From Drills to Laptops: Designing Modern Childhood Imaginaries

Morgan G. Ames and Daniela K. Rosner. “From Drills to Laptops: Designing Modern Childhood Imaginaries.” Information, Communication & Society, 17:3 (2014), 357-370.


We introduce two case studies that illuminate a particular way of conceptualizing childhood and technology: the East Bay Fixit Clinic and the One Laptop Per Child project. Both cases borrow ideologies of childhood from contemporary American culture and ideas of technological potential from computer cultures. The developers and organizers in these two groups ground the resulting narrative in their own childhood experiences and their desire to provide the same kinds of experiences to children today. We highlight some of the dimensions of this narrative as well as some of its limitations in appealing to, and re-creating, a particular kind of child that resembles the organizers themselves: technically inclined, often oppositional, and often male. These cases highlight both the prevalence and limitations of using childhood ideologies in the design process by showing how these particular versions of childhood are enlisted to frame technological development and the social programs that promote it.

Last updated:

July 6, 2020