Congratulations on achieving position #1 in the "Social Media Ethnographers" tab of every reporter's Rolodex. As April's Facebook F8 conference approached, I predicted an electronic avalanche of danah boyd, and the media did not disappoint. Your ubiquity is confirmed to me not only by Google News search but also, no doubt dearer to your heart, by re-posted snippets of your wisdom bubbling through my Facebook "stream."
Now, if I may, a small anecdote:
I once attended the recital of an Arnold, Missouri dance school, and discovered that one of the older girls had listed herself in the program as simply "Essence." Essence was in several numbers, and for each one the billing read something like, "Mary Jane Jaworski, Erin O'Sullivan, Joanne Simmons, Essence." And I have to say, Essence was a pretty good dancer. But instead of thinking "how nice for this girl that she dances so well," all I could think was "you do not get to call yourself 'Essence' in the recital program of an Arnold, Missouri dance school."
Essence came vividly back to mind some twenty years later, as I encountered the following sentence in an October, 2009 CNN.com article:
Ethnographer danah boyd, who does not capitalize her name, said she watched the class divide emerge while conducting research of American teens' use of social networks in 2006.
Any insights I might have been developing on the subject of the article (socioeconomic stratification in social media use) flew through the windshield as my attention screeched to an abrupt "wait, what?" A quick reversing, then, again: "Ethnographer danah boyd, who does not capitalize her name." It was now time for me to Google you, because anyone who "does not capitalize her name" to the point of instructing a CNN reporter that she "does not capitalize her name" must surely maintain a personal website on which she she explains why.
And you do. Visitors can learn that you legally changed your name to "danah michele boyd" as the result of a "mental tangent" in which you pondered:
What's in a name? What's its worth? Why is it so valuable that it is to be capitalized? Down this path, i started thinking about names as descriptors versus separate entities. Isn't a name simply another unique adjective for me? A label? I am not my name; my name is simply another descriptor of me. Should i weight that descriptor as anything more valuable than the other adjectives used to describe me?
Well, danah, to begin with: no, your name is not "simply another unique adjective" for you. As it happens, names are not adjectives at all. They are proper nouns, which we capitalize in English probably to reflect the special attention that humans like to pay to other humans, the places they live, the groups they form, and the unique objects they create. Surely an ethnographer of social media knows that.
What interests me more is that your "mental tangent" was an outgrowth of an earlier decision to stop capitalizing the pronoun "I":
I was always bothered by the fact that the first person singular pronoun is capitalized in english -- i always thought it was quite self-righteous. . . . Ever since i was a kid, i was told that the world does not revolve around me, yet our written culture is telling me something entirely different. . . . i gave up on giving it such a special level of importance -- it is referring to me, right? I thought an attempt at minimalizing the individualization could start at home.
In order to test the sincerity of your belief that "the world does not revolve around" you, I suggest an experiment. First spend ½ hour or so poking around CNN.com. Then report back as to how many other names appearing on that site require explanatory parentheticals in order for editor, reader, and reporter to clarify that pretension, rather than slovenly proofreading, is at work.
Here is the list of people who get to spell their names without capitalization:
1. Celebrity poets of the 20th Century
2. Lesbian Vegetarian Canadian country music stars
3. Postmodern chroniclers of the Black female experience in America
Oh, I'm sorry... it looks like "ethnographers of social media" is not on the list.