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Microsoft’s Danah Boyd on the Future of Social Media [INC.]

Dr. danah boyd’s brain is exactly as phenomenal as you think it would be. By day, she is researcher at Microsoft. By night, she’s a youth advocate and activist of the highest order.

Her undergrad thesis focused on sex hormones and their affects on virtual reality, and she has applied these findings, along with her other cumulative years of research on online behavior, to both her activism and her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, she still finds time to maintain her Ani DiFranco lyrics page.

Who are you?

Hmm… that’s the question we’re all always asking, isn’t it? Let’s start with American-centric business-appropriate answers. I’m danah boyd, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder of a new think/do tank called Data and Society Research Institute. I’m a researcher, an activist, and a youth advocate.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I really wanted to be an astronaut. It wasn’t something that wore off when I hit puberty either. My plan was to go to the Naval Academy and study engineering so that I could be a payload specialist. Unfortunately, I broke my neck when I was 16 which shattered any plans to go into space. But my love of science and math never died.

How did you become a Principal Researcher at Microsoft? What exactly does that mean?

As an undergraduate studying computer science, I knew how magical Microsoft Research (MSR) was. It’s one of the few basic research laboratories in the world, modeled after Xerox PARC and AT&T’s Bell Labs. The idea is to bring researchers together and give them phenomenal resources so that they can collectively imagine and develop technologies that will change the world. When I retrained as under anthropologists, I figured that I was no longer appropriate for MSR, but when I was finishing my PhD, I was invited to apply. And so I did. And, to my surprise, they hired me to help build a team of social scientists in a new lab in Cambridge, MA to help understand how technology and society intersect. I love MSR–it’s really one of the most amazing institutions out there.

Read my full article on Inc.com: