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The Stereotypes, Identity and Belonging Lab at the University of Washington is now a member of the blogging community! We will be using Decoded as a forum for disseminating our research on women and computer science and discussing current issues related to the field of computer science including: women's involvement and how computer science is changing the way we live. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on our posts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Social Network: Defying Computer Science Stereotypes?

Recently, I saw the much talked about movie “The Social Network”. Like many Facebook users, I was curious about the creation of Facebook and the drama surrounding it. The movie depicts computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg’s rapid transformation from an anti-social geek to the wealthy founder of the largest social networking site in the world.

While the movie as a whole is compelling, I think it is especially interesting how Mark Zuckerberg’s character simultaneously reinforces and defies stereotypes about computer programmers.

On the one hand, he is portrayed as a socially awkward loner who vents his frustration via computer coding and blogging. He isn't invited to the popular clubs. He is very tech-savvy and intelligent, confidently projecting his ideas and opinions with rapid speaking. 

On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg’s character also defies what it means to be a computer programmer. After creating Facebook, his popularity suddenly skyrockets. Women practically throw themselves at him, members of elite clubs want to be his business partners, and he gains a sort of bad boy reputation through his trouble making at Harvard and lawsuits with rivals. Ultimately, we get to see how many layers there really are to Mark Zuckerberg. 

Do you find Mark Zuckerberg a good computer science role model? Does his character defy the stereotypes?

Posted by: Lauren


  1. On the one hand, the movie does show the power of harnessing computer science to change the world (and make tons of money), both of which might help to draw more people into the field. However, I did notice how all the attractive and cool people in the movie were not computer scientists but were instead business people. There was also a noticeable lack of female programmers and blatant sexism in the movie, which has been commented on by others as well:



    On balance, my thoughts were that while it may have raised the prominence of computer science in society, it didn't do much to make computer science seem to be a welcoming place for women.

  2. While the movie may defy certain computer science stereotypes, I still don't think it portrays computer programming in a very positive light. In my opinion, the movie made it seem like even though Mark Zuckerberg gets popular, successful, and wealthy he's still sort of a mean, unhappy guy in general (which doesn't make him a good role model unless the goal is money).

    Furthermore, as Sapna mentions above, this movie didn't really present any role models for women. The women in the film were simple side characters, who seemed to know nothing about computers and only wanted to party and bask in the glory of the guys.