Ada Lovelace Day 2011 – Nancy Baym.

Ada Lovelace day is a day to celebrate women in technology/science/maths – a way of redressing the still-apparent imbalance in the representation of the role of women in the past present and future of the various strands of technology.

One strand of it is people blogging about women who have influenced them and their tech/science/engineering/maths-life. So that’s what I’ll do.

This year, I want to write a little about Nancy Baym – Nancy is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, with a special personal emphasis on “personal connections in a digital age” (the title of her excellent book) and in the changing relationship between musicians and their fans.

I’ve been reading Nancy’s ‘online fandom’ blog for years, and was drawn in immediately by her scholarly approach to looking at the subject. Almost all the people who write about the changes that the internet has brought about for musicians and music fans do so from a purely anecdotal perspective – me included (albeit somewhat aggregated anecdotes that point to a sea-change in those relationships). Nancy is doing brilliant research and presents that work all over the world at conferences in both the academic and music sectors. Her book is one of -if not THE – key text(s) on connections online.

I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from Nancy and swap ideas with her over the last couple of years. I finally met up with her at a conference in Berlin last year, and have been interviewed by her twice for different books or papers she’s writing. It’s not often that an interview teaches me more than I’m able to impart but not only does talking to Nancy make me up my game just through her not letting me get away with any folksy fluffy BS about the internet being nice for musicians – at least not without backing it up – but her questions are the best questions and her responses reveal her to have the most astute grasp of the whole area of online communication as it relates to musicians of anyone I’ve ever come across.

She’s a brilliant academic, digital ninja, ardent music fan and brilliant analyst of what happens beyond the fluffy shiny stuff of our lives onine. She also wins at Twitter – follow her at @nancybaym – she manages to be funny, sarcastic, erudite and fiercely intelligent in 140 characters. Another rare trait.

There are still a few hours of Ada Lovelace Day to go – who are your digital heroines?

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