danah boyd on privacy and publicity

Ethnographer and social media scholar danah boyd has posted the “rough unedited crib” of her SXSF talk “Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity”.

If you use social media personally or professionally, or you know someone who does, or you are thinking about using social media or know someone who is (that covers everyone, right?), then you should read this talk.

boyd discusses what privacy means to folks, and convincingly argues that privacy still matters to folks in an online social world:


No matter how many times a privileged straight white male technology executive pronounces the death of privacy, Privacy Is Not Dead. People of all ages care deeply about privacy. And they care just as much about privacy online as they do offline. But what privacy means may not be what you think.

She also has some smart things to say about the false binary of “public vs. private” and about the importance of understanding situational expectations (online and offline). She talks about the role of trust and argues that “Making something that is public more public is a violation of privacy.”

Key take-away:

Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

Librarians who are developing social media strategies would do well to understand the nuances of privacy, trust, expectations and publicity that boyd discusses.

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