Trending: Fall 2018
by Stephanie Cook (MJour'18)
Photos by Glenn Asakawa (Jour'86), header photo courtesy of Mattel
In the early ’60s she did stints as a ballerina, a nurse and a flight attendant. By 1988 she had completed medical school and become a doctor. Twenty years later she ran for president.
For 2018, Mattel is taking on tech with Robotics Engineer Barbie, released in conjunction with the e-book Code Camp for Barbie and Friends.
“Learning to code is just like learning to speak a new language, and it’s something that you can start doing right now!” Casey Fiesler, an assistant professor in CMCI’s Department of Information Science, writes to young readers in the introduction.
Before consulting with Mattel on the e-book, Fiesler wrote about Barbie’s previous ventures into the world of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—in two articles for Slate. The way Barbie represents STEM careers, to young girls especially, is something Fiesler wants to see Mattel get right.
“It seems like such a simple thing, but part of getting people to see themselves doing something is representation,” she says.
Fiesler began writing about Mattel in 2014, after seeing screenshots of a book called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. In the book, Barbie focuses on game design—leaving the actual engineering to two males—and eventually gives her computer a virus. Fiesler created a remixed version in which Barbie actually acted like a competent computer engineer.
The following year, when Mattel released Game Developer Barbie, Fiesler was encouraged to see a Barbie that could actually code. Her only disappointment, she wrote in a second article, was that the company didn’t take the opportunity to partner with computing education companies.
The new e-book, created in partnership with the children’s educational programming platform Tynker, fills that gap and avoids errors Mattel made with Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.
“Mattel really screwed it up,” Fiesler says. “But they took steps to make it better, and I would like to think that my critique, or critiques like mine, helped push it in that direction.”
In her introduction, she writes what Barbie should have been telling young girls all along: “Anyone can learn to code.”
Photos courtesy Nathan Schneider
Imagine a single concept that can generate bipartisan support in America’s current political climate.
Believe it or not, one professor says it exists: the cooperative movement.
“It has been supported equally by Democrats and Republicans for decades,” says Nathan Schneider, an assistant professor of media studies. “For instance, expanding employee ownership was on both the Democratic and Republican platforms in 2016. And both parties recently supported a new law to lighten the regulatory burden on credit unions, which are cooperative banks.”
In his new book, Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy, Schneider explores the history and future of the movement for increased public, user and employee ownership.
Activists in the movement are interested in how co-ops can revolutionize America’s economic future—impacting ownership models for everything from newspapers to social media to the internet.
Schneider’s family history in part sparked his interest in the topic. His grandfather was president of a nationwide cooperative hardware store, and some members of his family first came to Colorado thanks to a co-op beet company that still operates today.
In a previous book—Thank You, Anarchy—he followed Occupy Wall Street activists seeking greater financial equality. After the protests, they embraced the co-op model.
“They turned to this tradition as something that could hold their values while also enabling them to work within the market,” he says. “But it’s also the tradition of my conservative grandpa.”