[hackerspaces] [armin at easynet.co.uk: Re: [Bricolabs] Digital Inclusion???]

Hellekin O. Wolf hellekin at hackerspaces.org
Wed Feb 24 12:08:54 CET 2010

Here, Armin medosch reports on a recent international conference held
in Vienna about the future of education, and especially the "need" for
every pupil to have his own laptop. 

What frightens me, and why I forward this contribution to our list, is
that prominent proprietary software companies are actively lobbying to
get their logo into the classroom, without any plan whatsoever
regarding how the laptops should be used, or how they could be misused
in education. They target poor countries, as well as young children.

The corporate world is short-cicuiting the democratic process. Instead
of a public debate involving the population, we have a nice room full
of grey people pushing for one device per pupil, period. Here, once
again, reflection is replaced by the imperative for economic outcomes.
What a wonderful market those children. Their number keeps growing,
and they will become in turn consumers, and maybe, for some of them,
producers. What do they learn in the meantime? That This-Company(TM)
put them on the track out of poverty, maybe, in the best case. On
public spending of course.

What about free software? Literacy? DIY? Grassroots initiatives? I'm
surprised that this kind of international meeting can happen after the
Free Culture Forum Charter has been released. Well, not surprised
entirely, but certainly disappointed that it didn't reach the
educational world yet--although you know how much good I think of
top-down initiatives anyway.


----- Forwarded message from Armin Medosch <armin at easynet.co.uk> -----

Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 10:06:13 +0100
To: Bricolabs startup mailinglist <brico at lists.dyne.org>
From: Armin Medosch <armin at easynet.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [Bricolabs] Digital Inclusion???
List-Id: Bricolabs startup mailinglist <brico.lists.dyne.org>

Hi all,

I am joining in, a bit late, on this digital inclusion topic. It seems
to me that in the transition from fordism to postfordism certain topics
and terms which 10 or 20 years ago still could be considered to stem
from the left and alternative eco-socio-cultural movements have become
major governmental policies, driven by multilateral bodies such as the
EU, UNO, Worldbank, and digital inclusion is one of them. The major
drive is to create a pull factor, an attraction for people to make
themselves available for the capitalist economy. But behind the
'inclusive' approach is still lurking coercion and punishment for those
who cant or are unwilling to join the new productive cycle of capital.
In this context, another term to watch is 'holistic'. It is the new
logic of the networked society which is aiming at the self, at the deep
core of human subjectivity to become the new productive force. And ICT
is considered central for it. 

This became painfully obvious to me at a conference in Vienna, Austria,
in recent days, about 1-to-1 in education. by 1-to-1 they mean that
every school student should have her or his own laptop. This idea goes
back a long way but certainly got a big push forward with the OLPC
project. The conference was organised by OECD, Worldbank and
Interamerican Bank of Development. Attending were mostly people from
ministries of education, among them many from Latin America, which is a
reason why I share this here. I haven't got the time to write a full
conference report but overall it was quite shocking and it is to be
expected that this policy will create more harm than good. The problem
can be summed up in the tendency that rather than focusing on
educational reform and social issues, the main focus will be on closing
the digital divide by giving netbooks to children without policies in
place on what should actually be achieved with those. 

It seems the multilateral agencies have together with multinational
corporations adopted new language and new policies which incorporate the
idea of the Schumpeterian "creative entrepreneur". While this may remind
many of the 1990s and the New Economy this has become mainstremed now as
an idea that reshapes the educational system. As the Microsoft agent
said, you cant start early enough, which is why they now focus on
learning software for kindergarten level. Just some of the buzzwords
mentioned most frequently:

the Interamerican Bank wants to drive "disruptive innovation in
learning" which means that if necessary it has to "force changes in
practices". This bank is giving huge loans to countries in Latin America
so they can buy XOs and netbooks. The worldbank is involved in
"reengineering processes and systems" in a very creative and holistic
way of course. The OECD delegate reminded participants of the "2nd
digital divide" which means that pupils with laptops but little "social
capital" might fail to make good use of them. He also openly said that
there is "an industry behind it", so 1-2-1 is a nice opportunity for
governments to support the ICT industry in difficult times ...

Peru is setting out on an ambitious project to give 600.000 XOs to poor
kids in remote mountain areas by the end of the year. The government
representative admitted it was a problem that in those areas many
teachers fail basic literacy tests. So what those XOs will be used for -
they carried bright Windows logo on the screen in the back of the
powerpoint presentation, by the way - remains to be seen. The
representative from Israel showed the most comprehensive "classroom
management system', i.e. a student surveillance tool as part of a
strategy of creatings "vital solutions for providing school students
with the economic and social utilities to compete in global market
place". The representative from Austria seemed to be unhappy that school
students could not be fully observed during their spare time so they
give them netbooks and incentives to twitter their every moment of home
and spare time. The Brasilian project presented was Pirai Digital which
achieved the highest word count of "innovative" of all participants,
while Spain tries to brand 1-2-1 as part of Escuela 2.0

It is hard to convey how awful all this was at this conf, but we should
not be mistaken by surface appearances. While these are buerocrats, i.e.
rooms full of middle aged people in suits (or female equivalent of
business class dressing) the 'holistic' policies they are driving are
much nearer - in some ways, in some ways of course not - to the themes
and desires circulating on bricolist. The idea formed by the
multilateralists is that high-tech plus creativity, plus community, plus
inclusion, plus ecofriendly will form a big junk of the new productive
paradigm sustaining economic growth in the next 20 years. the flipside
of that is of course surveillance, military technologies, etc., and
those things get rebundled in the process of "creative destruction" in
an entirely new holistic way

To end on a positive note: what became also obvious at this conference
is that they really do have very few recipes on how to use 1-2-1 in a
creative way. So I think one way is to reject all this and opt out. But
there is also a dire need for concepts that make sense, for different
practices, for examples how ICT, FLOSS and so on and so forth can be
used in education. One problem is that those government people only go
by the book and there is very little written evidence about this world
we inhabit of open labs, workshop culture, etc; thus, we need to make a
better effort in making implicit tactics explicit, in writing up exmples
that worked, in documenting practices. I think fears of 'recuperation'
or 'cooptation' are unjustified, because on a policy level 'we' have
already been recuperated - which is an umcomfortable lesson I draw from
this experience


thenextlayer software, art, politics http://www.thenextlayer.org

Brico mailing list
Brico at lists.dyne.org

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