To explain the uncanny holding power that some technologies seem to have, this paper presents a theory of charisma as attached to technology. It uses the One Laptop per Child project as a case study for exploring the features, benefits, and pitfalls of charisma. It then contextualizes OLPC’s charismatic power in the historical arc of other charismatic technologies, highlighting the enduring nature of charisma and the common themes on which the charisma of a century of technological progress rests. In closing, it discusses how scholars and practitioners in human-computer interaction might use the concept of charismatic technology in their own work.
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