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Let Them Eat Data

How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity, and the Prospects of Ecological Sustainability

C. A. Bowers

Publication Year: 2000

Do computers foster cultural diversity? Ecological sustainability? In our age of high-tech euphoria we seem content to leave tough questions like these to the experts. That dangerous inclination is at the heart of this important examination of the commercial and educational trends that have left us so uncritically optimistic about global computing.

Contrary to the attitudes that have been marketed and taught to us, says C. A. Bowers, the fact is that computers operate on a set of Western cultural assumptions and a market economy that drives consumption. Our indoctrination includes the view of global computing innovations as inevitable and on a par with social progress--a perspective dismayingly suggestive of the mindset that engendered the vast cultural and ecological disruptions of the industrial revolution and world colonialism.

In Let Them Eat Data Bowers discusses important issues that have fallen into the gap between our perceptions and the realities of global computing, including the misuse of the theory of evolution to justify and legitimate the global spread of computers, and the ecological and cultural implications of unmooring knowledge from its local contexts as it is digitized, commodified, and packaged for global consumption. He also suggests ways that educators can help us think more critically about technology.

Let Them Eat Data is essential reading if we are to begin democratizing technological decisions, conserving true cultural diversity and intergenerational forms of knowledge, and living within the limits and possibilities of the earth's natural systems.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Let Them Eat Data is the outgrowth of many influences and personal experiences, which included encountering the perceptions of how computers are being viewed in cultures in South Africa, Asia, Mexico, and the indigenous cultures of the American Southwest. The question of whether the proponents of educational computing understood the broader educational and cultural implications...

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Part 1. Cultural and Ecological Consequences

Nearly everyone who owns a computer has found it to be a useful technology. The uses vary from sending e-mail to relatives and professional colleagues to modeling systems and delivering university courses to storing and retrieving data connected with business operations. ...

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1. Globalizing Cyberspace: Vision and Reality

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pp. 3-15

The Palacio de Justicia in the Mexican city of Morelia offers its visitors conflicting cultural messages: while the Spanish colonial architecture communicates a sense of permanence to the graceful stone arches and inner courtyard, and a huge mural depicting the heroes of Mexican independence dominates the central staircase...

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2. The Culture of Cyberspace and Everyday Life

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pp. 16-47

The cost of participating in cyberspace--for individuals, corporations, and social institutions ranging from hospitals to universities--is high and climbing higher as the industry moves closer to realizing its vision of a ubiquitous and seamless web of information exchange. But the current and future losses connected with their experiment with the world's cultural foundations cannot be measured only monetarily. ...

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3. Displacing Wisdom with Data: Ecological Implications

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pp. 48-75

At the fiftieth anniversary meeting of the Association of Computing Machinery held in 1997 in San Jose, California, leading contributors to computer development offered their views on the conference theme: "The Next Fifty Years of Computing." Joel Birnbaum, director of laboratories at Hewlett-Packard...

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4. Evolutionary Theory and the Global Computer Culture

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pp. 76-107

When the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico (NAFTA) went into effect in January 1994, thousands of Indians in Chiapas rebelled against this latest expression of modern economic development. Their struggle to retain their traditions in the face of international trade agreements led them to armed insurrection against the local representatives of the Mexican government...

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Part 2. Educational Consequences

The optimism that pervades the way computers are represented to the public is genuine. It would be wrong to criticize the writings of Turkic, Negroponte, Kelly, Papert, and others as containing deliberate half-truths concocted to sell more computers. ...

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5. The False Promises of Computer-Based Education

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pp. 111-139

The national media are raising doubts about computers as an antidote to our systemic educational shortcomings. While some in academia had questioned the apparent educational gains of computers, their books were viewed as out of touch with the euphoria created by the computer industry's heavily financed promotions and by professors who saw new career paths for themselves. ...

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6. Why Computers Should Not Replace Teachers

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pp. 140-176

Two conferences on the educational uses of computers typify how complex educational, political, and ecological issues are being disregarded in the effort to make the computer as necessary to education as the older tradition of print that it is based upon. The conference, sponsored by the Benjamin Franklin Institute for Global Education and given technical support by Pacific Bell, Netscape...

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7. Rethinking Technology: What Educational Institutions Can Do

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pp. 177-195

There is an assumption shared by computer proponents such as Esther Dyson and Nicholas Negroponte, by the decision makers and computer system experts who create the virtual universities and Internet-based classrooms, the business leaders and engineers who are moving goods and services into cyberspace, the people who design educational software, and the parents who pressure school officials to purchase more computers for the classroom. ...


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pp. 197-204


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pp. 205-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780820340739
E-ISBN-10: 0820340731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820322292
Print-ISBN-10: 0820322296

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2000