[Air-l] Re: UCLA Internet Use Report

danah boyd danah at media.mit.edu
Wed Dec 5 16:00:25 PST 2001

I'd been resisting a response to the "so what" question until i heard back
from the survey designers, but i must admit that i'd like to now join
Lentz's soapbox.

I'm having a hard time analyzing the data, because i can't figure out what
the questions are asking.  Since i can come up with about 10 different
ways of answering each question, i can't even imagine what the subjects
were thinking.

The question on the UCLA survey that rubbed me the wrong way the most was:

"Do you use multiple screen names with different personalities?"

What does that _mean_?  I was hoping that there was clarification in the
survey, but this is literally how the question was asked (although it was
used to conclude information about communication role-play and sexed

What constitutes a screen name?  Are we talking about an instant messanger
screen name?  An email account?  A Win2K login?  A separate screen name
for MSN Passport and Yahoo?

What constitutes a different personality?  Is this only when it is
performed to be something that you are not (suggested by the common teen
response)?  Might a personality refer to the amount of information you
give away about yourself?  Or the type?  i.e. the separation of content
revealed in a work versus home context (which i'd guess to be fairly
common amongst adult US users).

If only 7.2% responded positively to this, it couldn't have meant all the
different ways in which people use separate "screen names" to communicate
with different people about different things?  (Or could it have?)

I get the gut feeling that i could use the data to make quite a few
contradicting (or inaccurate) statements about behavior, which makes me
tremendously worried.  For example, i could see makers of
login-convergence systems read this to say that users have no need for
separate logins or email addresses.

Am i the only one who can imagine how this data can actually be used in a
harmful manner?


> From: RG Lentz <rgmagnolia at earthlink.com>
> Also, these studies are so absent 'context' that it begs the question:
> why are Internet researchers focusing on this? Where's the beef?
> Soapbox here, but does it not bother anyone that there is so much
> money/effort going into such tracking studies? To what end? I'll risk
> posing the 'so what' question to get some discussion going.

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