Gender and Technology: A Case Study

Brenda Laurel

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 4, 2000

This presentation will review research conducted by Interval Research in collaboration with Cheskin Research that led to the formation of Purple Moon, a company devoted to interactive media for preteen girls. Purple Moon was formed in 1996, with initial product launch in the fall of 1997.

The company was acquired by Mattel in 1999. During its life, ongoing research played a major role in the formation of new product concepts and designs. This talk will discuss research methods and key findings, how research was translated into design and marketing decisions, and the other cultural forces that influenced the company's products and its fate.

Brenda Laurel is a designer, researcher and writer. Her work focuses on interactive narrative, human-computer interaction, and cultural aspects of technology. Her career in human-computer interaction spans over twenty years. She holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in theatre from the Ohio State University. Her doctoral dissertation was the first to propose a comprehensive architecture for computer-based interactive fantasy and fiction. Brenda was one of the founding Members of the research staff at Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California, where she coordinated research activities exploring gender and technology, and where she co-produced and directed the Placeholder Virtual Reality project. She was also one of the founders and VP/Design of a spinoff company from Interval - Purple Moon - formed to market products based on this research. Purple Moon was acquired by Mattel in 1999. In 1990 she co-founded Telepresence Research, Inc. to develop virtual reality and remote presence technology and applications. She has worked as a software designer, producer, and researcher for companies including Atari, Activision, and Apple. Brenda has published extensively on topics including interactive fiction, computer games, autonomous agents, virtual reality, and political and artistic issues in interactive media. She is editor of the book, The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design [Addison-Wesley 1990] and author of Computers as Theatre [Addison-Wesley 1991; 2nd edition 1993], and a collection of essays entitled Severed Heads.


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