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The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop Per Child

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  10 ratings  ·  2 reviews
A fascinating examination of technological utopianism and its complicated consequences.

In The Charisma Machine, Morgan Ames chronicles the life and legacy of the One Laptop per Child project and explains why--despite its failures--the same utopian visions that inspired OLPC still motivate other projects trying to use technology to "disrupt" education and development.

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Paperback, 328 pages
Published November 19th 2019 by Mit Press
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, academic, sts
The Charisma Machine is a hard-hitting deconstruction of the One Laptop Per Child project, conducted through the brutally unfair techniques of writing down what proponents of the OLPC program, primarily Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab claimed it would do, and then actually looking at what children in the developing world actually did with the machines.


OLPCs a primary school in Kigali, Rwanda in 2009, from Wikimedia

The goals of the program were quite ambitious, hundreds of millions of
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Lisa Eckstein
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
The One Laptop per Child project aspired to build cheap, sturdy laptops that kids in the developing world would use to teach themselves software programming and hardware maintenance. From the beginning, OLPC failed to live up to many of its goals, but the project still captured the public imagination due to the charismatic ideas and personalities behind it. Morgan Ames spent half a year in Paraguay observing schools with OLPC laptops to discover the reality of how they worked in classrooms ...more
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“Moreover, in light of OLPC’s mission to bring these ideas to children across the Global South, constructionism and OLPC could also be seen as imperialist, and Paraguay Educa’s faithful adherence to OLPC’s vision as problematic.34 After all, Paraguay Educa uncritically adopted a set of ideals largely developed at MIT, an elite institution in a country with a history of both military and cultural imperialism in the region: the United States. It moreover chose to invest in an untested technological intervention instead of food, vaccinations, working bathrooms, or any number of other kinds of much-needed aid. OLPC’s claim that a country could merely replace its textbook budget with a laptop budget and access online textbooks, for instance, assumed that the target country had a textbook budget to begin with and that schools in that country regularly used textbooks. In Paraguay, for one, this was not true.” 1 likes
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