Learning from Muggles


Danah Boyd is talking about learning from muggles. If we consider the technologists to be the wizards, that makes the normal user a muggle. There's a real danger in designing for ourselves.

Danah describes four stages people go through in their lives:

  • Identity formation and role-seeking - young people are trying to make sense of the societal roles around them. We are defined, in large part, by the people around us. Friendship and interaction become important.
  • Integration and coupling - This period is trying to find meaningful labor and determine how they can contribute. A lot of twenty-somethings are engaged in jobs, not careers.
  • Societal contribution - This stage is about family and pursuing the ideals and dreams we have about how life should be.
  • Reflection and storytelling - As we get older, we try to make sense of what our life was about.

Danah shows how these needs play out in social sites that cater to these different groups (with the exception of the last stage). MySpace is tailored to the needs of identity formation and role-seeking, whereas LinkedIn doesn't appeal to them at all.

Danah talks about the positive and negative aspects of what happens online--both for society and individuals.

  • Persistence - what we do online is around for forever
  • Searchability - where we are online is finable
  • Replicability - what we do can be put up all over
  • Invisible audience - We don't know who we're talking to

She brings up the story of the Star Wars kid who made an innocent video and found his life turned upside down.

There are extensive implications for our privacy. There are new rules and we don't know the consequences. Andy Warhol talked about being famous for 15 minutes, but we're really famous for 15 people.

Technology is shifting the rules. Do we just keep making technology and playing the ostrich or do we pay attention to what's happening? Do we have a responsibility for what happens with our spells, enchantments, and incantations? Rather than thinking about just the business side of what we do, we need to consider the societal aspects as well.