Friday, April 9, 2010

Barbie gets a career change -- computer engineer

This morning's Wall Street Journal ran an article on the open vote to decide Barbie's new career path. I believe the article is way off base though because they report, numerous times, that:
Why grown women felt so strongly about having themselves represented by a doll—especially one that feminists have always loathed—speaks volumes both about the power of the iconic Barbie doll and the current state of women who work in computer and information sciences.
The anecdotes that ran in the article are also exclusively female. These statements give the impression that it was a girls-only vote for girls' favorite childhood toy.
That is simply not the case. I even voted in this election for computer engineer Barbie after I was sent the link from my MIT-educated programming friend. Beyond this narrow example, I'm aware of at least a few online communities (and am a passive viewer of one) that engage in "raids" designed to hijack campaigns, votes, and the like. I believe, if it were possible to analyze ex-post the demographics of the ballot-throwers, the members of these communities would account for a significant majority of the voting behind computer engineer Barbie.
Do you remember when the Spice Girls reunion tour placed a ballot on their website for the location of an open date for a concert? Baghdad won over Montreal by a wide margin. Do you remember those demonstrations by Guy Fawkes mask-wearing males protesting the Church of Scientology? I do, and Fires of Heaven and 4Chan forums were behind these.
The power of the internet and especially the internet's more active communities is strong and it shouldn't be underestimated.