[iDC] One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Fri Jan 4 14:07:31 UTC 2008

>Thanks so much, Patrick, for your balanced approach to this topic. 
>I've shared many of your concerns about  this project's potential 
>overemphasis on technology at the expense of education and community 
>building.  My sense is that the world would be better off were we to 
>channel similar bundles of funds into the establishment of 
>experimental media centers, where the emphasis would be on youth 
>empowerment, community input and involvement as much as individual 
>surfing and self-directed education.  This doesn't mean that the 
>MIT/Negroponte computers might not be especially helpful in 
>launching such an initiative, but that the starting point should be 
>what Patrick calls solid learning models and Social (re)Engineering, 
>as well as local assessments of pratical computing needs (perhaps 
>servers for storage of archives and launch of internet projects or 
>gear for multimedia creation and expression) could be as useful as a 
>computer in every pocket, where emphasis on educational output and 
>technological collaboration would equal technological input and 
>educational isolation).

I've been involved in launching a couple of exhibitions and 
initiatives that have emphasized the kind of group learning that can 
take place in experimental media centers.  A number of years back I 
helped launch high profiles exhibitions in Mexico and Slovenia to 
draw young people together for experimentation with new media, rather 
than settle for the traditional model of separating them with their 
own gear and surfing.  This isn't always going to work, but it tends 
to empower local needs and approaches to global issues in computing 
and education.   Even my approach to building the Goldsen Archive has 
been to emphasize the building of a critical mass of artistic and 
activist materials  and concerrn over the life shelf of these 
intellectual materials rather than overinvestment in an excessive 
number of  work stations and gear whose planned obsolescence will 
exceed that of the primary materials.    Although Negroponte's team 
might have something like this in place, about which I'm less aware, 
I'd welcome heavy investment in such a communal approach to learning 
through computing.



>Date: Thu, 03 Jan 2008 18:28:49 -0600 (CST)
>From: Patrick Lichty <voyd at voyd.com>
>Subject: Re: [iDC] One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative
>To: <idc at mailman.thing.net>
>Message-ID: <20080104002849.87BEB54C3 at alexander.cnchost.com>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
>Hello, everyone.
>I;ve been a bit quiet - long semester - took a break.  SOmeday I'd liek to
>get back to Scott Kildall's post.
>Anyway, I tend to be a bit critical of the OLPC idea. IMO, it's the idea
>that computers are superior learning tools, when, having seen US technology
>& learning protocols, I'm a bit skeptical.  Although I could get behind the
>idea of getting information tools into the hands of children I would be
>leery of implementing a lot fo learning software for several reasons:
>1: Technocratic Colonialism - Part of my graduate thesis research was on New
>Media in Africa, and they have very different social & distribution models
>than in the 1st World (only as a mnemonic).  WHat sort of impact will the
>programs and hardware have on the kids in terms of how it will be
>IMPLEMENTED.  I do not believe int he "Field of Dreams" approach here.
>2: Social (re)Engineering - As mentioned in previous posts, OLPC seems
>primarily focused on the tech part of the solution, which is a US paradigm. 
>Have any Sociologists been thrown at the subject of regionally or
>culturally-specific implementations of technology?
>3: What impact will the reuse have in the long run?  Given that a laptop
>usually has a 5 year cycle, maximum, what are the ramifications of the
>introduction of techno-waste into inreeasingly remote regions of the world?
>4: Solid Learning models to accopmany the Laptops - I would not back the
>OLPC initiative without a good, solid learning agenda, although OLPC may
>feel that they already have one, and I'd be interested in learning more
>about it.  I just have not been able to find it.
>I'd liek to state that my criticism is not a dismissal of the project; it's
>more akin to wary support, knowing quite well the face of techno-determinism
>and the assumption that access to information necessitates learning. 
>As an educator, I would like to state flatly that the real solution to any
>learning crisis is human, not technological.  Computers may help, but as in
>Iraq (probably a bad parallel, but bear with me) the most effective
>solutions have not been technological - they have been human.
>Basically, don't send a billion transistors to do the job of three billion
>nerve cells.
>iDC mailing list
>iDC at mailman.thing.net
>Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC)
>The research of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
>(iDC) focuses on collaboration in media art, technology,
>and theory with an emphasis on social contexts.
>End of iDC Digest, Vol 39, Issue 8

Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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