[Olpc-open] Mea Culpa and Epistemology Fwd: tabula rasa
cturbyfill at mac.com
Tue Nov 27 02:59:21 EST 2007
I received the following criticism which is entirely legitimate:
"You seem to be attempting to shut down criticism on the basis that you
know the needs of third world country better than they the person
complaining. I would certainly accept your opinions a lot more readily
if you showed that your own opinions were informed rather than
egocentric." (BTW - a previous posting from me is below.)
I am sincerely asking an epistemological question. (Epistemology:
a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature,
limits of human knowledge. http://dictionary.reference.com/). Do you
truly understand the target customer? What infrastructure does the
have in his environment? Would the customer prefer that a high cost,
end solution that he probably won't get - or would it be preferable
to get a lower cost, low footprint, no infrastructure required
laptop where every kid
in the area could get one and they could collaborate?
Who do you or I presume to have the right to speak for? Personally -
I've been doing
high tech development for 25+ years and I don't consider myself
any customer, much less an olpc target customer.
But really - all of our opinions don't really matter. The user is
How many target users of the olpc laptop are on this mailing list?
However - when SkyNet takes over and
wipes the worlds infrastructure, and OLPC laptop may be the only
thing that still works :-)
As for my own third world experience:
I lived in Bangkok, Thailand from 1960 to 1964 - and travelled all
(I read "The Ugly American" when I was 12 years old: http://
Shortly thereafter - I returned to America and got a huge dose of
reverse culture shock (we moved into
a small town in North Carolina) - before it had a name.
I lived in Zambia from 1965 to 1967. While in Zambia there were
months when writing and toilet paper was rationed
and people were deported or arrested for saying the wrong thing.
I lived in South Korea (as a Peace Corps volunteer working with
Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) patients from
1978 to 1980. (This is also when President Park was assasinated
and General Chun came to power. Again there
was martial law.)
I spent time in Russia from 1992 on. My last visit was last year.
The changes in Moscow are incredible but they
do not necessarily indicate a change in standard of living for people
in the countryside.
I'm leading a People to People delegation to China in December to
network with Chinese
Women in Technology. But I'll be large cities and don't expect to
get a real sense of what life is like for
a factory workers or farmer. In fact - I just got around to checking
out the hotel's I'll be staying in and
for the most part - except for cultural differences, I could be
traveling in Europe.
I apologize for letting my frustration come through. I've seen
plenty of cultural ethnocentrism
even among educated and well off engineers. But you can understand
a different culture and not know what
poverty is like. My experience seeing poverty up close and personal
is a humbling and heart wrenching experience.
It was the discovery of poverty that set Buddha on his lifetime quest
I believe the olpc project is one of truly good intentions and dogged
execution. It has also become a disruptive
technology in a wonderful way. It is one of the things I wonder
about when I look at reconstruction attempts in
war torn countries. The west tries to help set up centralized
infrastructure, power, water, that is subject
to sabotage and also takes a lot of time and work. Most of the
beneficiaries are powerless to be part of the change.
There are so many technologies that can allow us to decentralize: ie
letting kids network their own
computers without having to have a satellite uplink in a remote
area. (Has a lovely HAM radio feel to it.)
OLPC is a bottom up approach. Foreign aid tends to be top down.
For all of you working on this project, you have my admiration and
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Carolyn Turbyfill <cturbyfill at mac.com>
> Date: November 20, 2007 7:50:53 AM EST
> To: open oltpwiki <olpc-open at lists.laptop.org>
> Subject: Re: [Olpc-open] tabula rasa
> I'm a big fan of OLPC. 3 years ago I started working on trying to get
> internet access for women in Afghanistan (they can't go to internet
> unless the cafe has hours set aside exclusively for women). I was
> delighted when I found out about the OLPC project. I will be
> raising some
> money and purchasing some laptops.
> For those of you who are thinking in high tech competitive terms, I
> Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Paperback)
> by E. F. Schumacher (Author) "One of the most fateful errors of our
> age is the
> belief that "the problem of production" has been solved..." (more)
> I have spent a great deal of time in poor countries - and to quote
> my husband,
> with whom I worked with Hansen's disease (Leprosy patients) in the
> Peace Corps,
> "poverty means there is nothing" - no resources, no opportunity. I
> worked with
> deformed and chronically ill people who worked harder every day of
> of their life
> just to get by than I've ever worked. A hardy laptop that doesn't
> require batteries
> and is a bit slow - this is so seriously not a problem.
> Carolyn Turbyfill
> Fairfax, Virginia
More information about the Olpc-open