"Context, Culture, and Fabulations: In Search of a Home for Our Veiled African Design Stories" is a most welcome and thought-provoking article on what African HCI is and a first attempt to determine how African HCI should be defined and the considerations for such a curriculum. Questions are often raised as to whether it refers to the locations where HCI work is done, the people undertaking it, the recipient user groups or communities, the contexts of use and application, or the cultural influences of the solution designers, creators, and users. Counterarguments are also made that HCI curricula are culturally neutral, yet they are not.
We are very clear that we as Africans should design and create our own technology solutions and/or adapt existing technology to our own contexts and communities' norms, values, and systems. Certainly such an effort should be accompanied by our own curricula, albeit with fundamentals interspersed with adaptable modules for different contexts. Currently, curricula are developed without any consideration of the various contexts of use, cultural differences, or effects they have on entire communities and ways of living.
The underlying fundamentals could be uniform, but such fundamentals are applied by contexts, societal influences and norms, values, standards, and environment. I find it important to continuously examine suppression or exclusion of voices and the recognition that knowledge exists in difference domains.
A case in point are the current design rules and considerations that were developed for Western users but are very contradictory to the African market and how aesthetics are viewed and interpreted locally.
Current curricula could be complemented by case studies, relevant assignments applicable to the specific contexts, and in-depth understanding of communities and their use cases where the technology is to be deployed. A repository of example material has been compiled already by Nicci Gafinowich at https://bit.ly/3iGn7Sw.
Anicia Peters is the pro-vice chancellor for research, innovation and development and an associate professor of computer science at the University of Namibia. She is also the chairperson of the Namibia Presidential Task Force on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as well as cofounder of the Namibia Green Hydrogen Research Institute. She founded the AfriCHI conference series and is one of AfChix's 10 African women in technology role models across Africa. [email protected]
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