Morgan G. Ames is a lecturer and postdoctoral scholar with the School of Information and the interim associate director of research for the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. Morgan studies the ways in which computers and computing worlds seek to shape the identities of learners - in and out of classrooms, locally and abroad - with a focus on those often left out of this identity-work.
Her book, The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child (due out in 2019 from The MIT Press), asks these questions of One Laptop per Child. This project was rooted in the computing culture of MIT and is one of the largest and most ambitious education-technology projects to date. At the center of the book is a puzzle: why has OLPC's foundational learning theory, constructionism, remained so charismatic to the technology world despite evidence refuting its central tenets? Morgan finds that the social imaginaries of the 'technically precocious boy' rebelling against a stultifying 'school-as-factory' are crucial to the answer - especially as many of OLPC's contributors personally identified with these imaginaries.
Morgan's next project is animated by a story she heard often in One Laptop per Child: that of the self-taught programmer. While reality is consistently more complicated than this story allows, she has become fascinated by the cultural work this story does - and the harm it could be doing to diversity and inclusion. Her preliminary results show that when invoked, it allows technology workers to enforce boundaries around who is a 'real' programmer and influences perceptions among students of who should learn programming. This project extends the questions she asks in The Charisma Machine regarding the interaction between computers and identity to the platforms, games, and sites that have become central to programming education today.
Morgan's research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Intel, and other organizations. Morgan has been invited to present her work at conferences around the world, including South by Southwest (SXSW). Morgan has won multiple "Best of CSCW" awards, and she is first author on the most-cited paper of CHI 2007.
Morgan is affiliated with the Center for Technology, Society and Policy, the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group, and Berkeley Institute of Data Science. She previously spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing at UC Irvine, where she worked with Paul Dourish in the Department of Informatics. Morgan's PhD is in communication (with a minor in anthropology) from Stanford, where her dissertation won the Nathan Maccoby Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2013. She also has a B.A. in computer science and M.S. in information science, both from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked as a researcher at Google, Yahoo!, Nokia, and Intel.