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The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child with Morgan Ames

The Charisma Machine

TALK TITLE: The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child

SPEAKER: Morgan Ames, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Berkeley School of Information, and Associate Director of Research, Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, UC Berkeley

ABSTRACT: Ames will discuss her book, “The Charisma Machine,” named Best Information Science Book of 2020, to explore the life and legacy of the One Laptop per Child project and explain why—despite its failures—the same utopian visions that inspired OLPC still motivate other projects trying to use technology to “disrupt.” Announced in 2005 by MIT Media Lab cofounder Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop per Child promised to transform the lives of children across the Global South. Even as the project fell short in many ways, it remained charismatic to many who were enchanted by its claims of a global transformation. Drawing on archival research and an ethnographic study of a model OLPC project, Ames offers a cautionary tale about the allure of technology hype and the problems that result when utopian dreams drive technology development.

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The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child with Morgan AmesBIO: Morgan G. Ames researches the ideological origins of inequality in the technology world, with a focus on utopianism, childhood, and learning. The questions that drive her current projects concern the ways in which young people construct their identities with computers, and how computers (and the technology design practices that produced them) shape the identities they construct. Morgan is an assistant adjunct professor in the Berkeley School of Information, where she teaches in Data Science and administers the Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies in affiliation with the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society.

ABOUT SERIES: CITRIS Research Exchange delivers fresh perspectives on information technology and society from academic, industry, and civic leaders. Free and open to the public, the CITRIS Research Exchange Seminar Series is a weekly dialogue highlighting leading voices on societal-scale technology challenges. Each one-hour seminar takes place on Wednesdays and starts at 12 pm.

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