From Concentration to Manipulation

Interview in EL MUNDO, March 4, 1994, Madrid, Spain

Translation from the Spanish by Roberto Aparici and Douglas Morgenstern.

Ben Howell Davis of the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives at MIT

From Concentration to Manipulation

El Mundo: Are we in a position to have global education with new technologies?

Davis: Technically it's possible. The risk of colonization exists everywhere because the technology permits international interconnection. The same thing has happened with television and radio. Each time there is a greater homogenization of information technology it creates new information but also the danger of cultural colonization.

El Mundo: What is the consequence of the concentration of multimedia in a few corporations?

Davis: When this situation occurs it is necessary to speak of propaganda. The concentration of mass media can create the possibility of manipulation. People are only choosing different media from a limited number of sources. In the case of multimedia the protection of ideas is more difficult (copyright) than in other media and this might be a danger in developing democracies.

El Mundo: Individual or governmental control?

Davis: The problem is to determine how much the government controls and how much corporations control. Currently, corporations are in control of the technology. I think the best thing that could happen would be to teach people about the underlying structure of multimedia.

El Mundo: What kind of research are you doing at the center at MIT?

Davis: Overall we work developing multimedia and distribution technology on a global scale. We produce material for language learning, science, art - we develop projects for museums and libraries and we are working on a program for teaching Media Literacy.

El Mundo: What are the possibilities for opening education?

Davis: Multimedia is the mix of video, audio, graphics, and text - but this does not mean to just use these media together. Rather, it means the learner is in an active attitude - navigating through the information and choosing what is necessary at the moment. We are in education not only for the university level but for all the other levels. In general, we try to take an individual approach to learning.

El Mundo: Will schools disappear when the student can study at home?

Davis: No, the school will be more important in the future because it is the unique place that is responsible for the education of the young and the young are in school together to create new ideas. Students are more in contact with new technology than we were at their age - they can use it in more intelligent ways. Multimedia extends the school to the home but does not replace the school. Besides this the technology permits network distribution of information on a global scale and opens a field of communications that we could not imagine before.

El Mundo: In which phase of development is this technology?

Davis: We are in the period of the silent movie - we are just at the beginning. The difference between that period and this is that we are researching the technology with our "eyes open". Its necessary to carefully analyze the products produced by large corporations in order to limit the segmenting of our vision of reality. It is a period of study and analysis of new technologies.

El Mundo: Where is the technology going in the future?

Davis: No one is more interested in the future than the researcher of today. It is a passion but it is also dangerous because we really can't know what will actually happen in the future.

El Mundo: Will multimedia effect employment in education as well as in other areas?

Davis: Totally. It will create new research positions but other jobs will be lost. Its necessary for this to happen. It will be a long time before this occurs. Corporations have not yet determined what tools will be utilized.