[IAEP] Activities unique for Oceania XO

Sean Linton sean at lpnz.org
Wed Mar 2 18:14:22 EST 2011

I recently sent this mail to the Oceania OLPC developers list and had
some interesting feedback.

In hindsight I was wrong to assume the statement of monoculture in the email
below, when in many cases the opposite may be the reality, perhaps it is not
monoculture but disconnection that is the real danger ?

On 3 February 2011 22:26, Sean Linton <sean at lpnz.org> wrote:

> Hi again:
> One of the things I would like to know is that even at the current level of
> deployment the OLPC project doesn't get attacked for eroding the indigenous
> cultures of places when with some careful planning and insight it could
> contribute to the opposite. The sort of thing I am thinking about is for
> example where you have the TamTam activities, which have a pretty good
> representation of instruments from around the world built in to the activity
> already, but at this stage are not tailored to different regional
> environments. I am thinking about the difference in using that program for a
> child whose local music culture is represented by the program, and a child
> whose musical instruments are not included in that program.
> I have to say at one level the activity is useful for either child - the
> first can see that his or her culture is part of this world wide project and
> that is really neat, and the second child is at least given the opportunity
> to see what other instruments from around the world are like. So either way
> it is an education for who ever is using it, but with out that renewal of
> the traditional instruments and the unique backgrounds (culture) being
> brought into the light of this empowering technology I feel there is a
> danger that the result is a monoculture (disconnection). To counter this
> one other thing that I can see being accomplished with the OLPC project is
> the ability to create audio content, and distribute it locally. In this
> situation although we don't have 'place specific instruments' loaded as a
> part of the music iconography of the OLPC, we at least have the ability to
> couple with community radio, or other audio frameworks to promote locally
> generated content.
> One thing I have heard is that OLPC, in a way, creates this situation of
> the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. Maybe you have heard this too? I think as
> long as a focus of the project is making a contribution to building
> communities through learning and networking the technology itself is less
> like a piece of the pie and more like mixing dish.
> It would be great to see the Canadian 'drumbeats<http://www.olpccanada.com/content.php?id=12>'
> activity ported to all the places where the computers are, and that all of
> those places could create their own version of that interface, drawing on
> indigenous knowledge and experience of sound. However if for example
> 'drumbeats' is what makes OLPC in Canada unique, and that unique identity is
> being expressed through this activity then it makes less sense to try and do
> it in other places because that would be back to creating a sameness which
> is contrary to the aim of renewal of indigenous music, which is possible. My
> feeling is that the identity created by 'drumbeats' is in the content and
> not in the fact that it is unique to Canadian machines, and for that reason
> think it would be great to see some more discussion on how to better equip
> this technology to provide insights into more specific / less generic
> backgrounds.
> It would be good to establish some more contacts who are on the same page
> with this. Can anyone suggest how to extract the neutral parts drum beats
> and recreate the virtual environment based on metaphors for backgrounds and
> musical instruments from other places?

Returning to discussion concerning the unique activities for Oceania, or
Canada, Uruguay etc. . . (well done on the Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay)

Something I am weighing up in my impression of OLPC as a world wide
movement, is that the places the computers go to have their own pedagogies
and I can see their being some issues in inheriting an embedded pedagogy
within this technology. The thing to remember maybe that the XO is also a
learning environment which has its own consequences, which on one level is a
neutral learning environment - that assumes universal recognition of symbols
and on screen aids.

I think OLPC and Sugar are already on the way to achieving a balance by
creating a neutral learning platform and encouraging virtual learning
environments. Virtual learning environments are powerful because they may
contain cultural metaphors, however they can also feel limiting where the
user is bound by what is already familiar. The strengths of a neutral
learning environment include a sense that what is possible is not already
defined. How broad do people think the metaphors contained with the
activities should be? Can people relate to the metaphor as an effective way
of making sense of a new experience,  perhaps in your backgrounds with
specific activities?

> all the best,
> Sean
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