danah boyd: How to be a Grad Student

Advice from a brownbag luncheon today at UW as part of her book tour.  Damn, this woman is inspiring!

  • Know your artifact at a technical level (MySpace was built on Cold Fusion – a horrible platform!).
  • Take as many methods (and theory) classes as you can so you can know how to approach problems from different perspectives.
  • Collaborate.
  • When doing ethnographic fieldwork, do your first-thought voice notes into your recorder, immerse in the environment (eat at McDonalds), listen to people’s stories even if they are off-topic, prepare to become part of people’s lives on an emotional level.
  • Find a community of people interested in what you’re interested in and find your place in it, bring people together to do it.
  • Take care of yourself:  yearly email sabbaticals, go trekking, make your own massage parlor map, time with family and friends
  • Self-present mindfully: What will your research subjects think of your mohawk?
  • If you want to make an impact, be public.  Be honest about the limitations of your data/work.  Force people to care.
  • Understand that you are part of a much bigger system.  Know power as theory (Foucault!), engage with it as practice (start a think/tank like this).
  • When dealing with journalists, be strategic, work on background, not just for the quote or to promote your work.  Help them understand.

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