Research

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
                                                      - Mark Twain

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Current research projects:

The Social Meanings of One Laptop Per Child

May 2007-present
Stanford Communication Department, Irvine Informatics Department

This research details the history, results, and legacy of the One Laptop per Child project. Developing a theory of technological charisma, I examine the cultural history of OLPC, its founders, and the MIT Media Lab to reveal why the project was charismatic to so many. I found that developers’ imaginaries of the ‘hacker’ children who were meant to become obsessed with the laptop reflected American cultural ideals and their own privileged and idiosyncratic middle-class childhoods more than the childhoods of their intended beneficiaries in the Global South. I then provide a detailed account of the day-to-day use of OLPC’s laptops in a well-regarded project of 10,000 laptops in Paraguay, based on seven months of ethnographic observations, 154 interviews, and quantitative data analysis of test scores and breakage logs, conducted in 2010 and 2013. I observed that children there showed more agency in either rejecting the laptop or retrofitting it for media consumption than those concerned with the project’s cultural imperialism thought – but that their use was instead shaped by transnational media corporations. I situate my observations in the history of Latin American hacker culture to show why it was especially charismatic there and what cultural forces shape its future. My results show how technologies like OLPC’s laptop become ‘charismatic’ and what the consequences of charisma can be. Reaching fifty years into the past and across the globe, I provide insights on utopian design, technology’s mythologized role in childhood, and the fine line between education and entertainment.

Publications and Presentations:

  • Morgan G. Ames. The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child (tentative title). Under contract, MIT Press.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Learning Consumption: Media, Literacy, and the Legacy of One Laptop per Child. The Information Society, Special Issue on "Connecting Fields: Information, Learning Sciences, and Education."
  • Morgan G. Ames, Mark Warschauer, and Shelia R. Cotten. The 'Costly Lesson' of One Laptop per Child Birmingham. In Michael A. Gottfried and Gilberto Q. Conchas (eds.), When School Policies Backfire, and What We Can Learn. Harvard Education Press, in press.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Charismatic Technology. Proceedings of CC'2015, the 5th Decennial Conference on Critical Computing, Aarhus, Denmark. ACM Press, August 2015.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Daniela K. Rosner and Ingrid Erickson. Worship, Faith, and Evangelism: Religion as an Ideological Lens for Engineering Worlds. Proceedings of CSCW 2015, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, March 2015.
  • Morgan G. Ames and Daniela K. Rosner. From Drills to Laptops: Designing Modern Childhood Imaginaries. Information, Communication & Society, 17:3 (2014), 357-370.
  • Daniela K. Rosner and Morgan G. Ames. Designing for Repair? Infrastructures and Materialities of Breakdown. Proceedings of CSCW 2014, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, February 2014.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Translating Magic: The Charisma of OLPC's XO Laptop in Paraguay. In Ivan da Costa Marques, Christina Holmes, and Eden Medina (eds.), Beyond Imported Magic: Science and Technology Studies in Latin America. MIT Press, 2014. (email me for a preprint copy)
  • Morgan G. Ames. Invisible Work, Visible Success: Paraguay Educa’s Hidden Labor for One Laptop Per Child. Selected Papers of Internet Research, IR14.0: Resistance and Appropriation. October 2013.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Daniela K. Rosner. From Laptops to Toasters: Designing and Repairing Modern Childhood Imaginaries. Selected Papers of Internet Research, IR14.0: Resistance and Appropriation. October 2013.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Choices for the Future: Localization or Making Young Consumers? 20-minute research presentation at the Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting, as part of the "STS and Latin America: Beyond Imported Magic" panel, October 9-12, 2013.
  • Morgan G. Ames. From MIT to Paraguay: A Critical Historical and Ethnographic Analysis of One Laptop Per Child. Doctoral Dissertation, Stanford University. Defended May 6, 2013, filed May 2013. Winner, Nathan Maccoby Outstanding Dissertation Award.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Performing Development: Scripted school visits, education conferences, and (re)producing development discourses in Paraguay and Uruguay. Presentation at the Is There A New Development? conference at UC Berkeley, April 5, 2013.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Negotiating Globalization, Media Education and Democratic Practice. Panel presentation at the Digital Media and Learning conference, March 15, 2013.
  • Morgan G. Ames. The Implications of DIY Education: A case study of OLPC in Paraguay. Workshop paper at CSCW 2013, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, February 2013.
  • Susan Wyche, Elisa Oreglia, Morgan G. Ames, Christopher Hoadley, Aditra Johri, Phoebe Sengers, Charles Steinfield. Learning from Marginalized Users: Reciprocity in HCI4D. Extended Abstracts of CSCW 2012, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, February 2012.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Children, XOs, and the myth of neoliberal education. Presentation at the Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting, October 20, 2012.
  • Morgan G. Ames. The Charisma Machine: Discourses about OLPC from MIT to Paraguay. Presentation at the Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting, November 3, 2011.
  • Mark Warschauer, Sheila Cotten, Morgan G. Ames. One Laptop Per Child Birmingham: Case Study of a Radical Experiment. International Journal of Learning and Media, 3:2, Spring 2011, pages 61-76.
  • Mark Warschauer, Morgan G. Ames. Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World's Poor? Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 64 No. 1, Fall/Winter 2010.
  • Morgan G. Ames. The Charisma Machine: Early findings on OLPC in Paraguay. Guest lecture for INFO 181: Technology and Poverty class, U.C. Berkeley, March 15, 2011.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Will One Laptop Per Child Bootstrap Latin American Education? Invited talk for Futures 15: Diversity panel at SXSW 2011, March 11, 2011.
  • Tricia Wang, Morgan G. Ames. Global Discourses of Information: Questioning the Free Information Regime. Workshop paper at UbiComp 2010, ACM Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, September 2010.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Freedom in Design? A Value Analysis of OLPC. Presentation for 2010 Rebele First Amendment Panel, May 17, 2010.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Hacker Learning? The Social Meanings of One Laptop Per Child. Major Project (accepted August 13, 2008), Department of Communication, Stanford University; Presentation, Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting, October 31, 2009.
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    Technology and Youth

    April 2008-present
    Nokia Research Center Palo Alto, Stanford Communication Department, Irvine Informatics Department

    This project explores socioeconomic differences in family practices and parent attitudes around communication and media technologies including computers, video games, mobile phones, and video conferencing in the United States. I critically examine a number of hot-button issues including screen time, multitasking, technology in learning, utopianism in education reform, the digital divide, and non-use/techno-resistance.

    Publications:

  • Morgan G. Ames and Jenna Burrell. 'Connected Learning' and the Equity Agenda: A Microsociology of Minecraft Play. Proceedings of CSCW 2017, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, February 2017.
  • Baumer, Eric P.S., Morgan G. Ames, Jenna Burrell, Jed R. Brubaker, and Paul Dourish. Why study technology non-use? First Monday 20:11, Special Issue on Non-use of Technology: Perspectives and Approaches (2015).
  • Baumer, Eric P.S., Jenna Burrell, Morgan G. Ames, Jed R. Brubaker, and Paul Dourish. On the Importance and Implications of Studying Technology Non-Use. Interactions 12:2 (2015), 52-56.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Managing Mobile Multitasking: The Culture of iPhones on Stanford Campus. Proceedings of CSCW 2013, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, February 2013. Nominee: Best of CSCW.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Janet Go, Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye, Mirjana Spasojevic. Understanding Technology Choices and Values through Social Class. Proceedings of CSCW 2011, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, March 2011.
  • Rafael Ballagas, Hayes Raffle, Janet Go, Glenda Revelle, Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye, Morgan G. Ames, Horishi Horii, Koichi Mori, Mirjana Spasojevic. Story Time for the 21st Century. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 9:3, July 2010. 28-36.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Janet Go, Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye, Mirjana Spasojevic. Making Love in The Network Closet: The Benefits and Work of Family Videochat. Proceedings of CSCW 2010, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, February 2010. Winner: Best of CSCW.
  • Rafael Ballagas, Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye, Morgan G. Ames, Janet Go, Hayes Raffle. Family Communication: Phone Conversations with Children. IDC'09, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Janet Go, Leila Takayama, Hayes Raffle, Mirjana Spasojevic, Rafael Ballagas. Exploring Family Communication and Technology Use with an Eye to Design. Proceedings of CSCW 2008, ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, November 2008.

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    Previous research:

    The social uses of personal photographs

    June 2004-October 2007
    UC Berkeley Information School, Yahoo! Research, Nokia Research Center Palo Alto

    The goal of this study is to understand the social uses of personal photography as an aid both to understanding how people use and will use emerging digital imaging technology and to designing image-related technology that supports people’s actual practices. A secondary goal is to develop and refine methods for understanding the uses of – and resistance to – emerging technologies, based in social science methods and understandings, particularly STS and cultural studies.

    Publications:

  • Morgan G. Ames, Dean Eckles, Mor Naaman, Mirjana Spasojevic, and Nancy Van House. Requirements for Mobile Photoware. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, June 2009.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Mor Naaman. Why We Tag: Motivations for Annotation in Mobile and Online Media. In Proceedings of CHI 2007, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press, April 2007.
  • Morgan G. Ames. The Social Life of Snapshots: The Past, Present, and Future of Personal Photography. Master's thesis, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley. Filed May 4, 2006.
  • Morgan G. Ames & Lilia Manguy. PhotoArcs: Ludic Tools for Sharing Photographs. Extended Abstracts of MM 2006, ACM Conference on Multimedia. ACM Press, October 2006.
  • Morgan G. Ames & Lilia Manguy. PhotoArcs: A Tool for Creating and Sharing Photo-Narratives. In Extended Abstracts of CHI 2006, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press, April 2006.
  • Nancy A. Van House, Marc Davis, Morgan G. Ames, Megan Finn, & Vijay Viswanathan. The Uses of Personal Networked Digital Imaging: An Empirical Study of Cameraphone Photos and Sharing. In Extended Abstracts of CHI 2005, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press, April 2005.
  • Nancy A. Van House, Marc Davis, Yuri Takhteyev, Morgan G. Ames, & Megan Finn. The Social Uses of Personal Photography: Methods for Projecting Future Imaging Applications. University of California Berkeley Working Papers, Vol. 3, 2004.

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    Undergraduate research:

    Remote Usability Methods

    June-October 2003
    Under the Distributed Mentor Project, with the UrbanSim group at the University of Washington

    Though remote usability studies are common enough in the field, little published research has been done to explore how their results compare to local usability studies. In particular, the efficacy of synchronous remote usability studies for expert interfaces - in terms of comfort, trust, and usability errors found - has not been verified. In this project, we will investigate whether remote usability studies can acheive the same results as local studies, and if not, what is lost and why.

    Publications and presentations for Remote Usability Methods:

  • Morgan G. Ames, A.J. Brush, Janet Davis. Comparing Synchronous Remote and Local Usability Studies for an Expert Interface. Proceedings of Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, October 2004.
  • A.J. Brush, Morgan G. Ames, Janet Davis. A Comparison of Synchronous Remote and Local Usability Studies for an Expert Interface. In Extended Abstracts of CHI 2004, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1179-1182. ACM Press, April 2004.
  • Morgan G. Ames. Final report on remote usability studies. CRA-W Distributed Mentor Project. [top]

    Healthy Cities Ambient Displays

    June 2002-June 2003
    Under the CRA CREW, Intel Undergraduate Research, and David Scholar programs at UC Berkeley

    The healthy cities ambient display project strives to make residents' conceptions of the health of their city more visible and concrete. First, we gathered information from residents of Berkeley about what indicators figure most prominently in determining the health of a city - green space, diversity, equity, local shops, safety, pollution, cars, pedestrians, public events, resource use, etc. This information will spawn a family of ambient displays, spanning neighborhoods and decades, to be installed around Berkeley. These will hopefully serve as a tool for awareness and social change, as well as a test-bed for the design of public displays and for ambient display evaluation techniques.

    Publications and presentations for Healthy Cities:

  • Morgan G. Ames, Chinmayi Bettadapur, Anind K. Dey, Jennifer Mankoff. Healthy Cities ambient displays. In Extended Abstracts of UbiComp 2003, Conference on Ubiquitous Computing.
  • Poster for Intel research day, 4/25/03
  • Presentation slides for Intel research day, 4/25/03
  • Feb. 9, 2003 status report: description, interview quotes, design ideas
  • Feb. 2, 2003 status report: results of survey
  • Poster for the Berkeley Engineering fall 2002 undergraduate poster session [top]

    Evaluation techniques for Ambient Displays

    September 2001-September 2002
    At UC Berkeley

    Ambient Displays are ubiquitous computing devices - often embedded in interesting artistic objects or everyday artifacts - that provide a constant stream of peripheral information. Windows are natural ambient displays: they give information about time, weather, season, and other events, yet they're pleasing. Footprints or paths are also natural ambient displays.
    Groups at MIT Media Lab, PLAY Institute, Georgia Tech, and elsewhere have been building ambient displays as art installations, but few groups have evaluated their creations as computer science artifacts. The Ambient Displays group at Berkeley is adding the evaluation cycle to our ambient display design cycle, noting the challenges that arise with evaluating this new class of devices.

    Publications for evaluation of ambient displays:

  • Jennifer Mankoff, Anind K. Dey, Gary Hsieh, Julie Kientz, Scott Lederer, Morgan G. Ames. Heuristic evaluation of ambient displays. In Proceedings of CHI 2003, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 169-176. ACM Press, April 2003.
  • Morgan G. Ames, Anind K. Dey. Description of design dimensions and evaluation for Ambient Displays. Berkeley Technical Report, September 2002.
  • Ambient Displays summary for CRA-W DMAP
  • my Ambient swiki page