Microsoft Research Raises the Bar in Social-Media Research
Microsoft Research produces some of the strongest computer-science research extant. As the world changes and our business expands, there’s a much broader range of research questions we need to address beyond technology itself, including how we use that technology, why we want to use that technology, and how different cultural norms within the United States and other countries affect how we approach future technology development.
At Microsoft Research New England, we’re creating an environment where more conventional computer-science research occurs simultaneously with social-science research to reflect how people use technology. Sometimes, we need to ask why before we ask how. It can’t just be that the social scientists are figuring out the why and the technical people are figuring out the how. We need to ask those questions and find those answers together, in an iterative, socio-technical process, which converges on the development of new disciplines that inform the technology of tomorrow.
With the addition of these researchers, Microsoft Research will continue to engage in fundamental research in social media to partner with other Microsoft researchers, and to collaborate with academics around the world. The research they produce promises to help shape future social-media technologies, policies, and opportunities.
The three exceptional researchers who will join danah are experts in their fields and bring a breadth of diverse experience that will help advance our lab’s social-media research and our collaboration with the academic community on these important topics:
- Nancy Baym, a Microsoft Research principal researcher, received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994, writing the first full-length academic study of the online community. In the late 1990s, she helped co-found the Association of Internet Researchers, an international, interdisciplinary association for academics who study social dimensions of new media. She later served as its second president. Most recently, she has been a professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas. Her recent work focuses on the roles of social media in interpersonal relationships and on the relationship between musicians and their audiences.
- Kate Crawford, a Microsoft Research principal researcher, completed her Ph.D. at the University of Sydney. She’s been a leading internet researcher in Australia, where she has been teaching and researching online media for the last 10 years. Her work focuses on mobile and social media, particularly in their political, social, and cultural contexts. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Australia and India, examining the diversity in patterns of mobile and social media use across cultures and generations, as well as the role of gender and socioeconomic status. She is a well-known commentator on technology issues, including as a regular guest for the BBC World Service, Australia’s ABC TV, and newspapers around the world. She has received the prestigious biennial medal from the Australian Academy of Humanities for research excellence, as well as the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award. Her books include Adult Themes: Rewriting the Rules of Adulthood (Pan Macmillan Australia, 2006), and she co-authored the forthcoming Internet Adaptations: Language, Technology, Media, Power (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
- Mary L. Gray, a Microsoft Research senior researcher, studied anthropology before receiving her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of California, San Diego in 2004. Her research looks at how media access and everyday uses of technologies shape people’s lives. Her most recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (New York University Press, 2009), which won awards from scholarly societies in anthropology, media studies, and sociology, examines how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people negotiate and express their identities in rural parts of the United States—and the role that media, particularly the Internet, play in their lives and political work. She served on the executive board of the American Anthropological Association from 2008 until 2010 and holds a seat on that group’s Committee on Public Policy. She’s been an associate professor of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, with adjunct appointments in American Studies, Anthropology, and Gender Studies.
We anticipate that the work of this world-class team of social-media researchers will inform Microsoft and the broader community regarding people’s socio-technical practices.
We’ve taken great pride in the research already done by danah and her team, most recently the study published about the unintended consequences of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, highlighting how parents help children lie about their age to Facebook. This study underscored the importance of understanding the role that technology plays in society and is informing public policy in the United States.
The multidisciplinary research conducted at Microsoft Research New England extends beyond social research to economics, machine learning, computational biology, and theoretical computer science. Our lab is home to 30 leading researchers and post-docs, with 350 visiting researchers per year. We’re not aware of another group that covers the breadth of research that our team can produce, and we’re proud to employ some of the smartest minds in the world in their fields.