Nicholas Negroponte is a storyteller whose main topic, in Being Digital, is the future. He writes about the technological revolution in small, bite-sized packets of data. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is Founding Director of the Media Lab and Professor of Media Technology.
In looking for background information on Negroponte, I searched the World Wide Web. I found newspaper articles and reviews and a well-defined promotion for his lecture series. From his home page at MIT, his administrative assistant will be happy to book him to speak. Also available is an archive of thirty-three articles he has contributed to Wired, a hip, popular magazine devoted to the digirati life style. Among these writings, I recognized the seeds of Being Digital - sometimes the full grown plant minus only a leaf or two.
This is not stick-to-the-brain fare but appetizers with a generous sprinkling of computer terminology. I found clever insights served up by a public persona rather than deeper thoughts by a serious researcher. For such it will be necessary to go to specific journal articles in more learned publications.
Given my inquiries on ideas that may lead to the use of computer strategies in education, I was heartened by Negroponte's wholehearted enthusiasm for the electronic environment for learning. He believes that reading and writing will benefit from computer technology. Further, he sees an opportunity to be street smart on the Internet, tapping into the enormous body of wisdom and knowledge available there. One hopes that young learners will also be learning to discriminate and make responsible choices as to the use of all this information.
Among many other benefits Negroponte explores, he believes that the
digital age promotes learning in math and a strong visual literacy.
"Ten years from now, teenagers are likely to enjoy a much richer panorama of options because the pursuits of intellectual achievement will not be tilted so much in favor of the bookworm, but instead cater to a wider range of cognitive styles, learning patterns, and experimental behaviours."
He sees children of this generation discussing those strategies and rushing off to learn.
He had only a short entry on the subject of Virtual Reality of VR. Its greatest value to date is for training pilots and automobile drivers. At the time of writing this essay, Negroponte found that computers were not yet capable of the image quality nor response time for updating images necessary for VR in the consumer market. He predicts, nonetheless, that high-powered, low-cost computers will be the new context for VR and that, "it will be nothing short of awesome".
Being Digital confirms that we are now in a world that is becoming profoundly digital. This world, connected and provocative is one that can serve us and free us from many of the old prejudices and limitations. Collaboration, cooperation, and viewing life from many perspectives are the empowering messages predicted by this entertaining and visionary writer.
Negroponte,N., Being Digital, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1995, p.220.