Live stream: The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child
I'm. Honest accent in a Dean of the School of Information, and. I'm really pleased to introduce Morgan, Ames. Morgan. Is currently, a lecturer and postdoc, here at the iSchool and, she's also the interim, associate, director, of research at the center for science technology medicine, and, society, she. Studies the ways in which computers. And computing, worlds seek, to shape the identities, of learners, in and out of classrooms, locally, and abroad with, a focus often. On. Those often left out of this identity work, her. Book which I believe she'll be speaking to us about today. It's, called the charisma machine, the life death and legacy of One Laptop Per child, it. Should be published this year by MIT press. Morgan. Is also associated, with the, CTS P Center is a technology society and policy, algorithmic. Fairness, and opacity working, group and the berkeley institute data science, she. Previously. Spent two years as a postdoc, at. The Intel Science and Technology, Center for social computing at UC Irvine, where. She worked with Paul Jewish in the Department, of Informatics. Morgan's. PhD, is in communication, with a minor in anthropology from, Stanford, where. Her, dissertation when the Nathan McAfee outstanding. Dissertation, award she. Also has a BA in computer science, and a MS. In information, science. Both. From the University of California at Berkeley and she. Has worked as a researcher, at Google, Yahoo, Nokia. And Intel with. That I'm going to turn this over to a Morgan. I'll. Be talking about mostly. About my upcoming book which. Is about this machine right here you are welcome to come up and play, with it a bit if you want it has a fairly recent software, update even so. You can take a look, this. Is a kind. Of overview of of, this project, which has taken up the last ten years or so of my research but I'm also going to frame it in context, of my next projects which I'm a couple years into and still kind of piecing together, and. One. Of the questions that I'm really trying to unpack across both of these projects, my current one and this one we'll be talking about is how, can we better foster inclusivity. Across, the tech world, this, is a big question one, that goes back many decades, white. And Asia men tend, to be over-represented. In the u.s. technology, industry, and this kind of varies the numbers it vary across different kinds, of. Jobs. Within the tech industry, but. But, this over-representation has been pretty consistent for, a few decades now and. There, have been decades of research on this there have been you. Know really important. Findings, in this space, stereotype. Threat fits into this to some extent certainly. Unconscious, bias there's been a lot of focus on that and of course there's also, conscious. Bias, various. Sexist or racist attitudes. That come up in behaved individual, behaviors, and also kind of larger institutional, policies. Yes. Yeah. So. I I'd have to actually double check I believe this is college majors. But. You. Know there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle yet. Computer. Science and the tech industry in particular has, continued to languish despite, a lot of the the, kind of work to diversify. This so one question I ask is in addition to all of these these problems, might there be a kind of ideological, factor, to, this might there be a kind. Of set of assumptions about who belongs and who doesn't that influences. The, field and in shapes, the field. So. So. I study this. Sort of collection, of questions within the, of One Laptop Per child. In. This project I have kind of two branches, and I'll talk.
A Little bit about each of them in the course of this talk one is historical, so what are the cultural roots of One Laptop Per child where did it come from why, did it resonate, so well. You. Know it's at this point a project that's maybe 14. Years it's been about 14 years since its initial announcement. So it's a little bit of an old project but if you recall if, you're around in the mid-2000s, and kind, of paying attention to the tech world this project was really everywhere, for awhile for a couple of years there it was really the, talk of Silicon Valley and the talk of kind. Of a lot of these broader discourses. More generally. I, also, have a piece that is very grounded. In what, did kids actually do with this machine this took me to Paraguay, for six months in 2010. And another, month in 2013, to. See what kids actually, made of this laptop Paraguay. Was, a, strategic. Choice that I'll get into a little bit later and I'll talk about why, and. Of course some, of the broader questions, I hope to answer with this what, can one laptop per child tell us about how, education and, development projects, more generally, are framed and and what, makes for a successful project there what, the role of kind of utopian, thinking in, design, and technology design, more generally, plays and then, how does um how, do ideally G shape the tech world in in, various important, ways. So. To start, I just want to to. Refresh your memory or to introduce you to the project, play. A commercial. This was posted, a little bit before a project. That OLPC, had in 2007, called give one get one you could buy one of these laptops for. They. Were around $200, at the time but you would pay 400 one would go to you and one would go to at. That point an unspecified project, most of them ended up in Haiti so. Um so this was a give one get one pitch although they don't refer specifically, to give one get one here. That's our name and our vision to, create. Educational. Opportunities, for the world's children. Connected. Laptop. And. This is, that laptop, say, hello to the end so a, computer. Unlike any other designed specifically, to work in tough conditions and, remote areas comes packed with software, and activities, to help kids better explore. Create and share, no, matter what language they speak over, the. Exit will connect them to each other to, the world and, to the right future, we, were a nonprofit organization which. Makes these kids our mission not our mark that's, why we're EXO goes there are five core principles, everyone agrees to first. Kids get to keep the laptops, they have to be taken, home. 6. To 12 years old, third, we, have a deal in large numbers the laptops so whole classrooms, at school at, the same time. There's. Neat stuff. So. The. Organization, that makes a smaller. Bringing. Education to children all. And. That's the only reference to the fact that this was the one get one program that Amazon, link there so. I'll. Unpack, a lot of these these, statements. There's certainly a lot of provocative, statements within that commercial, but. More broadly I want to just kind of frame this in terms of, of. The idealism, that was really rife with projects, like this at the time and one thing that. Work. There we go. One. Quote that in my mind kind of sums this up and it in a somewhat extreme way perhaps was, set by the founder, of the project so he said I don't want to place too much on oil PC but if I really had to look at how to eliminate, poverty create peace and work on the environment I can't think of a better way to do it so with our 2019. Eyes right it's, easy to look at this and say like what.
Is He smoking okay what did what what kind of craziness is this and there. Were a lot of people even within one Laptop Per child that, would see Nicholas. Negroponte statements. Like this and kind of roll their eyes but. The reason they joined the project was some, form of this right it was maybe not quite everything, here, but they were really inspired, to, join this project because, for. Them it was a mission, not a market, this was really important, for them. So. So. We'll kind of loop back to this kind of idealism, and inspiration, in a little bit but I do just want to kind of remind you of that. So. Sorry so what do I mean when I say One. Laptop Per child XO laptop, was a charismatic. Technology. This is a kind of unusual, use of charisma certainly, usually Christmas attached to people not. To things but. There's a reason I'm doing this here. Charisma. In this sense promises. Some kind of action in the world it's not just the device itself, as cute as it is that. Is kind of the the, fetish, object. This. Device is meant to do something in the world ISM and to enact, some kind of social change its charismatic in that way this. Charisma gave, those on the project, a sense of purpose direction and conviction, it really brought people together in a really important, way and it brought projects, all around the world together around this laptop. And. And you. Know the function of that, is, really important, it, made progress seem in some cases inevitable. Or if, not inevitable, then then fairly, easy we need to get these out there we need to get these into the hands of kids and change. Will follow that was the story, in fact, Nicholas Negroponte would, often talk about giving. Out laptops and walking away literally, walking away with no further support and again, he you tended to be a little bit more extreme in the way he portrayed these things what, versions, of this were believed, by a lot of the folks involved in this project you, know if we got these out there in the world change would follow. That. Also forecloses. Various alternatives. You know there, was a lot of discussion, about well why should we invest in this and not increasing. Teacher pay or making, sure there are functional bathrooms, in the schools or paying. For textbooks and there was a lot of discussion. You. Know a lot of the people within one laptop per child will push back and say no this, is the way for those are treading water those are incremental, changes this is the revolutionary. Change that we're looking for I. Am, going to make an argument going, forward that there, are threads, of this that are actually ideologically. Kind of conservative, and I don't mean conservative, of the Capitals see here in terms of of kind, of US national politics, but I mean, evoking. Kind. Of status. Quo kinds, of identities, and and, images. That prop. Up a certain kind of person, and, and. Don't. Support, a lot of change, and diversity within the field and. I'll dig more into that so. Again within the scope of all, that's happened in the last year this is a image, from AI now of. Some. Of the kind of major events. That have happened throughout 2018. Right we have cambridge analytic, oh we have Tesla's, autopilot fatal, car crash we have Mark, Zuckerberg testimony, in front of the Senate. There. Has been a lot that's happened in the last year in particular in, the technology, industry that, in some ways has shifted the narrative, away, from, the optimism, that it had before so. I'm very one, thing that I'm very curious, about going forward in my research is what. Does this shift mean, for, the future of the industry right, so. So. How this fits into this broader narrative is. A big question in my own mind but I want you to kind of think back again to that that 2005. Idealism. If you were in the technology, industry at the time or, if you kind of seen older things this, is a throwback to some of the kind of 1990s. Cyber, culture utopianism. That, you know we'd have this electronic, community, that was not going to be governed, by all, of the national, borders and other kind of petty.
Petty. Concerns of. Nations. And other things this was going to be this very utopian, space. So. Again as a recap, oil. Pcs core principles, we're if we were, introduced, to them in that commercial. Children. Themselves should own the laptops not, parents, not schools not government's, children, and this was to enable them to use the laptop anytime. Anywhere and to modify the laptop, if they wanted. Another. Was, that they were aiming at, elementary. School-aged kids this. Was not something for high school kids there's been a lot of work on on laptops. For high school kids but, this was really for a bunch of younger kids this was trying, to get them at the point where they could really fall in love with the computer and especially, with programming. And they, could teach themselves if they wanted to, do. You want to get them to all kids they want to have. Them internet connected, and finally they wanted, only free. And open source software on, these machines and we'll, get back to why, this is particularly important. A little. Bit later but certainly the by him from the open source community was, very big for this project, a. Few of LPC's, key, leaders Nicholas, Negroponte was, in many cases the public face of the project he was the one touring around the world talking. The project up, he. Gave a couple talks at Davos a few TED talks on OLPC. So. In many ways he's the public face of the project, however I'm going to focus in going forward a little bit more on Seymour Papert, who in a lot of ways was the intellectual. Parent. Of the project, he he. Had been promoting, the idea of one one, computer, per child, for, some 40 years before, One Laptop Per child was announced, and many. Of the kind, of design. Choices they made were based on his ideas, a couple. Other key players Walter. Bender Mary Lou Jepsen these, were all faculty, members at, the MIT Media Lab so the Media Lab had a very strong influence on the project. With. A lot of volunteers from all over the world as well contributing. So. Again focus in on Nicholas. Negroponte and Seymour Papert going, forward, and in, particular, seymour, papert's. Educational. Theory constructionism. Was a really. Foundational. Cornerstone. Of the project, in fact Nicholas Negroponte often. In his talks would would, would. Cite, Seymour Packard is the main influencer.
Here In, a movie. Called Webb that talked, about One Laptop Per child in Peru Nicholas. Negroponte said, the initial ideas for One, Laptop Per child came in the late 1960s, and early 1970s when. A man named, Seymour Papert made a very simple observation and, that was what children learn that children, learn different. Riffing. On Apple they're maybe when. They write computer programs because, the act of writing a computer program is the closest you can come to thinking about thinking. So. This is kind, of you know peppered filter through Negroponte a clearly, but you you start to see some of the the, idealism, around, the power of learning to program and they could be a lure of learning to program. And. This was in fact a key, piece of constructionism, so constructionism. As described, in various. Publications, that, Seymour Papert has put out over the years in. Many, ways resembles, constructivism. And in fact peppered studied with Jean Piaget four, or five years in Geneva before coming to the MIT Media Lab. Um. It however diverges, in several important respects, in particular, taking. On various threads. From. Papper. It's time with the Media Lab so when he joined the Media Lab he joined Marvin Minsky here's Martin, pepper and Marvin Minsky and a picture together during Marvin Minsky's, AI, group. And. Sorry. This wasn't the Media Lab at the time this was just MIT Media, Lab came. A little bit later but he joined this, AI group and. Started. Spending a lot of time with the kind of hacker group that would take over this lab Minsky's, lab at night. Pepper. Too brought. Kind, of framed constructionism. Around, some of the activities, of this group and brought it to a mass audience in, his best-selling 1980, book Mindstorms. And. In. That book also outlined, how. Constructionism. Could be applied through the logo programming language, which was very popular in the mid-1980s, amid, a early, push to teach programming to kids something, we certainly hear echoed. Today. OLPC. Wasn't, this first constructionist, experiment. It. Began again with logo, we have it here this was a project that was rolled out across, the, technology, world in the night early 1980s, and in fact across the u.s. in the, in a 1980s, so I used it in my own elementary, school and I think I've had conversations, with a couple of you about using it in your elementary schools as well. Lobo. Was incredibly. Popular across, these worlds, in the 1980s, and this, was at a really key time when the computing industry was transforming, from being a fairly, nice career to being one. Of immense power and importance, with. Huge demands, for employees, it was, logo. As championed, as a more playful intuitive, alternative, to basic. But. Those most passionate. But. For those most passionate about constructionism. Logo, represented, so much more so. Construction. Of his constructionism. Has also been built into enough number, of other programs over the years you, might be familiar at the scratch programming, environment, that's also inspired by constructionism. And in fact, ascended. Alongside, One, Laptop Per child in the late 2000s, but has has continued, to be incredibly, popular, papper. Contraction. Contributed. To the Mindstorms, Lego, Mindstorms, kit named, after his first book there's, makey makey in fidgets out of Media Lab the Fablab makerspace.
Environment. And. Various. Turtle, inspired. Learn to code movements, a, whole bunch of them including a board game robot. Turtle where. You order an adult, around to, act like a turtle. So. Constructionism. Continues. To have a really big influence across the, kind of learn to program world. Why. Constructionism. Still resonates, like this, back to, 1964. When pepper joined MIT to conduct artificial, intelligence, research with. Marvin. Minsky and first, encountered. Mi t--'s nascent, hacker culture at the time so, this is a picture from 1962, a little bit before, of. Three people working around. PDP. Three playing space war and. Pepper. Its first encounter, with this hacker group would set, the course for the rest of his life's work as he describes, it papper. Takes planes that one of the main reasons he decide to join Minsky, at MIT was what he called this what, he called this groups wonderful, sense of playfulness that I, had he, had experience there on brief visits this came together he says in Mindstorms. In. All-night sessions, around a pdp-1, computer that, had been given to Minsky it was pure play. And. Yes, and then in a later book he said at MIT I have my first experience, of the excitement and the holding power that keeps people working all night on their computers I realized, that children might be able to enjoy the same advantages. A thought, that changed my life she. Talks a lot about these early experiences, so. I'm going to to draw some parallels, between, the. Kind of ethos of this hacker group and constructionism. To show how this influenced, him, one. Is that they really this group really valued, having complete freedom to explore, computers, and. The source code of the program so, you know the source code of space war was was circulated, and iterated, on by this group, however. Unlike, this proudly. Oddball. Group of hackers t idolized MIT papper claimed that computers could have universal. Appeal he. Said in Mindstorms the computer is the Proteas of machines as essence, is its universality, its, power to simulate because, it can take on a thousand, forms and it serve a thousand, functions it can appeal, to a thousand, tastes. So. This. Was a really remarkable statement, so at the time there was still a fairly widespread sense. In 1980. That. That. Computers, were going to enable you, know militarized. Conformist. Societies, this, was still a a thread, that was fairly prevalent at the time so, in the midst of this. This. Has, the. Idea that computers can be Liberatore. Could be something that's appealing to everyone was was still pretty revolutionary but, something. That really caught on within the world more broadly as we see today and. So, the next thing I want to unpack a little bit is what, pepper called urine errs so in his books he talked about how children are naturally, born yearns, naturally, born creative and school. Will sometimes kind of push that natural, creativity out of them. And. This. Thread is something that definitely resonates, across. Not. Just constructionism. Projects, but across our culture more broadly right, the naturally, creative child is something that seems. Like a familiar kind of trope to all of us however. The. This. Broader cultural discourse of the natural, curiosity brilliance. And brilliance. Of children, they're. Kind of above culture, there's they're somehow more noble then and adults. Who are mired in their petty, petty. Concerns, is, something, that is very, historically. Geographically. And, socioeconomically. Situated. This. Is something, that is. Also. Gendered, as this, image. This 1898. Painting. Sort of depicts so. So. Here we have you know the boys roughhousing, and over, in the corner a, girl, with a very clean petticoat reading a book right. So. This imaginary, of childhood, traces, its roots through. Enlightenment culture, to an extent but really started, to find some grounding, in. Mid-1800s. Reform. Efforts, to make school, to expand, primary. Schooling to make it something mandatory, and to. Enforce. Legislation. To get kids out of factories, so there was a kind of shift in the idea of what childhood, was around. This time in part, because of these reform, efforts the 1850s. Through the end of the 1800s. And. This. Framed childhood, an especially, boyhood, as a developmental, stage that's really distinct, from adulthood, more noble more creative, and closer to nature. Threads. Of this individual, individualism. And creativity were then taken up more widely and accentuated. In American. Ideologies, of childhood, within the next century and I'm going to focus in in particular on some, ideas that Amy Ogata explorers, in a book that called. The designing, the the creative child in.
Post 19 inputs. Are a post-world War two America in 1950s, America this idea of childhood, was kind of taken up and a, ton of toys were marketed, around it, children. Started having individual, play rooms where they would keep all their toys and and, this kind of individualized. Creativity, really became institutionalized within. American. Culture more broadly. So. The third thread that, I want to outline here, is the role of rebellion. And in particular, rebellion, against, a particular idea, of school. So. As. Part of this individual, room individualism. And creativity of childhood a certain degree of healthy rebellion, has, also become an accepted, part of American. Youth culture, especially. For boys so this, is the kind of rebellion, that is st. often sanctioned as boys will be boys or, even encouraged, as free thinking individualism. We might think back to maybe Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn as sort of archetypes. Of this kind of rebellion, and, this. Has this has been linked to creative, confidence. Driven. By naturally, oppositional. Masculine, sensibility, so so, this is another thread, of this kind of larger, imaginary. Of childhood. Similarly. One Laptop Per child and some of the constructionist, projects, before it framed rebellion. Against. Authority as a natural, good as did the hacker culture more broadly. So. In a televised, speech in the mid-1980s, for example Seymour Papert said nothing is more ridiculous, than the idea that this technology computers, can. Be used to improve school it's going to display school, at the way we have understood school what's wrong with school is absolutely, fundamental. So. So. I think this this quote in particular, points to how rebellion, was taken up within the tech world in the 1980s, so sort. Of in my mind one of the prototypes for this is the movie wargames, 1983. Movie, this, was the 25th anniversary poster. Of it so this was not the original poster but. But. It and a number of other media portrayals, in the ninth Eddie started, showing computer. Programming. As a site for rebellion this was this was a major shift also from, computer programming, being, a tool. For the military, you know a tool for kind of the military-industrial complex but. Again it kind of gets caught up in this large these larger discourses, a rebellion, and this, rebellion, is often pushing back against, this, particular notion, of school and the idea of school, as being kind of like a factory, you know there are various problems, with framing school as a factory, but this is again, a kind of rhetorical, trope that we see echoed in in, media. Portrayals. And in kind of popular, discourse, about what school is even, though school has shifted a lot in how it is practiced, what, kind of pedagogical tools, are used there's, still this image of school kind of stamping, out factory, students. Or using factory, methods. So. Again just returning, back to this idea of LPC's. XO, laptop is a charismatic technology. I just, want to kind of think again, about how, these, threads, of what she what childhood, is what, rebellion, is what, the role of rebellion, is in childhood and what. How, we are rebelling against school is in some ways ideologically. Conservative. Right it's, drying on some very kind of common, and long-standing, tropes, about. Who. This machine, is meant to appeal to so. Again we have computers, Christmas. A boyhood, especially, Anna krismo. Of rebellion, against school, so. How did this get built-in to this laptop. There. Are a few features, that were specifically, built, around. Playfulness. For example, the the, original, the. Original prototype had a hand crank that was never on a working. Prototype but, it was replaced by these kind of friendly looking years, right it's a little bit of an anthropomorphic, laptop. Also, in that and. That commercial that that, had it kind of flopped down and wiggle its ears to everybody. You. Know it's often press. Pictures would have smiling, children on it even the logo as was meant, to be like a child with arms flung wild, in ecstasy. Of play so. There was a lot about this so that was very playful, it was also shipped, a number of video. Games and video game. Engines.
Video. Video, game environments, for making video games that. Was that framed. Play in a very particular way right, technical, play was meant to be, something, that that. Involved. Maybe gaming, involved, maybe competition. And has, this kind of long history in this, hacker culture back to space war back to that that, early computer. Game that the MIT hacker group developed, in the 1960s. There. Was as I mentioned that all of the software on this was free and open-source software which was very important, to the community more broadly. There. Was notably, no teacher interface. For this there, was no other interface, for teachers or any, pedagogical. Tools there, was not even a way to kind of broadcast, one screen to everybody else so, teachers couldn't really share a screen, or share assignments, they were kind of reduced to a CO learner through. This interface, and. There was also a, mesh, networking, system, that was meant to allow, students to kind of connect to one another's machines, and collaborate. And. This was highly, vaunted at the time it actually didn't, really work well because it turns out that this machine was was, a pretty, slow machine, in a lot of ways but. But. This was often talked about online as a really kind of innovative feature. So. These, features embodied. A lot of these imaginaries, of childhood, of play of rebellion, and. Interestingly. Enough, while the project has faded from view these, objects, have entered, the permanent, collection of several museums so you. Know this laptop itself continues, to be a kind of important symbol, for a lot of this so. I argue, that a number of these features, are, are. What, I call nostalgic. Design. And. There are a number of reasons that I call it this so one thing, originally. This, laptop was meant to cost $100. And in order to get that cost low they, made it a fairly underpowered, machine, it has a one gigabyte, one, gigabyte solid state hard drive in 2005. 50, to 100 gigabytes is pretty typical um, it was about equivalent. To maybe a 386. Maybe a little faster than 386, computer which was pretty typical of the late 90s. It. Did not ship with a video, player it, did not ship with a. Music. Player it shipped with some music creation software that, could play music but it was but, the software is much more meant to to, kind of create new music, it. Was not designed, like. Machines, were in the, mid 2000s, and one, reason for this was because the, way that people talked about what kids should be doing with these machines. Continuously. Reference, back to what they did with machines or what they remember, doing with machine with machines, when they were kids so, often they'd say well on my you. Know Commodore, system, when in the early 80s, I didn't, have this and I, found it so powerful, because I, wasn't, distracted, by the all, these other things we don't need this machine to be really powerful and so, it's underpowered nough sin a way became a feature it became a sort of nostalgic, feature that through there was a throwback to some of these machines that people use before.
I, Do, want to kind of point out though that some, of the ways that they talked about this were. Not really true to what actually, happened, and. That's. Why I bring in nostalgia, in particular, and there's. A great book on nostalgia, called, the way we never were American, families in the Soulja trap I mean this is not to denigrate nostalgia. Per se because nostalgia can be a very important, force for. Us right Stephanie. Coontz talks about how nostalgia. For a particular, kind of nuclear, family, that you. Know was always was. Never completely. Widespread. Right it was it was it's, always been present, but there have always been a lot, of alternate, arrangements. For families but, but idealism, for a particular, kind of family have fueled, policy. Debates and national discourse around families, for, decades now. Similarly. Nostalgia. For a particular, kind of computer, use even though even if it never really existed in quite that form can fuel, technology. Design. There's, a normativity. To this nostalgic. Design so on one hand they designed for the child that they remember themselves, being right they designed for the child that, they remember, teaching themselves to program, they remember. You. Know being falling in love with the computer, and wanting to spend all of their time on it being captivated, by the, intricacies, of programming, languages, and. They hope that this will resonate with kids, around the world but of course if you look back this didn't resonate with all, the kids of their generation either right so. So, there's a kind of a little bit of a normative aspect, of this who, exactly, is this going, to appeal to either. They're going to have to kind of recruit, more kids to the cause or they're only going, to appeal to a, few, who are kind. Of made in their own image, right, so that so there's a a, little. Bit of an exclusionary, angle, creeping, and already I. Also. Briefly want to address one Laptop Per child model for cultural change with this so. So. One thing I discussed, is how this this, idea of, childhood, as being kind of closer to nature. Also. Places it outside of culture, and so, some. Of the early critiques, of the project, of it being culturally imperialist. Sometimes they push back and say no no, this is for the kids they, aren't they aren't yet inculcated. Into into, the, you. Know the norms, of particular. Culture, they're, gonna make with. This laptop, what they will they, will find something else and so they kind of fell back on some imaginaries, of childhood in that way. However, this also places. The onus, on children, themselves to create cultural, change it's. Not going to be you. Know infrastructural. Investments. It's not going to be. School. Shifting, or new policies, it's going to be the children themselves and, of course if change. Fails to happen the, blame is on the children too. So. I'm going to shift now into, how, this was translated, in Paraguay, and what that meant for all of these promises, that the project made a, few. You, know fairly basic questions I went to went down to answer, do children do with these, EXO's in their free time, how. Are X Co is used in the classroom and, finally. What do these mean for OLPC. But, also more generally for utopianism. Room for technologies, design. So, just to give you a sense and situate Paraguay within the larger landscape of OLPC. Sales originally. Negroponte. And One Laptop Per child more generally talked about selling hundreds, of millions of them into these machines. In. Reality, they sold about 2.5, million which is still a lot, of machines and, over. 85 percent of them were sold in Latin America, so, you. Know early on they kind of targeted, Africa.
In A kind of problematic, way heart of darkness kind, of evoking way, but. It turns out that a lot of African nations didn't. Have the spare capital, and didn't, have really the political will to to. Invest heavily in this machine or I think the one project. That was of any kind. Of notable, size was in Rwanda. In. Contrast, many. Latin, American nations which were generally, more kind of middle-income. Already. Had strong, commitments, to open source and pretty strong open source cultures were really interested, in this machine so Uruguay. Down. Here. Was. The one country. The one reason, reasonably. Big country to actually go one to one they bought enough laptops, for every child in the entire country, Peru, also has a lot of laptops it's a much larger, country so they had maybe one I think, my estimate. Was one for every ten or so kids. So. They weren't they didn't go completely one-to-one, across the country but, in a couple different rollouts, they they, got a fair number of them. These. Two are the largest projects, out there with a number of others kind of medium that, are medium-sized projects, that may be targeted, one state or one one, region, within a country I ended. Up focusing in on Paraguay, because in 2009. And 2010, it was talked about as the most successful, OLPC. Project, a lot of people were holding it up as a model, to follow. Uruguay. And Paraguay, where we're, in close talks in Uruguay followed Paraguay's ma lead in a number of of, design. Decisions that they did it's, a smaller program but, but. It was a particularly, interesting, one in, Peru for example they, largely, followed Nicholas Negroponte A's advice to hand out laptops and walk away there, was very little infrastructure, investment, there was very little investment in teacher training and, in. Some of these schools in the high Andes there is not even any electricity, to charge the, laptops and while. There were promises to roll out solar panels these promises, never came to fruition so, not. Surprisingly, these laptops often, ended up in cabinets in the back of the classroom not. Being used and there, was no, finding of any, kind, of educational, benefit from these laptops so it's, still. An important, story to tell but I really wanted to dig into a story that was said to be successful. So. I want to introduce you to the people who rolled out this project in, Paraguay this was not a government project, this, this project was rolled out by an NGO, they. Did hope that the government would take it over in fact, one of the founders down here in front Raul. Had. Originally, pitched the project, to his. Friend's. Father who happened to be running for the president presidency, of Paraguay in 2006. And. But. Was not but that candidate, ultimately, did not win so he, was not able to kind, of have, a in, through the government, they. Were hoping, though that this would be a proof of concept right. Another. Thing that the the story about the the friend's dad who was running for president in Paraguay tells you though that these, these. Kids were part of the elite of Paraguay and, I say kids because they're in their 20s of course when I was doing this, fieldwork I was I was also in my 20s, so but. They were generally very young they're very idealistic, most, of them were. At. Least partially trained in. The United States many of them had have, since, held tech jobs the United States and so they had a connection, to Silicon, Valley and to. The tech industry, within the states and the, message that One Laptop Per child. Had really, resonated, with them it was something that was immediately legible. To them and they were very very, excited, about it. Within, paraguay more Brahe we though they, had to do a lot of work to, make this project work so, they did not follow Nicholas, Negroponte A's advice to just give out laptops and walk away they. Put in a lot of infrastructural. Investment, this top picture shows there's, a kind of rebar, tower going up this is one of the schools that they rolled, out in Paraguay that, rebuilt rebar, Tower is a WiMAX, Tower so that's bringing Internet, to the schools then they have routers throughout the school to. Distribute, Wi-Fi within the school you. Can see the little EXO's painted, on the outside, and kind of anticipation, of the project, they also had to install plugs in all of the classrooms the classrooms did not have. Or need of plugs before this this, project, rolled out, less. Than 10% of the population had computers, before, this project was rolled out I did. Find when I returned in 2013, we had kind of read we have we, had tipped, over a cusp, of computer, ownership, even within the global South and a, lot more people had laptops in 2013.
So This was a kind of threshold moment, and many, more people probably would have started having laptops even without this project but this sort of accelerated at, least within this area, of Paraguay where they rolled out so they rolled out within one state in Paraguay the Cordillera, state the, count the state capital, was Cal Koopa so, I spent a lot of time in this, small regional. City it, was outside of the capital which was pretty important to them they wanted to to, kind of have a proof of concept in a reasonably, you. Know big town but not, not. The capital itself. In, addition to all of this infrastructure, they, had a lot of social events they, ended up hiring teacher trainers, in every classroom to, help the teacher not every classroom sorry every school to, help the teachers incorporate, these. Laptops into, their, their. Curriculum. And. They. Ended up having some. Some. Success, right the laptops started being used a little bit however. This put a lot of onus on teachers. In particular so this is an image from a. Teacher training session, that I attended. In in. July 2010. This is a group of Paraguayan, teachers. So. These teachers, generally. They. Have a lot of requirements, their job they are generally, required to cover four subjects a day, they, have to do this in three and a half hours of instruction. Per, day that's all the instruction, that Paraguay. And kids got per day. The. School day was four hours long with a half hour of recess. These, teachers were generally. Mothers too they had a lot of family demands and with in Paraguay and culture family. Demands generally, fall to two. Mothers or to other women to manage. They. Were paid. Approximately. Half of the Paraguay. And minimum wage, for. Their work which. As, public, service employees, they were exempt from minimum wage laws but, it just kind of points to how. Undervalued. Education. Was within this. Teachers. Unions while I was there in 2010, were staging. Strikes. On alternate Thursdays fighting. For a minimum wage so. Come on in, and. And. They had some concessions, later but but this continues, to be kind of a point of contention. The. Result, of this was that not a lot of teachers were willing to put in a fairly. Significant. Amount of time and energy to, learning, this machine, they, were required, to do, two. Weeks of unpaid, training. Every year two, weeks of unpaid training, which which. OLPC. Training that. Paraguay, educate provided would count towards. But. You. Know incorporating, this into curriculum, was a lot more work than just that and a lot of teachers said I just, don't have the bandwidth for that. There. Was also some, really interesting conflicting. Developed visions, of what development, should be so. Paraguay. Had been up until 1989. In, a decade's long dictatorship. Like much of Latin America, throughout. The 70s and 80s and, there. Was still kind of echoes of this the same political party had, been in power up till 2008, this changed, briefly, up from 2008, to 2012, but then the. The. President. Of the opposition, party was impeached, under suspicious. Circumstances and. Now the the. Same party of the dictators back in power. There. Was also a lot of aid of various sorts, flowing.
Into Paraguay there was a lot of Peace Corps workers there were a lot of other development, projects, within Paraguay, is a. Fairly for poor country, and so within this context. You know this laptop project comes in, and. And, in, some ways competes, with different, kinds of narratives, around what development, should mean, interestingly. Enough, though it, inspired. Hope. And and. Inspiration. For pedagogy, shifts, in a way that other projects, did not and I think this speaks to some. Of the ways that the charisma of the project did translate. However. How that kind of filtered. Down into classroom use I'm going to go into next so. Paraguayan. Classroom, as I mentioned with they have three and a half hours of instruction, very. Few textbooks where in use across Paraguay, textbooks were expensive, often the schools would have one set that was used as kind of reference, for teachers but. The standard, tools of. Paraguayan. Instruction. Was chalkboard. And. And. Chalk and then kids would have notebooks they could you, know finish their their. Tasks. In and then teachers would grade the notebooks. Within. This context. These, laptops in, the first year, and a half even experience, a lot of breakdown, so. As kids we're taking these around they would use them. Sways. And sometimes, they would drop Nicholas. Negroponte in, his early presentations. Would often fling these closed, a crock I don't want to do it in case it breaks mine but, they. He would fling these across stages, and then pick them up and turn them on to show that they still worked and this created expectations that, these were indestructible, however. While, they were ruggedized they were not indestructible. And they did break and so teachers had to deal with the fact that up, to, a quarter or sometimes, more of their students did not have working laptops, a, number, of others might have uninstalled, the software that the teacher wanted to use that day and so they had to deal with doubt re downloading, and reinstalling, all of that software over what was often. Early slow internet connection. When. I returned in 2013. The. Breakdown, story, had gotten much worse there, were huge stacks of, unrepaired. Laptops, in the main office of. Paraguay. Educating our pay the, few teachers who are still trying. To pursue the project, had. These you know very carefully. Worded how. To take care of your laptop how to be very careful with your laptop so there was this shift from you, know thus laptop being this indestructible object, to being one that was very fragile, and this. Affected, classroom, use so a few teachers still did try to work on using classrooms, in this classroom kids, were asked, to borrow laptops, from, family members to bring to school once a week so they could have a lesson, in, order to deal with discharged batteries, this is a private school they, strong you. Can see a kind of Daisy somewhat. Dicey. Daisy chain of extension. Cords across. The classroom and. And. They were and this teacher was able, to, at. Least temporarily kind of use the laptop however, a lot of schools didn't even have you, know the power. Cords to daisy chain, you. Can see here some of the students have their own mice that was something that was out of reach of a lot of poorer students. And, for a lot of teachers it was just too frustrating. To, use in the classroom, that. Said, the. Internet in particular was. Incredibly, charismatic not, just to students, but to teachers. One. Teacher said we. Had a meeting with phase one teachers these were the teachers who got. Laptops. In the first phase of Paraguay, EDUCAUSE rollout and everyone had their exo's or checking their email everyone looking at their screen and not paying attention then we turned off the internet and the whole room closed there exo's and began to pay attention so this is something I think that's probably familiar to many of us in the room - not. Just with students but potentially, with colleagues, as well. So. I want to shift now to what, did kids do with these machines in their free time. One. Early, framing. Of the project, that was encouraged, by the design, of it was. That these objects, were little toys. However. This was not necessarily a good thing they were seen as little toys therefore, kind of throwaway and. Because. There wasn't, a lot of early, training around. How. To use these in the classroom a, lot. Of that early framing kind of stuck with kids so so they said well I'm just not very interested, it's just a little toy. Some, of them also had, kind, of little problems. That didn't make the machine completely inoperable, but made it very hard to use so. You, can see here there's some tape over some of the keys the membrane, on the first-generation keyboard, was just a little bit too thin and so if you used it a bunch the, keys fell off.
The. You can see a few pixels out on the screen up there the screen isn't totally, blank but it just makes it a little bit harder to use the, trackpad was, really. Unreliable. And really hard to use as well so a lot of kids you know encounter, this and said this, is just too much of a pain to use I'd rather go play soccer I have to go take care of my little siblings I, have to help my family with a family business I'm, just not interested and this, in fact made up about half of kids they were just not interested, another. 15 percent had, broken. Laptops, in when, I did kind of my survey of the. State of repair of laptops, in August. 2010, about a year and a half and a year and a quarter into the program. Another. The. Another, one-third, of kids, saw. These machines, and said oh cool, I know what computers are good for they're, good for consuming, media's they would get on the internet they download, songs they, download videos, they, download video games and in. Some cases they they, had to go through some fairly complex, convolutions. To be able to P these videos and video games, some of them installed alternate, desktops. In. Order to to. Be able to play video for example because this didn't ship with a video player, you, know, this was a one gigabyte hard drive and so a lot of them uninstalled, a lot of the preman pre-installed, software to make more room for downloads. They. And. In many ways this was very you know tracking how a media, file would kind of, propagated. Through schools was something that I found really fascinating during. My fieldwork you know it often came in through the the, oldest kids in the program the six and seventh graders and then filtered down through siblings. And and classmates. To the younger kids and in, a lot of ways it was really ingenious these. Were really creative, uses my. One worry though is that those who are setting the stage for what this meant, were. Not was not one Laptop Per child or parents. Or teachers but media, corporations. You. Know the people making these video games the people who, in. Some cases sponsored. Them so when I was there for example one very popular game was called vas qualit it is a nestle game it is made by Nestle it has a Nestle character, that, runs along and and much like Popeye will drink chocolate milk in order to kind of power up it was a little side-scrolling, game and, you.
Know This is very popular it's also a gigantic, advertisement. And so, you know the fact that, various. Media various corporations, not just media corporations, but a lot of different corporations could. Kind of make content, specifically, for this machine in a way that was kind of framed as educational. I found, a little bit problematic with, this project. There. Were also some old games that were ported over this is I this. Is doom a fairly. Popular kind of the early, mid-90s. Game, that. That. In many ways kind of broke new, ground in, computer, graphics is that this was why this was ported it's also a fairly violent game and so this one was you, know met, with a lot of consternation, among. Parents. And teachers within Paraguay. So. I I, also just briefly want to talk about whether there, were any kids. Any at all who. Are taking up the more programming, side of the Machine right so this these machines shipped with scratch they shipped with turtle, art a kind of block based version, of logo, they. Shipped with a number of other environments, etoys, pippi, which is a Python. Learning. Environment, and. And. Certainly, the goals of One Laptop Per child were to encourage. Programming. To encourage kids to learn to program and to love programming. I. Did. Find that there were a few kids involved. This and, and. I you, know instead of just kind of stopping there I interviewed, them and spent a fair amount of time with them and found some really interesting patterns. So. One was that their caretakers, often encouraged, this creativity, one. Of them said you know don't use it like a TV use, it like something more interesting, these, were often but not always wealthier. Households and, in particular, they often though not always had, already had another computer at home so, the parents, may not know this laptop, in particular, but they kind of knew what computers were good for and they, would kind of steer their kids towards particular computer uses some of them worked in the tech industry in fact and Paraguayan, tech industry, these. Were definitely not predictive, so I don't want to make any kind of causal, statements. Here there were certainly kids who are you know from wealthier households with, a computer at home who, were. Really interested in this is a media machine but, I think it does point to the, fact that this larger social ecology. Is, incredibly, important, for shaping, kids interests, that, said these, kids were generally, also interested, in these as media machines so it wasn't just learning or just media it was often kind of both. So. In the process, of translating. This charisma this, points, to something. That. Was, missing from the original story of this the the influence, of these children's, social worlds, on their motivations, and, activities. With this laptop so. Often the story was framed as an individual, in a computer, and nothing, else about the world around it or if there was anything else it was kind of an oppositional. Oppositional. Story that was framed that was put. Forth what I found in Paraguay was that these kids influence were influenced, by their social worlds, and kind, of co-constructed. Meanings about what these machines were, and what what, kinds of effects they might have on their world on their worlds. So. I want to take a step back for a moment and look at the overall arc of the, project, in Paraguay a jacket and point to what I call charisma, is catch-22. So, Paraguay. Educate. And. It out laptops, in 2009, I. Went. In 2010, about a year and a half year and a quarter to a year, recorders into the program to, see what kids were doing with these machines I then, went back again in 2013, for, a month, to.
To, Do some additional follow-up, work what, I found in 2013. Was that the, funding that they were they had enjoyed in 2010. Had, almost entirely, been cut off they were down to a skeleton crew they, were running some Saturday. Programs, but that was about all of the capacity that they had and the, story that they said was that well we, you. Know we tried to make. The promises, of charisma come true but. We naturally, fell short because those promises. Were so sky-high we. Were kind of set up for failure. And. I. Feel like this is a catch-22, that comes up in a lot of charismatic, projects. Right in order to even get attention One. Laptop Per child is no exception in order to even get attention they have to promise big they have to promise. Transformational. Change and then, when they inevitably, fall, short they either have to pretend. That they achieve. Change in, some way or they, have to admit. That they did not achieve, transformational. Change and maybe say what we have these nice incremental, benefits either, way though the project is seen as. Complete. Within a few years and it's very hard to get long-term funding, for these projects. So. So. I want to kind of also talk about what we can learn from this, charisma machine so there's there's some value in charisma, right charisma. Provided, conviction, and purpose to the people involved in this project. Smooth. The way feelings. Of uncertainty about, whether it would work it made progress seem inevitable it, rallies, resources, for huge projects, and then this way it taps into, kind. Of broader ideal, ideas. That others have discussed such as the technological sublime, or the digital sublime, this. Is the eye an idea that historians, of technology have discussed, as, the. Feeling of kind of awe that we have might have with new technologies, you know the locomotive, in the 1840s. The, the. Internet, and an early 1990s. The radio in the 1920s, all of these were really sublime. Technologies. That were massive. Amounts of resources, around them, at. The same time there's a downside to. These kinds, of projects. There's, this catch-22. A project, funding you have to promise big favors. A short term, there's. Also some pitfalls in the nostalgic, design, that we saw through this project it's designed for a mythologize past rather. Than the messiness, of the present. And, it may paradoxically. Reinforce, certain elements, of the status quo certain, ideas we have about say. Boyhood, and the role that technology might. Play in it or the role of rebellion. And computing cultures. That. Might not translate elsewhere. So. This, isn't just one laptop per child right, and my my next. Project kind of expands, some of these ideas out into computing cultures more generally, we, did see some recurrent, social imaginaries, that I think have larger. Power. Within computing, cultures more generally, childhood, we, saw any kind of peppers, earners, some. Of the nostalgia, threads schools. As as unchanging, a, factory model of schooling. Computer. Uses transformatory. That's, something that can be transformative, for everybody, and there's, a threat of technological. Determinism, across all of this that there's, kind of a lack there's an erasing, of the agency, of individual, users to. Decide what to do with these one. Thing I've hoped to do in this, project is to bring that agency, in particularly the agency of the children really back front-and-center. Into, my narrative. There. Are some other similarly.
Charismatic, Projects, that are on these some of these same kinds, of imaginaries. At the MIT Media Lab, logo. Obviously, oil PC, scratch, fab, labs a number of other projects, within that lab and. MIT. Media Lab has in many ways centered, the, work of Seymour Papert across a number of their their. Classes, and projects. Parts. Of the maker movement have. Similar, kinds, of ideas about childhood, and the kind of technical play that that, children are innately interested, in certainly. Some of the altschool movements. Have. Similar, kinds of ideas and. Silicon, Valley more, broadly and this is again one thing I'm exploring a bit more in my next project, but, the idea of childhood. With in the valley more broadly and the kind of the idealization. Of, a particular, kind of youth really, shapes what kinds of projects, are seen as exciting. So, I think with that I'm going to shift. Into, questions. And I, really thank you all for your time here thank. You very much. I'll. Start with a question yes thank you really, interesting, thank, you so much. I'm. Just curious you sort of talked, about Paraguay, as touted, as the success, and, then you repeat, it and you said it had some success and then you went on to talk about yeah right, the teachers and you know a lot of problems what, is the metric for success and what does it actually mean if I, mean what. Were you getting at yeah. Sure so, that so you, know the early metrics of success that, I was referring to was was, very much OLPC, defined they were seeing the prot the laptops. Being used they were seeing people talking, about them in exciting, way excited, ways much. From. The Paraguay it should cut people there, are a couple people who worked for Paraguay Etica who are incredibly, technically, talented. And, we're actually contributing. Patches. For the software and and, even, new software, upstream, to, the main build, of of the, OLPC. Software. And so, kind of all of these together they, saw as a success, story on their own terms a very, kind of programming. Focused. They. Had. Anticipated. So, so. They didn't have a lot of stories early on about actual, kids. Using, the laptops, right so these were the kinds of stories that there. Were a lot harder to construct, one. Thing I. Think. I if you don't mind I'm going to just tell a quick story about, how. Success. Sort. Of was. Performed, in a way while I was there so what when I was doing my field work in 2010, one, of the founders, of OLPC. Walter bender came to visit for a couple, days and, I was very interested to see what he was going to make of, actually. Seeing a classroom because a classroom visit was on his agenda and, like. The breakage, and the uninstall software and all of the issues that teachers ran into like what because, this was very far from the model of. Success. That he had been talking about certainly with the project One Laptop her child had been talking about as. Well so he arrives that day you. Know the the principal, introduces, him to all, of the students, assembled outside before school, this is a very important man a few, of you are going to interact, with him I think. I have I can bring up a few. Slides. Of it, sorry. So here he is in front of the school everyone's. Applauding. Walter. Actually doesn't speak Spanish so he's not understanding that what's what's, being said here but. A number of kids come forward, they're, going to be in a class with Walter they're, lined up here and I noticed they're in school. Uniforms, from other schools none of these kids are actually attending this, school they.
Had Been brought in largely, by the teacher, trainers, Paraguay at Chico's teachers trainers to be there that day, they, go into a classroom, there's. A ton of adults and, the ratio of students, to adults is about two to one and typical is like twenty to one right. Walter, gives a one-hour lecture in English that's translated. Into Spanish by these to, Paraguay ajikko employees standing up there and then, he closes his laptop and leaves and that's his classroom visit, he didn't even really look to see what kids were doing on the screen I was sitting in the back of the room as you can kind of tell, from my photo here and I saw that kids you know in some cases were, sort, of had, their laptops open but untouched on their their laptops on their laps, in, other cases they had opened up like web browsers, and we're you, know kind of just surfing. So, you, know he'd wrote about this in a later book as this indication. Of the success story and I just thought you know he nobody, was interested in scratching, the surface of this performance including, Walter and so, you know I felt like that was kind of very. Evocative, to me of how these quarries. Get constructed, in, a way so yes, sorry, that was a little bit more of a long. Answer but. Some. Of the kids that, used it initially, are now, old. Enough to be working. Is, there any increased. Tech sector, activity. Anywhere. Following. On this yeah, so that that's a great question and I have been kind of following up with. With. Paraguay a jacuz you know there's there is still a skeleton, crew there. For. A lot of these kids there. Some. Of them had kind of technical interests already and and some of them are in college I think they're not quite to the point where they're out in the working world yet but but, they're kind of later college now and. You. Know whether. How. Oil PC kind of factored in is a little bit complicated to untangle, but I feel like you know the narratives.
Shaped. By, this project, did influence, their self-image, in a few cases in, important. Ways where they will go with that and what. They would have done otherwise of course I think is a big question but but I think it did you, know it was it was a really big project and everyone talked about it what. That means more broadly though I think is. Really. Much more complicated, questions so. You. Know there was so one family in particular I followed up on impact I have a chapter. The one chapter in the book that kind of focuses, in on them in particular and the kinds of stories that they had about. Who. They wanted to be growing up they were very technical, their mother was also a teacher in the program and so she went through the training and she was one of the few like really. Passionate, teachers, about this who did take the time to learn about these programs and tried to recruit a number, of her colleagues into, the program with pretty, limited success sadly, but, but, her her. Kids you, know worked some of those kids learning, scratch, and doing kind of some interesting things with the machines. There. Were some really problematic, ways that gender played out there so there were two there's, a brother and sister about a year apart who. Co-constructed. A number of projects, and the, brother was framed by Paraguay educause this like you, know genius gifted, child and the sister, one of when the Paraguay educated employees once said she's a conventional, thinker and I thought they. Did all of their, together, and, in a lot of ways she had a lot more drive to do more interesting things she was learning, Japanese, on the machine he. Was just very much focused on scratch but. But. I felt like there was also a kind of intersection, of gender, norms that I found really troubling, in the ways that you. Know the boy was given a lot of extra. Training and extra opportunities, while the girl well his sister was not, so. I'll continue to follow these kids going forward but but that's kind of an interesting thread, that I saw there -. Thanks. Especially for going, back and looking, at sort of the conceptual roots of, this. Form of utopianism, I guess, one. Aspect when, when we got ours it's in a closet somewhere. It. Yeah. We we, got our one of the two, it. Doesn't charge anymore. It. Really hit me is this this was a very much device oriented, and it, seemed very strange coming, being associated with pampered, who, with, with logo and Lego logo, and and, the. Connection, with alan kay and adele goldberg at, stanford and the development of small talk, where. The yes they were very much tool oriented, but it was a software, creative, tool, versus. Versus. A thing that's, that. Carries, carries. What carries, what curriculum. Yeah. Well it. Seemed. Very MIT yes. Yeah. Well and certainly kind of nagar Ponti's digital utopianism, was. A pretty strong influence, on their project too although in a more kind of nebulous, way i mean it was it was constructed, around the like one computer, per child that Peppard had been talking about but, it was a very particular computer. And. You, know that was in part, to to address, some.
Of The early critiques, of you know refurbished, computer movements, and other things that said, well this computer still isn't rugged, it's still not low-power. This. This laptop is, rugged. It is low-power it is kind of specialized, everyone's, gonna get the same one they're not going to kind of get a piecemeal, you, know whatever recycle, computer there is it's their own dedicated. Laptop, so so, yeah it is a, from some of the other projects. In. That way but but. It had its own kind of logic behind it -. Yes. Yeah. Yep. Go, ahead well. Thank you for the presentation, so, one. Thing th