danah boyd Featured in People of ACM

17 Aug, 2022

danah boyd Featured in People of ACM

The Association for Computing Machinery interviews alum danah boyd as part of their People of ACM feature! danah is a Partner Researcher at Microsoft Research. In 2013, she founded Data & Society, a non-profit research organization that studies the development and governance of new technologies. She is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.

From the interview:

(laughs) Even when I wanted to become an astronaut, I wanted to be a payload specialist (the scientists who run experiments). I’ve always loved math in particular. I stopped pursuing my dream of becoming an astronaut when I broke my neck, but I still went to college to study math. On my first day of college at Brown University, I was assigned to a mentor—Andy van Dam—who, unsurprisingly, told me to add his Introduction to Computer Science to my list of courses. He explained that computer science was math. He also enticed me to pursue computer graphics by explaining that it was applied linear algebra. Toy Story had just come out and I was intrigued.

My interest in math and graphics led me to visualization. Under the supervision of Judith Donath at MIT, I began visualizing Usenet and email by exploring the networks that form when people interact with one another. I was fascinated—and disturbed—by how much could be learned by the digital traces people left behind. This prompted me to start getting involved in privacy research. Shortly afterwards, someone told me about Friendster, an early social network site. Even before the first news article was written about the service, Jeff Heer and I were visualizing the graph of Friendster connections and showcasing just how much could be discerned from these digital traces.

Read the full interview here!