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Utopian Entrepreneur (Mediaworks Pamphlets) [Paperback]

by Brenda Laurel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2001 0262621533 978-0262621533

A heady hybrid of critical thinking, personal narrative, and economic analysis, Utopian Entrepreneur is a field manual for those who want to do socially positive work in the context of business. One of the few Silicon Valley veterans who participated in all four of the major computer tech bubbles--games, multimedia, virtual reality, and dot-coms--Brenda Laurel is known for injecting humanistic values into computer-based media.Laurel interweaves her ideas on how to conduct socially progressive business with the saga of her experiences with the Interval Research Corporation and as the founder of the pioneering girls' software company Purple Moon.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Life can be tough for those who care about the world around them. Just ask Brenda Laurel, whose efforts to infuse social responsibility into her software company led to Purple Moon's spectacular failure on the cusp of the dot-com boom. Her slim memoir, Utopian Entrepreneur, explores her work in girls' games, virtual reality, and the intersection between art and tech.

The writing is fluid and ranges from childhood memories to boardroom battles; readers can't help but amass insight into the difficulties of maintaining one's soul in a heavily commercialized world. Though the book's design is too strongly reminiscent of the dense early-'90s typeface frenzy, this will only be a minor distraction for most readers. Laurel's narrative jumps and slides through new layouts and type sizes like a monkey and holds the attention firmly throughout. While Utopian Entrepreneur won't give any hints on making money, it will explain one human's vision for doing business right. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Although Brenda Laurel's start-up venture, Purple Moon (a company dedicated solely to creating software for girls) failed, she walked away from the experience with a cornucopia of knowledge about technology and economics. She shares those lessons in Utopian Entrepreneur, a guide to those seeking socially positive work in the business world. A stream-of-consciousness style and unique layout come together to present important messages, like "good research is never done," "be a realist" and "pay attention to what you learn."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: Mediaworks Pamphlets
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262621533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262621533
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 6.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Note -- i tried to change this to 5 stars, because 2 years later, i still draw quite a bit from this book. the system doesn't seem to want me to change it though.

At its heart, Utopian Entrepreneur is a Purple Moon post-mortem -- what can be learned from the life and death of Rockett Movado, the spunky heroine of the Purple Moon games. Born from concerns about the technological gender gap, Purple Moon sought to build a suite of games based on solid research. Why didn't more girls play games? What are the differences in how girls and boys approach digital media? How might designers create interactive digital entertainment that would appeal to girls? Purple Moon spent months on these questions, interviewing and surveying thousands of girls. Educators, game designers, media theorists, gender scholars, or anyone looking for a good cocktail party quote will find some of these facts fascinating. Girls don't mind violence as much as a lack of good stories and characters; girls are more likely to blame themselves for computer failure than boys are. Good, useful stuff.

(...)this little gem is a bargain. As the initial book in MIT's new Mediawork pamplet series - "zines for grownups", Utopian Enterpreneur offers concise prose, compact design, and short segments that make it perfect reading for between meetings or waiting at the airport. The unique layout helps break up the text and enrich the reading experience. Pulling off such a personal book is not easy, and the graphic design definitely contributes to the book's success. At times though, the interplay among images, space, and type feels superfluous failing to add nuance or underscore the meaning of the text.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great thoughts on living and working in the tech industry September 17, 2001
First off, I'll cop to knowing Brenda Laurel, but I don't feel obligated to review this book because of it. I read the manuscript many months ago and was moved by Brenda's ablity to describe her personal experiences in a way for everyone to both enjoy and learn from. It's not a long book and it will definately leave you wanting more--not because there's not enough there but because what is there is so nice to read.
I think most of us in the tech industries--especially designers--often have conflicts about what kind of work we do vs. what kind we WISH we could do. Brenda's book is optimistic, funny, touching, and enraging at times because she describes her experiences navigating these conflicting forces. What happened to Purple Moon was a travesty and anyone who envisions building a company with any social goals in addition to making money should treat this as an important piece of research.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Homeward December 27, 2001
I don't work in the tech industry but a friend of mine referred this book to me. Laurel's message is significant to anyone interested in the betterment of planet earth. In a scant 100 pages she speaks volumes to those up against the wall that divides commercialism and art.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading September 28, 2001
By A Customer
Like Nathan, I also know Brenda well, so my endorsement has a bias--but so does everything I say. This is one of the most enjoyable *business* books I've ever read. Not because it's short. Not because it's extremely well-written. But because it's honest, it's real and it's heartfelt. Brenda's not the type to populate her pages with catchy slogans and new paradigm models. Instead, she shares what it feels like to be an entrepreneur trying to do the right thing and make money at it. Her voice is humble, her perspective is fresh and funny, and her message is well worth considering.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast and easy, but intectually stimulating read September 26, 2004
Quite an interesting read. Laurel presents her experiences into the technological world in an easy to understand, stream-of-consciousness way. She details her journey into starting a company that focuses on girl-based computer games, Purple Moon's success and eventual demise due to "outside-the-box" thinking.

Utopian Entrepreneur is both intectually and visually stimulating reading. The M.I.T. Press has paired up an author with a designer, in this case Brenda Laurel and Denise Gonzales Crisp, to create what they like to call a pamphlet. This is the first in the Mediawork Pamphlet series, which will focus on differenct aspects of our society and how technology is effecting them. Two more have been published since this one in 2001.
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