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

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Fri Jan 4 15:39:15 UTC 2008

Please correct me if I have misunderstood your message.  What you are 
recommending is that we go into communities and tell them what they need to 
learn instead of letting them define that themselves?  This is how I read "the 
starting point should be what Patrick calls solid learning models and Social 

I mean, given that you have defined that as a *starting* point, I am taking that 
to mean your underlying assumption is that solid learning models and appropriate 
social life do not already exist in these places and so any outside initiative 
must first concern itself with rectifying the bad learning models.

Or, perhaps instead you are saying that the computer will be so alien that 
these communities will not be able to wrap their heads around what they should 
do with the computers and their current social lives and learning models will be 
broken?  And that they will be too backwards to adopt an adequate response and 
so need our help to make sure they do it right? 

But I'll fess up.  I find Power Studies and anti-imperialist rhetoric by people 
in power terribly trying and I don't read the literature as closely as I 
"should," which is why I am generally unnaturally quiet on this list.  So I am 
quite ignorant of what is probably obvious to most on here and no doubt you 
mean something far different than what I have read.

On Fri, 4 Jan 2008, Timothy Murray wrote:

::Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2008 09:07:31 -0500
::From: Timothy Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu>
::To: idc at mailman.thing.net
::Subject: [iDC] One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative
::>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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