One Laptop Per Child

Two for One News Blurb: Stormy Weather for West Coast and for OLPC

Stormy Weather Ahead

Whether meteorological or economic in nature, the stormy weather being felt in parts of the nation today may simply be a brief taste of what is to come.

Starting with the meteorological via CNN,

Severe storms that have brought heavy rain, snow and high winds to California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado claimed their first victim and probably triggered a levee break Saturday.

Technology, Culture, and Development

The debate over Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) reinforces my belief that few of us willingly recognize that technology alone can never be an answer for anything. Technology works within cultural and need contexts and not by itself. That is, it has to address perceived need and to operate within a milieu of cultural acceptance. Only then can it to be of use.

There are people I know who would be insulted, were I to go out and buy for them a new flat-screen TV—not because they wouldn't appreciate the idea of a gift, but because they believe that a friend should recognize that such a TV is not part of what they want as their lifestyle. Most of us have learned to respect such individual differences, even if we can't imagine not getting our daily does of The News Hour. Yet, for some reason, we are not willing to allow difference and choice outside of our own cultural context.

Yes, few of us are willing to extend the same courtesy we give to individual friends to other cultures... especially if those cultures are poorer or less developed than our own. We hold an assumption that our wealth and technical skill provides us with knowledge about what other people should want or should do. In addition, we would never say to the friend appalled at the TV set we've brought over, “Just keep it; it can't hurt,” yet I have heard many say exactly the same thing about the OLPC computers.

One Laptop Left Behind

What follows is an edited excerpt from my new book, Blogging America: The New Public Sphere. I’m presenting this passage here because of continuing talk about how Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is going to save education in the developing world (when it really is nothing more than a new and fascinating toy):