The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) has awarded its 2020 Best Information Science Book Award to The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child, by School of Information Assistant Adjunct Professor Morgan Ames.
The Charisma Machine is a fascinating look into technological idealism and the complex repercussions of engineered solutions. Over the course of the book, Professor Ames examines the utopian visions that fueled the project and its failures in understanding the role of technology in education.
According to the ASIS&T awards jury “The Charisma Machine offers a cautionary tale about the allure of technology hype and the problems that result when utopian dreams drive technology development.”
“Drawing on fifty years of history and a seven month study of a model OPLC project in Paraguay, to reveal that the laptops were not only frustrating to use, easy to break, and hard to repair, but also that they were designed for “technically precocious boys”—idealized younger versions of the developers themselves—rather than the children who were actually using them.”
Reflecting on the current state of tech-driven projects meant for educational reform, Ames noted, “people still tend to be wildly utopian, completely disconnected from schools, completely disconnected from the experiences of students and teachers on the ground.” To counter this, she recommends “not just involving local actors, but really centering them and their needs, experiences, and complications.” By thinking about the social factors of education and reflecting on the actual experiences of teachers and students, Ames thinks that future projects can find more success. “People are what make education what it is,” said Ames. “Learning is social.”
On winning the award, Professor Ames said: “I want to extend my deep gratitude to the ASIS&T book award committee for their work during these extraordinary times, as well as to the Information Science community for being such a wonderful intellectual home.”
Morgan Ames is an assistant adjunct professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches data science and administers the Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies in affiliation with the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society. She is also affiliated with the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group, the Center for Science, Technology, Society and Policy, and the Berkeley Institute of Data Science.
The ASIS&T award’s purpose is to recognize the outstanding book in information science published during the preceding calendar year. The award is given to the authors whose book is judged to have made the most outstanding contribution in the field of information science during the year. Professor Morgan Ames will receive her award at the 2020 meeting of the Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) which will be held October 23-29, 2020.