Interviews

Dr. danah boyd: Social Media Engagement

 

Dr. danah boyd is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, Research Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  She is an Advisory Board member at the Born This Way Foundation. Her research examines the intersection of technology, society, and youth culture. 

 

 


 
Ann Paisley Chandler: How do you alter media to serve and engage various groups and generations?

Dr. danah boyd: Media connects people to information and, when it's interactive, to each other.  The key is to leverage media — and its connection-making processes — to reach people where they're at and to help gel them to each other and to relevant information when they're open to making those connections.  People's needs, attitudes, and mindset shift depending on where they're at — lifestage, demographics, etc.  But the key is to not approach media — and especially not social media — as a one-size-fits-all process.

Chandler: How do you think the online platform has changed the dialogue between non-profits and their supporters?

boyd:  I think that there are a lot of untapped opportunities for non-profits to engage with donors and participants, but I think that we're still in the earliest [stages] of figuring out how.  Right now, most non-profits use social media as a glorified broadcast tool, hoping that their followers will pick up their message and spread it.  The key to leveraging this medium is to engage interactively and to create a sustained conversation and community around an issue.  But it requires shifting from being message-centric to dialogue-centric. (This is what Lady Gaga is very, very good at doing with her fans.)

Chandler: Do you think supporters of non-profit organizations desire more of a voice in the operation and impact of their work than before?

boyd: I think that they have more opportunities to demand it than they did previously.  Their ability to speak as loudly — if not louder — than any institution or organization means that the accountabilities have changed.

More than anything, what people want is to see the effect of these efforts.  They want to feel the change that is being made.  And they want to taste impact.

Chandler: What is the future of technology in the non-profit sector?

boyd:  Historically, philanthropy has been controlled by a small number of tightly networked people relying on donations from a much larger base.  Like many other aspects of society, philanthropy is getting flattened and the networks are getting more diverse, creating new opportunities and new challenges.  Information can flow faster and structures can be made more efficient, but politics and turf wars often mean that there's more competition in philanthropy than collaboration. With technology, the possibility of scale is much greater, but few institutions know how to build the structures that are needed to support the kind of scale that's possible. As with many other sectors, we need to figure out how to create a world of highly networked philanthropy, but the new organizational models that are needed require a disruption in how philanthropy operates and that's discomforting for many who have been in the field for a long time. 

 




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