Berkeley PhD candidate Danah Boyd, has the web astir after she posted an informal essay on her blog about the class divisions associated with the popular social-networking sites Facebook and MySpace. Boyd, who is already among the most prominent of academics of the Internet’s social sphere, posted the essay on Sunday. On Monday morning, the BBC reported on Boyd’s “conclusions”, and by midday Monday, nearly 100,000 readers had flocked to Boyd’s original entry. Though many have written in support of the essay, others have taken major offense, calling the work “racist” and academically unsound. Boyd sees the negativity towards her essay as a product of its misrepresentation in the press–specifically in the BBC’s “hugely problematic” coverage of her essay–which she says referred to the essay as a final product of academic research, rather than the exploratory mid-process musing it was meant to be.
On Wednesday, Boyd–apparently inundated with requests from the press–posted this missive to her blog:
Dear esteemed members of the press,
I am in the field collecting data and then will be attending a conference. I am not able to respond right now. Do not call my house phone. Do not pester my department. And do *NOT* hound my subletter. All press inquiries should be sent to press [at] danah.org. When I can, I respond. When I can’t, I don’t. Do not use other email addresses – I check the press one from my phone and answer them in order when I have spare cycles. Other requests are typically ignored.
The BBC coverage of my blog essay is hugely problematic. If you want to discuss what I’ve written, please read the essay itself. This is not a formal report. This is a blog essay based on observations from the field. And this is not a 6-month study; it is a 4-year study with a tide shift that I’ve noticed in the last 6 months. Again, read the essay. At some point, I will turn this into a formal article, but this is not that. Cover it as you see fit, but do not call it a report.