Interrogating the One Laptop per Child project


Ko, Y. (2009). Interrogating the One Laptop per Child project. Toronto: York University.

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Type of work: Masters Thesis






This thesis uses discourse analysis to interrogate the ideological underpinnings of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and how it articulates the development subject. Led by MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC sells a nonprofit laptop in mass quantities to governments of developing countries, which then distribute the laptops free of charge to children between the ages of six and twelve. My analysis begins with three privileged signs, or nodal points around which other signs have organized in the discourse surrounding OLPC: technology, development, and education. I demonstrate how certain concepts such as leapfrogging development and constructionism have been mobilized to market a product under the banner of philanthropy. I argue that the project propagates a discourse that defines the “Third World” child as a generic blank slate that ought to be transformed by the marvel of a “First World” machine.