On March 16, the Children, Childhood & Youth (CCY) program in York University’s Department of Humanities will present its annual Alexander F. Chamberlain Lecture, delivered this year by Professor Valerie Steeves from the University of Ottawa. During the talk, titled “Talking Toys: How Smart Technology Reshapes Childhood,” Steeves will examine the intersection of big data and childhood.
Steeves will focus on Hello Barbie, a Barbie doll that is connected to the internet and collects children’s data and uses it to “talk back” to them. Steeves argues that through the Hello Barbie doll play is restructured and children are inserted into the marketplace. She will also talk about the implications of this for children’s rights, privacy, and the increasing prevalence of big data in everyday life.
Steeves is a full professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. Her main area of research focuses on the impact of new technologies on human rights. As the lead researcher for MediaSmart’s Young Canadians in a Wired World research project, she has been tracking young people’s use of new media since 1999. She also co-leads the eQuality Project (with Jane Bailey), a partnership of researchers, educators, advocates, civil society groups and policymakers who are interested in examining the impact of online commercial profiling on children’s identities and social relationships. Steeves has appeared as an expert witness before a number of parliamentary committees regarding privacy legislation, and has worked with a number of government departments to develop privacy education curriculum and materials. Her web-based educational game Sense and NonSense won the first annual Excellence in Race Relations Education award from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 1998 and her game Privacy Playground was awarded the Bronze Medal at the 2006 Summit Creative Awards Competition, an international competition involving thousands of entries from 26 countries.
Steeves’ work in technology and privacy as it relates to children and childhood will be of great interest for CCY students and faculty, as well as other members of the Department of Humanities. The talk will also be of great interest to other members of the York community, particularly in Gender and Women’s Studies, Communication Studies, the Institute for Research on Digital Literacies (IRDL) and fine arts, as well as those studying criminology, science and technology studies, and the Cyber Security Program.
The lecture begins at 11:30 a.m. and can be accessed online via Zoom.