[Air-l] air-l Digest, Vol 23, Issue 6: OLPC discussion

Jeremy Hunsinger jhuns at vt.edu
Wed Jun 7 13:38:17 PDT 2006

Look, i've used pots and pans for shovels before to dig my way out of  
snow drifts before i could afford a shovel. I've also used my old  
computer as a stepping stool.   if there is a practical use for  
something that goes above and beyond its immediate projected  
usefulness, you can believe that people will be smart enough to use  
it that way.  It is pragmatics and common sense.  If the use value of  
an object is higher in another mode of use for whatever reason in a  
particular situation, then it will likely be used that way.  if the  
use value of information technology is less than that of using it for  
a another need, people will tend to use it for the other need.   it  
is not 'racist' to admit that.   I've lived in rural areas in the  
u.s. and urban areas and let me tell you, people do not always use  
things in ways that I would use them and I don't expect that of  
anyone else.    Do you?

The laptop... has built into it a certain ideology and set of western  
norms.   There is a huge mental and knowledge infrastructure that  
goes into giving laptops the 'aura' that they have in our everyday  
lives.   there is a ton of evidence that has shown that just giving  
countries computing infrastructure is not enough to transform them  
into learning or knowledge societies, there has to be an education  
program to parallel that infrastructure and then there has to be a  
plan for sustainability of the infrastructure also.   In short, we  
have to export the ideology, norms, and knowledges to make things  
work the way we think they should work.  However, it should be  
granted that not everyone thinks that we should pursue the  
normalization in parallel to the distribution of technology...    
However, then why are we designing the infrastructure according to  
our norms.

my point is that this program has no educational or sustainability  
program iin place and thus what will happen to it?   what would you  
do with the computer when the computer no longer works? or you can't  
figure out how to work it for some reason.

as far as i can tell this whole $100 laptop program is predicated on  
the idea that technology can solve problems.   Technology is just a  
tool, humans solve problems.  If you don't give the humans the  
knowledge they need to build and sustain their own technological  
infrastructure, then in my opinion, you are just creating a larger  
digital divide, you have created a divide based on dependency.   That  
will tend to develop into class divides much as happened in  
colonialism, is this project different than a digital colonization?   
I'm not sure.

The project that I really liked in this field was the simputer, it  
had a plan for education and sustainability, but costs got out of  
hand,  much like the costs of the $100 laptop have.

On Jun 7, 2006, at 4:11 PM, Andre Brock wrote:

> This has been an incredibly frustrating conversation.  conversations
> about inequality and stratification do little to address the fact that
> there are millions of Africans who already use ICTs and would welcome
> the chance to have their own laptop for themselves or for their
> children.
> don't assume that because its Africa that the need or capacity to use
> ICTs is somehow diminished because their utilities lack the stability
> and reliability of Western networks.  After all, the United States has
> some of the most reliable ICT infrastructure in the world and still
> has higher rates of illiteracy and ICT-non participation than many
> smaller, poorer countries.  ICT adoption, in a world increasingly
> inundated with the awareness of information as a tool, rests not
> simply upon the possession of the material artifact but much more so
> on the possibility of using information to improve one's life chances.
> The comment about using a laptop as a shovel?  completely out of line
> and insulting.   Would you have made that comment about rural Chinese
> or Appalachian hill people?
> Andre
> -- 
> Andre Brock
> PhD Candidate - Library and Information Studies
> Project Athena Fellow
> POSSE Mentor - UIUC Posse 2 (217.333.4693)
> University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
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Jeremy Hunsinger
Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
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