online, and the conflict that this causes with parental anxiety in networked public spaces. This book review will first review dana’s methods to the ethnography, provide brief summary of her main points of the book, and then will explore several qualitative elements including discourse analysis of referring terms and tone.

This book of 213 pages plus extensive notes, bibliography, and appendix; was a relatively easy read and was definitely written for a non-academic audience: for teachers, for parents, and for people working with the youth of today. Her main points are introduced in the preface and introduction content; and then the following eight chapters describe the main points of her research. dana’s main thesis is to “describe and explain the networked lives of teens to the people that worry about them…” (boyd, preface). She defines these new digital spaces as “networked publics” which “are publics both in the spatial sense and in the sense of an imagined community” (boyd, p.9). “Networked publics are publics that are restructured by network technologies” (p.8) giving them the characteristics of being both “(1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined community that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice” (boyd, p.8). This book argues that as real public spaces disappear (like movie theaters or malls or parks) and as young people have busier and geographically-challenged lives that make getting together in person hard, they are seeking these accessible public places in this new digital environment to negotiate identity, find friends, or simply to hang out with others. She readily admits that the tools and apps used will continue to change, but that the needs these youth are meeting in these public spaces will not change and are the same that youth sought to fulfill in non-networked physical publics of the past.

I did not find that dana explicitly outlaid her research strategy nor the exact amount of interviews or interactions she had with youth: this would probably be impossible to account for in the face paced communication that happens online today. She did detail that she “crisscrossed the United States from 2005 to 2012, talking with and observing teems from eighteen states and a wide array of socioeconomic and ethnic communities” (boyd, preface). She goes on to report “166 formal, semi-structured interviews with teens during the period of 2007-2010” in various physical locations (homes, libraries, schools, etc.). It would be interesting to read some of the questions that she provided to the youth and to learn if the anonymity of the internet influenced her answers to be more truthful or less truthful. Were these interviews conducted over a recorded video chat or where they simply snippets of online text chat sessions: we don’t know this through her text and as a qualitative researcher, I would be interested to read some of these raw items. I am also interested in how she located these youth for interviews - did she randomly contact students? Did she contact them through schools? Did she find friends of friends? It’s not completely clear from my reading of the text.

I was surprised by several things as I read the book: topics of addiction and privacy that I had not considered before with regards to youth online. My views were especially challenged by boyd’s assertion that youth are not digital natives: something that I had assumed and used several times over the years when thinking about young people growing up in this technological world. She explores this topic of are youth digital natives in chapter 7. Being that I graduated from high school in 2002, I remember my family getting our first computer in the early 1990s, going from AOL dial up and then learning the new internet technologies of MySpace and Facebook. Thankfully, data was not collected on the scale it is being collected at now, and we did not have to worry about privacy as much in those very early days: we could make mistakes and then delete our posts or our accounts, and it wouldn’t have been recorded anywhere. Everything that we learned was from the same base that our parents were learning from; and our only computer was located in the living room because it was a shared resource - not a device for being constantly publicly connected like the youth of today feel the need to be. Researcher boyd makes references to several of these issues of privacy and identity seeking and cites that young people see privacy differently than we as adults do - and that trying on identities happens for several reasons in the online networked public that can have meaning - or not!

In analyzing the book in a more structural way and less content focus, dana’s tone remains professional yet entirely non-academic. Everything is explained in a way that the average parent or teacher should be able to understand (which can really be a wide range of understandings and literacy ranges). dana is advocating for these youth’s natural and safe exploration of this new digital world, and she wants everyone to be able to read and understand the points she is making. She is upfront with the main point of her book in the preface and in the introduction; she concisely and descriptively builds her points in the eight chapters following, using brief academic findings to support her thinking, but not straying from the simplistic way of describing the situations and youth perspectives regarding identity, privacy, addiction, danger, bullying, inequality, literacy, and how youth are simply searching for a “public of their own” where parents are not constantly looking over their shoulders at every conversation. Her tone is mostly third person as the narrator, separate and largely non-involved in the storyline past the role of the researcher. She maintains an etic perspective, perhaps because she is speaking to the adults of the world in her text.

dana is respectful when quoting the youth and names them all (or pseudonyms them) in her appendix “teen demographics” (boyd, p.215). In her book, she refers to the youth and others with respect and by name (or by pseudonym). I found it interesting to read through the youth characteristics and especially the services that they were active on: facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others that don’t even exist anymore. When I interact with youth, I am amazed at the new apps they are communicating through and it is always changing: “even though many of the tools and services that I reference throughout this book are now passe, the core activities I discuss… are here to stay” (boyd, p.8). There will always be some new, more visual or more interactive app that the young people will be willing to explore to meet these needs of a “place to hang out and connect with friends” (boyd, p.5) that is “utterly essential to her social life” (boyd, p.5). As I also remember life pre-AOL dial up days, dana recounts that she too “spent my own teen years online, and I was among the first generation of teens who did so” (boyd, p.4), so while her tone remains from an etic perspective, she has definitely experienced for herself firsthand the beginnings of many of the new teen phenomena she tries to explain through her book.

In regards to Marilyn Lichtman’s definition of ethnography in our textbook, dana’s text addresses many of the ‘issues’ of ethnography as she describes her findings:

Issue (Lichtman p.74-75)
Example from boyd
Doing fieldwork and taking field notes
While boyd does not explicitly state that she took field notes nor does she provide any in the appendix, I am making the assumption that she kept some kind of researcher’s notes along her multiple year study.
Participant observation
Observation is where boyd’s study appears to begin and it is a tool that she continues to use throughout her study to guide her practice, find her interviews, and make generalizations. boyd conducts observations in person and online for her study.
Interviewing individuals
boyd conducts 166 formal, semi-structured interviews with youth. This implies that she also conducted many informal interviews with youth, but also with adults and perhaps adults within the networked publics space.
Gaining access
boyd did not detail much about how she gained access to interviews with the youth, nor how she chose the youth that she spoke to.
Informed consent
boyd would have most certainly had formal consent granted to speak to all the 166 formal interviews conducted. She did not detail how this unfolded in her study, but perhaps there is a more formal academic paper that details her methods.
Understanding cultures
boyd has done an excellent job understanding the culture of youth in the networked publics despite the anxieties and negative perceptions that an adult would approach this with.
Thick descriptions
Throughout this book, boyd is connecting concepts in a logical way and providing descriptions of a larger happening that she divides into the main chapter titles.
Underlying meanings
This aspect did not seem to be addressed openly in the text. It is assumed that the researcher reported honestly and that the youth had no motivations to lie, but this is not verifiable.
Reflexive behaviors
This issue is also not addressed openly by boyd. She does share her background and her interest in this subject, but does not connect it to her broader analysis.
boyd actively works to protect the youth’s identities while still accurately representing their accounts. While not stated directly in this book, it is assumed that she utilized consent for her interactions. As an advocate for youth rights, it is also assumed that she was respectful and ethical in all her interactions.
Writing or producing an ethnography
boyd has produced an organized, comprehensive description in an ethnographic format that is intended for a general audience.

In conclusion, dana boyd’s ethnographic book “It’s Complicated” is an enjoyable read that will inform the average person about what today’s youth are experiencing online in these new “networked publics.” It advocates for the often misunderstood youth’s perspective and it challenges adults to put their anxieties aside about digital communities and misconceptions about how youth are using these new communication tools. There will always be new mediums, faster ways to communicate from a distance, and new shiny apps with catchy features; but today’s youth need spaces to negotiate their adult identities and safely navigate to adulthood. Through dana’s presented perspectives, we can help support the youth pioneering these new forms of communications while combating the ever present inequalities and negative personalities that are present whether offline or online.


boyd, dana (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Lichtman, Marilyn (2013). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

October 15, 2018

From Behaviorism to Constructivism: People are more than Numbers

Enjoy my module 2 synthesis post:

Articles assigned:

  • A. Watters, Educational Technology & Skinner's Box
  • I. Illich, Deschooling Society, Ch. 6
  • S. Papert, The Children's Machine, Ch. 7
  • L. Cuban, [OTA] Public School Teachers Using Machines…

Instructor suggested questions [bolded]:
Where else do we see behaviorism picked up throughout the history of ed. Tech?

What is behaviorism is my first question:
“Behaviorism refers to a psychological approach which emphasizes scientific and objective methods
of investigation. The approach is only concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors, and 
states all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment.” Further it states:
  • “All behavior is learned from the environment”
  • “Psychology should be seen as a science”
  • “Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior, as opposed to internal events like
     thinking and emotion”
  • “There is little difference between the learning that takes place in humans and that in other animals”
  • “Behavior is the result of stimulus-response”

Who was Seymour Papert?
“Papert has been considered the world's foremost expert on how technology can provide new ways to 
learn and teach mathematics, thinking in general, and other subjects.”
Wikipedia: Seymour Aubrey Papert was a South African-born American mathematician, computer 
scientist, and educator, who spent most of his career teaching and researching at MIT. He was one of
the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education.”

Why was Larry Cuban writing for the OTA, whatever that was?
Photo illustration by Derek Brahney. Source image of painting: Bridgeman Images.
Image is from the blog post “Personalized Learning”: The Difference between a Policy and a Strategy”:

The “OTA” is the Office of Technology Assessment for the United States government that was in action
from 1972 to 1995 when it was defunded (OTA Archive at When searching further
into this website archive, I was amazed at the number of publications produced by this team on a
broad range of technology applications.

Larry Cuban is professor emeritus in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford. He studies the
area of technology integration and assessment; and school reform through technology integration. He
keeps a blog which appears very active. He was writing for the OTA because the OTA if a facilitating
body of the US Government and they needed his expertise in the area of educational technology
integration and assessment.

How can we link these readings back to those in Module 1?

In module 1, our readings centered on how “things,” such as technology and educational innovations,
have implications both intended and unintended from how the designers create the product. Innovations
have politics and many early innovations were directly related to increasing efficiency of the system.
People and things were pieces to these systems that could be controlled, adjusted, and modified.
Sometimes human differences and emotions were not considered, and most certainly minority or
special populations needing accommodations and differences were not accounted for. As we move
into Module 2, we can see that the “politics” of artifacts is expanded and researchers begin to account
for people as more than just numbers and for production. People began to become the focus in many
systems. While efficiency is important, researchers realized that there are many factors that can
impact a system and some things cannot be measured by numbers and in a “neat little box”. The
underlying principles of behaviorism is still ever present as a backbone to our field, but we can begin
to see constructivist principles emerging, and we can most definitely see its emergence in the follow
up posts on Cuban and Papert’s personal websites.

As we move away from behaviorism and integrate more constructivist thoughts on learning and
technology integration, we see the following changes in the researchers approaches:

“All behavior is learned from the environment”
Behavior is a combination of environmental factors
and personal human factors
“Psychology should be seen as a science”
Psychology is a science and an art; there is room
for multiple “truths” to a situation
“Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable
behavior, as opposed to internal events like thinking
and emotion”
We are concerned with observable behavior and
internal events like emotion, more equally
“There is little difference between the learning that
takes place in humans and that in other animals”
Humans learn in ways more complex than animals
do and there are many differences in our learning
“Behavior is the result of stimulus-response”
Behaviour is the result of choice, stimulus, emotions,
and many other internal and external factors
combined for that precise situation (and could
change for a number of factors, at a different moment
in time, or in a different environment)

How have the authors of these pieces reflected on what they wrote, now decades later (I assure you, they have).
They each have websites and have written reflective pieces comparing the past to the present methods
of teaching; they are continually updating their theory and applying it to current issues in education.

September 2, 2018

Instructional Design: An Opportunity for Integrity and Inclusion for ALL

This is a the first of many papers being written for my Digital Media and Learning class this Fall:

Links to papers read online:

ethics of care - pluralism
by hello-magpie on DeviantArt

Synthesis and analysis:

Before beginning my first synthesis paper, I wanted to understand “synthesis” fully, since it’s a term that I have not been asked to perform very much [directly albeit] in my previous coursework. I found a great example and guidance after searching “blooms synthesis” as I wanted to know what our tested Bloom’s Taxonomy would define synthesis as:
As the page linked above defines, my articles/creations to follow will adhere to the following learning objective verbs and expressions:

Putting together ideas into a new or unique
product or plan.

Guiding questions for synthesis level:
What changes would you make to solve _______?
How would you improve _______?
Can you propose and alternative _______?
What way would you design _______?
Suppose you could _______. What would you do ________?
Can you construct a model that would change _______?
Can you think of an original way for _______?
Can you predict the outcome if _______?

This week, we were asked to read in order and synthesize 4 articles:
K. Marx, The Machine Versus the Worker
L. Winner, Do Artifacts Have Politics?
B. Pfaffenberger, Technological Dramas
L. Lessig, Code 2.0, Ch. 7

Our instructor promised us that it really wasn’t that much reading.

Karl Marx is a name I have heard many times, but before reading the assigned article, I really couldn’t remember his major stances on the worker and the machine-industrial complex. The reading assigned was only two pages in length, but was substantial in the new perspective brought to me attention. His major points in this reading are:
  • p. 156 “The instrument of labour strikes down the labourer. This direct antagonism between the two comes out most strongly, whenever newly introduced machinery competes with handicrafts or manufactures, handed down from former times.“
  • He states that “machinery not only acts as a competitor…” but that the capital generated “is the most powerful weapon for repressing strikes” (p.156).
  • On page 157, he gives the example of Nasmyth, the inventor of the steam hammer: he testifies that “Thanks to these new mechanical combinations, I have reduced the number of grown-up men from 1,500 to 750. The result was a considerable increase in my profits.” Mechanical innovation and replacement of human workers was seen as a solution to long standing strikes in many industries.

Prior to reading Langdon Winner’s article “Do Artifacts have Politics?,” I had no experience with the author, but I did have an idea of the article content: since most products or innovations are created for someone, or a specific audience or consumer type, I can infer that the affordances generated will favor that group, and that favoritism in design can be called ‘politics.’ After reading the selection, the following are the main points presented:
  • He states that “At issue is the claim that the machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged by their contributions… but also for the ways in which they embody specific forms of power and authority” (p. 19). My thought in reaction to this claim of embodying power and authority is: ‘is this an intentional assertion of power/authority?’, but then I think it wouldn’t matter whether the answer was yes or no, rather that we must have designers with the highest ethical standards for all people so that the assertion of power and authority through innovations is a positive contribution intended to help the greatest amount of people, making considerations for as many learner types as possible and for known accessibility concerns. I am then reminded that sometimes good products come out of ill intentioned designs, such as nuclear power that grew out of military applications or maybe medicines developed through unethical methods that end up saving thousands of others.

Moving on to the next article “Technological Dramas”, I can speculate that the idea of artifact features having politics will be expanded upon by Bryan Pfaffenberger. Main points of this reading include:
  • Confirming my earlier thoughts about designers and how their personal values affect the social and political considerations and outcomes in a design, Pfaffenberger states that “The demonstration that technology is socially shaped (MacKenzie and Wacjman 1985) or socially constructed (Pinch and Bijker 1987) is a major achievement of science and technology studies (STS).... To account fully for a technical design, one must examine the technical culture, social values, aesthetic ethos, and political agendas of the designers” (p.282).
  • He goes on to assert that “Technical innovation provides an opportunity to embed political values in technological production process and artifacts, which then diffuse throughout society…” (p. 283).
  • Pfaffenberger then makes several claims that I personally questioned as I read them. I questioned the sources quoted for support of his idea, and I questioned the methods used to determine the thinking of the designers or managers described in the studies. He mentions “Noble (1986) shows how managers hoped that numerically designed machine tools would deskill lathe operators and transfer process control from the shop floor to management. Barker and Downing (1985) show how networked word-processing technology has been used to erode the work autonomy of typists by monitoring the number of times per hour that a typist presses a key” (p. 284). How do you ‘show how a manager hoped’ for something? Why does having a measure by which to compare yourself to others while typing at work ‘erode work autonomy’? Is this really what the managers or designers were thinking when designing these tools - thinking of controlling their workers? I do not think so. I would imagine that most inventors and good managers in business are creative, kind people looking to better the populations, the work conditions, and the precision and quality of products.

I decided to move onto the next article, because I did not have the time to locate and verify each of the sources that I found a little biased that were used to support Pfeffenberger’s argument.

Lessig’s open source text “Code 2.0” was published in 2006 and appears to be a very straight forward, comprehensive, and foundational text to understanding power in our digital world, despite being over ten years old now. We were asked to read chapter seven.
  • This author details how our lives are regulated by first naming us “as a dot” and then analogizing how we (quite sarcastically as “a pathetic dot”) are controlled in behavior by social norms (p. 122), that “the market is also a constraint,” laws, and architecture (p. 123).
  • I found the multiple historical examples of design choices to control or direct people fascinating, especially the French Revolution (p. 127) and the later building of wider streets; because I have been there and can visualize this constraint fully and how it later affected history during Napoleon's rule.
  • I appreciated Lessing’s inclusion of three major socially excluded classes: “discrimination against the disabled,” “drugs” (p. 131), and “abortion” (p. 132). Heavily socially stigmatized, these populations can give back to the world in innumerable ways, yet we seek to disinclude them or ostracize them for their actions. Unfortunately there are many other populations and stigmatized groups that can bring a lot to the world. I think of refugees and immigrants, people of gender or identity minority, people of religious minority or misunderstood groups; an endless list could be created entitled ‘you are different because ______, but you can still participate in and create fully’. I think this is what the creators of the internet intended (that unknowingly started humankind into all this digital social mess ;-) ).

In closing, I will attempt to provide a brief synthesis and closing to conclude this week’s reading assignment. I think that digital media and the internet has the unique power to make the world a more equal place for all. I think this is how it was intended when it was envisioned and built, but I think a handful of people’s greed and business interests seek to build on the majority’s good intentions and desire for inclusion for all people. Two ways that I think could encourage this positive ethic and intention in designers and developers is to 1. apply the principle of ‘care ethic’ in all design ventures and 2. Encourage broad adoption of a code of ethics for designers, similar to the oath a doctor would take prior to service with patients (but obviously a little less focused on life and death, but rather access and value in intentions).

I am particularly interested in adapting the physicians Hippocratic oath into a guiding document for designers and inventors., so I wanted to share it here for your consideration too. The current medically-focused oath reads as:

“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
  • I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
  • I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
  • I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
  • I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
  • I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
  • I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
  • I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
  • I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
  • If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.”

We have great powers as designers to shape the experiences in our world to elevate all of humankind for higher purposes, or to harm and control. We have power in the way we design things and to which attributes we craft. We can also be the gatekeepers and choose not break our own values just for monetary gain or otherwise negative purpose. May we all design with integrity and care.

Popular Posts

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});