[Air-l] One Laptop Per Child

Sam Ladner saml at criticalmass.com
Wed Jun 7 06:02:57 PDT 2006

Hello all,

I'm not a frequent contributor to this list but I feel I must weigh in

I agree with the notion that inequality is, by default, wrong.
Stratification, however, is a function of human social organization.
Inequality, by contrast, results from the inevitable political struggles
of stratification. Those with power try desperately to hold onto power
in a variety of ways - why even Dr. Seuss's star-bellied sneeches
attempted to "distinguish" (read: Bourdieu) themselves by *removing*
their stars. One can imagine that no Western child would be caught
*dead* with one of these laptops (too down-market).

So what's going on here with this laptop issue? Well I believe it is
rather ham-fisted to suggest that it is inequality-driving. Neither
technology nor political economy is determinant here. Directional, yes,
absolutely, but simply because a child in Senegal receives a $100 laptop
does not mean she will experience increased inequality.

That said, however, Jocelyn's point is important: all too often
"technology transfer" is not at all knowledge transfer, thereby
exacerbating the digital divide. Knowledge about technology is critical
in regional innovation; it cannot be exploited locally without such

So my long-winded argument here is to suggest a more nuanced notion of
this idea that such laptops result in inequality. Laptops-in-themselves
do not create inequality; yet, they have a way of "revealing" (read:
Heidegger) the world to that girl in Senegal that will render her
experience inferior, unintelligible and likely, unequal.  

Sam Ladner
Ph.D. (c), Sociology, York University
Senior Analyst, Critical Mass, Toronto 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On
> Behalf Of Jocelyn Williams
> Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 11:34 PM
> To: ellis.godard at csun.edu; air-l at listserv.aoir.org
> Subject: Re: [Air-l] One Laptop Per Child
> I'm commenting on the questions posed by Ellis Godard:
> Jocelyn Williams
> Senior Lecturer, Communication
> Programme Director, Bachelor of International Communication
> School of Communication
> Unitec New Zealand
> Private Bag 92025
> Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
> Ph + 64 (09) 815 4321 ex 8829
> Fax + 64 (09) 815 4330
> www.unitec.ac.nz
> >>> ellis.godard at csun.edu 07/06/2006 10:49:55 >>>
> How does diffusing technology across a divide which already exists,
> rather than diminish it? How does giving them computers inhibit their
> "technological progress", or have any deliterious effect on their
> technological standards?
> As argued in "Knowledge Gap Hypothesis" literature, the outcome of
> information (or in the case of the Digital Divide, information
technologies) to a social
> system tends to be, ironically, to exacerbate the existing gap
(divide) because of
> the inherent ability of the more (technologically) literate or
educated to take up the
> information and the advantages and broader worldview that goes along
with it. I
> have suggested "the Computer Clubhouse concept (Resnick, Rusk & Cooke,
> articulates the need for "technological fluency * not only knowing how
to use
> technological tools, but also knowing how to construct things of
significance with
> those tools" (p. 2)" **  is one tactic in responding strategically to
the issue that
> merely providing the PCs is no solution to the digital divide at all.
> The more critical point implied by Fuchs is "global divide in
technological progress
> and standards
> > will emerge that separates advanced Western technology users
> > from users of less-advanced technologies in the Third World" - it's
not so much
> that $100 laptops are not doing anything to address the digital
divide, but that the
> concept may generate a new dimension of disadvantage relative to
advantage - as
> long as those without computers are given first world castoffs, for
those with the
> less advanced technologies there will always be a moving target before
them, ever
> out of reach.  This is a slightly reframed, shifting gap.
> Godard again:
> The implication that inequality and stratification are necessarily
> much less demonstrably eliminatable, is very very close to absurd.
> I don't suppose anyone is arguing that inequality is "eliminatable"
necessarily, but
> the thing is that inequalities related to differential ICT access tend
to go along with
> a whole raft of other problems, often expensive ones, and laptop
schemes etc are
> at least attempting to provide tools for communities with which they
may seek a
> measure of self-determination.
> Jocelyn Williams
> ** http://ci-journal.net/viewarticle.php?id=77&layout=html
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