Ms. Boyd grew in up in Lancaster, Pa., and was introduced to
far-flung virtual communities in the early 1990's by her younger
brother. Soon afterward, their mother wisely signed up for two
Compuserve accounts. "It gave me an opportunity to talk to people who
were far more like me than anybody I knew in real life," Ms. Boyd said.
said she comes to her research through experiences as a perpetual
outsider. "I didn't grow up in an elite community," she said. "I was
the daughter of a single mother. I grew up queer in a rural
environment. I grew up as a woman in computer science. I grew up
constantly negotiating these spaces where they didn't exactly welcome
me with open arms."
The outsider mindset is part of my thinking toolbox as well, and I
think that being able to take the point of view of outsiders is crucial
to gaining an understanding of disruptive innovations before most
people do. For instance, record company executives were not used to
thinking about, and identifying with, people who couldn't afford their
product. (This is a problem with executives at large companies in
general, though there are exceptions.) Poor college students did, and
that's a big part of why they came up with schemes for electronic music
distribution years before the established players.
Now, there are divides everywhere - academia, business, art, you name
it - separating insiders from outsiders. Though the experiences of being outside
of the inner circles are all different, I surmise that there is a
commonality between those experiences. So outsiders might understand
one another more easily, even if they aren't outside the same circles.
By thinking and conversing in general terms they could exchange tips on
how to break inside, or route around, the inner group in order to reach
their respective goals.
Which brings me to the following question. Can there arise a community
of outsiders-in-the-general-sense? If so, who's an outsider then?
(I'm not sure that was clear. Does anyone understand what I'm trying to say?)