Announcing the 2014 McGannon Book Award Winners

war on learning - Elizabeth Losh low power

We are very excited to announce the co-winners of our 2014 McGannon Book Award, Christina Dunbar-Hester’s Low Power to the People (MIT) and Elizabeth Losh’s The War on Learning (MIT).

Low Power to the People is an ethnographic examination of low-power radio activists, self-proclaimed “geeks” who help to set up small community radio stations around the country, while actively lobbying for FCC reform of radio spectrum allocation. Dunbar-Hester (a former McGannon Visiting Scholar, now a professor at Rutgers/USC Annenberg) does a wonderful job examining media activism critically, presenting a hacker/maker community as a source of hope while acknowledging its limitations (particularly along lines of race and gender). We thought this book was exemplary in its treatment of the social justice implications of technology and looking at media policy from a rarely-explored angle. One reviewer said that Low Power to the People will be a “valuable resource for scholars across a broad array of disciplines, researching a diverse array of technologies and cultures, for years to come.” Another called it a “wonderfully readable, and I think important, book about technology and politics.”

The War on Learning is a balanced and critical discussion of so-called “EduTech,” or the ways that digital technologies such as online courseware and tablets are incorporated into the classroom. Losh, a senior scholar at William & Mary who is deeply involved with the MacArthur-funded Digital Media and Learning Initiative, uses rhetorical criticism to evaluate both dystopian and utopian claims about educational technology. She argues that educational technologies are not neutral, but often actually undermine equality and agency of both educators and students. The review committee found this book to be an important contribution to current debates at both the K-12 and higher educational levels, and appreciated its critical, data-driven perspective. One reviewer wrote, “Losh’s topic is so important, and her conclusions so thoughtful, that I wish all of my colleagues would read this book.”

Congrats to both winners, and thanks to our superlative review committee and last year’s McGannon GA, Camille Tacastacas, for all their hard work.

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