Archive for October, 2007

A Technological World

October 31, 2007

Technological gadgets could be the same for every one?

How does diffusing technology across the world could diminish rather than enhance it? The answer to this topic creates polemic. To illustrate this topic we could follow a recent polemic around One Laptop Per Child, OLPC project. During last year intellectuals and experts that work within new technologies had shown different ideas about One Laptop Per Child, OLPC a non-profit organization that offered laptops for $100 dollars to children from developing countries. The opinions about OLPC some times are opposed or against its proposals.

“It’s an education project, not a laptop project,“ said Nicholas Negroponte founder and chairman of the OLPC. “The mission of this non-profit association is to develop a low-cost laptop a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. Our goal is to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves.” We could assume that they are creating a good tool that could help kids play and learn through their educational material in an interesting manner.

New technologies practices have profoundly transformed our education and our culture. And these technologies will continue changing our epoch. But exist a big gap between who is self-proclaimed first world that produce a laptop and the third world that will receive OLPC. “I think the OLPC project has a lofty goal, and I wish it an absolute success. But there are some issues about the project that bother me” said Jorge Aranda, a Mexican, Ph.D. student of Computer Science at the U. of T. “It’s not a gift, it’s a laptop/textbooks trade-off: Even at $100US per laptop, giving one to every kid in a country requires a substantial amount of money. Where will it come from? From the education budget of participating countries?” The development countries will assume the cost of this project? What will replace the budget that they use in this project. At least we hope that they could create a necessary infrastructure to develop and support the project. But the experience shows us that it only in a few opportunities it happens. In other words, the laptop belong to a certain ideology and it set of western culture. And again, there is evidence that has shown that just giving to third world countries computing infrastructure is not enough to “transform them into learning or knowledge societies”.

By one hand, the mentality of OLPC creators shows us that North America have enough confidence in their technologic development could help others situation. For them are evident that they could help others by sharing their technology. The idea of Evidence has been one of the main characteristics of the western culture since modernity. They believe that if something is good for them it would be good for others. This characteristic comes with other idea that is the Aura, in North America they believe that computers has an “aura”, some special energy that the technological gadgets have and then from them it’s given to their every day lives.

By other hand, “Technology is used in a broader context to satisfy a medical or human right need. Then again, technology is used to kill other people too.” Said Jared Japeks of IDC. Now we could not forget that western culture always has used knowledge and technology as part of their weapons. “Maybe that’s why medical, military and human rights teams do use technology to achieve their missions. I think that in the OLPC case, the problem is in the “act of doing.” Who gets to give? Who gets to receive?” conclude Jared Japeks. This last statement is the main point for a critic of the OLPC project because always we need to think in who validates the discourse that lays in any lives act. Also is important think in who propose it and how it is proposed. And who receive it and how it is received. Here is necessary to remember Michael Foucault words “every discourse is a powers discourse”

One Laptop per Child Foundation
Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman.

The One Laptop Per Child Wiki

Catenary (Blog)
Jorge Aranda, Ph.D. student of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.

[Air-l] One Laptop Per Child
Jared Japeks