Gun vs. OLPC Computer

By: Ben White
On: December 13, 2008
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About Ben White
I am a media professional with several years of international experience. I have worked on media projects in Europe, Central/Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I have a particular interest in the rise of internet and mobile tehnologies in emerging markets. This interest is an important part of my master's program at the University of Amsterdam.

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One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has once again put itself into the eye of the storm. The organization recently released a commercial where we see a child polishing a shoe, a little girl standing on a street corner and a young boy training to become a child soldier. The commercial starts with the line “Children are fast learners” and closes with the line “Let’s give them the right tools.”

When I first saw the OLPC commercial I thought of Wendy Chun’s analysis of MCI’s 1997 commercial “Anthem” she describes in her book Control and Freedom. In the MCI “Anthem” commercial the viewer reads text like “There is no race” and “There are no genders.” The commercial goes on to say “The Internet, where minds, doors and lives open up.” The commercial is interesting in that it argues life online is somehow different then our lives in the real world. That the Internet makes race and gender disappear. Chun argues that the idea presented in the MCI commercial is not about asking people to stop discriminating against one another but to “get online if you want to avoid being discriminated against.”

So does the Internet really exist without racism? And does the suggested idea that a child with a laptop can escape labor, prostitution and warfare sound equally deterministic?

See the video:

SKILLS: THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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