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

Patrick Lichty voyd at voyd.com
Fri Jan 4 17:10:28 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 
> learn instead of letting them define that themselves?  This is how I read 
> starting point should be what Patrick calls solid learning models and 
> (re)Engineering."

That's an active form. I'm talking about a passive form.  The laptops will 
very likely not have what the villager chooses for any number of reasons - 
technological disparity, the assumption of a relatively homogenous disk 
image (it's a logistical nightmare to go out and tailor each 
implementation).  That's the beginning of that thread.

> 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 
> social life do not already exist in these places and so any outside 
> must first concern itself with rectifying the bad learning models.

No, no, no.
1: There might be good learning models at the schools that OLPC is aimed at. 
But my experience is that the target might be regional community centers and 
village schools, many of which are not very posh by any means of the 
imagination (stretched thin, insufficient resources, etc)

2: Do the target schools have already proven, solid learning models that 
ALREADY INCLUDE computer learning models?  No, or else OLPC would not target 

I am not saying that the imperialist technocrats need to come in and 
"correct" the villagers, I am saying that we need to prevent ourselves from 
acting in just such a fashion - to thoughtfully examine the local culture, 
curriculum,, resources, support infrastructure, and devise the most logical 
method of using these tools, rather than coming in with pith helmets, hand 
out OLPCs and expect this to automatically transform the society.

> 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 
> do with the computers and their current social lives and learning models 
will be 
> broken?

No, hardly.

> And that they will be too backwards to adopt an adequate response and 
> so need our help to make sure they do it right? 

No, I think it's up to Negroponte to prove HE can do it right.

> But I'll fess up.  I find Power Studies and anti-imperialist rhetoric by 
> 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 

It's sort of the reason why I fight with Coco Fusco on this matter from time 
to time, and why I love bell hooks (hope you see my subtext).  I'm a white 
male, but came from rural roots, and much of my family is Appalachian. I 
also have other points of disenfranchisement in my profile that I choose not 
to use, because, unfortunately, I don't have to (not a typo).  However, 
there is no logical reason why I should have been able to become an 

I'm not so much questioning the target of OLPC, I'm questioning its source, 
and not so much dismissing the project, but holding the project to a healthy 
criticality based on my experience with African technological culture.  I 
don't think the people are backward at all, but as with Iraq, i think that 
1st World technoculture is potentially less than informed to the ways that 
projects like OLPC could impact places like Sub-Saharan Africa.

I am 
> quite ignorant of what is probably obvious to most on here and no doubt 
> mean something far different than what I have read.

I hope that you understand that you might have been reading me 180 degrees 
from what I was trying to get at.

> 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.
> ::
> ::Best,
> ::
> ::Tim
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::
> ::>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 
> ::>get back to Scott Kildall's post.
> ::>
> ::>Anyway, I tend to be a bit critical of the OLPC idea. IMO, it's the 
> ::>that computers are superior learning tools, when, having seen US 
> ::>& learning protocols, I'm a bit skeptical.  Although I could get behind 
> ::>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 
> ::>than in the 1st World (only as a mnemonic).  WHat sort of impact will 
> ::>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 
> ::>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 
> ::>usually has a 5 year cycle, maximum, what are the ramifications of the
> ::>introduction of techno-waste into inreeasingly remote regions of the 
> ::>
> ::>4: Solid Learning models to accopmany the Laptops - I would not back 
> ::>OLPC initiative without a good, solid learning agenda, although OLPC 
> ::>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; 
> ::>more akin to wary support, knowing quite well the face of techno-
> ::>and the assumption that access to information necessitates learning. 
> ::>
> ::>As an educator, I would like to state flatly that the real solution to 
> ::>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 
> ::>nerve cells.
> ::>
> ::>
> ::>
> ::>------------------------------
> ::>
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> ::>(iDC) focuses on collaboration in media art, technology,
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> ::>
> ::>
> ::>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
> ::http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
> ::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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