Wednesday, March 24, 2010


So, I have been conducting interviews of students who started as CS majors, but later transferred out to another major at CMU. I have interviewed 4 students so far, all women, from varying backgrounds. One person switched first semester junior year, another, second semester freshman year. Some had 3 CS courses in high school, some had none. Some felt they fit in socially, others did not. One of these women attended a very unusual boarding school for high school, others had more traditional high school educations. But 3 out of the 4 women that I've interviewed so far had poor math skills, or didn't like math, or weren't the best at math in high school or the math courses they took at CMU. These 3 women are also the ones who didn't perform well in CS courses, which was a contributing factor to their decision to leave the CS major. I look forward to interviewing more people and finding out if this trend continues for both men and women.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pink Blue Project

I stumbled across JeongMee Yoon's thesis work "The Pink & Blue Project" and I've been obsessed with these photos ever since and I've also thought about them in terms of our research.

Much of our research is predicated on the hypothesis that the behaviors and characteristics that people explain as masculine and feminine are not essential or biological but rather cultural. Many people describe pink as a girls color and blue as a boys color, and JeongMee Yoon's work shows just to what extreme that the blue/pink dynamic is being taken. Literally, every inch of his subject's space is a reassertion of their gender identity as the boys' ceiling to the airplanes on their floors are blue. On the other side the girls are dwarfed in a sea of pink, sitting alone in their pink dresses with even more pink accessories in the background.

It also helps that you can see the children in some of the pictures and some of them aren't really old enough to have such strong preferences for a certain color considering they don't look like they've mastered walking yet, meaning that the preference is less theirs and more the one people force on them. I still remember the episode of The Office where a woman brings her little boy in with a pink hat and gets upset when people assume she's a girl. While these photographs are surprising for the sheer volume of gender colored items in them, it's still not as surprising as encountering a child with the "wrong colors."

Yoon leaves you with a little explanation of his thesis work that describes his fascination with the blue/pink binary. While for some reason I feel like I've heard this before, I was shocked by the part where he tells you that the dressing of girls in pink and boys in blue is less than 100 years old: "Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel, an American newspaper, advised mothers to 'use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.'" Only since World War 2 have the colors been seen this way. It's a wonder if in another 50 years we'll switch again?