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I recently received a note from Kasper Rodil, a PhD Fellow in Aalborg University’s Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, who shared with me a new website focused on Indigenous knowledge and technology (http://indiknowtech.org/). Below is an overview of the site and its current projects.

indiknowtech.org Project Description

From the indiknowtech.org site:

Project background: The research project has been running since 2008, with the main aim being the development of a community based indigenous knowledge management system. We are concerned with the interruption of generational local knowledge transfer, due to an increasing temporal rural-urban migration. The project as a whole presents a significant new challenge since oral and performed knowledge fundamentally differs from the explicit formal knowledge forms that are currently served by digital knowledge representation and interaction techniques. We recognise key values embedded in African IK, such as the interconnectedness of all, the holistic view including spirituality, and oral and performed transmission in our attempts to design useful and usable systems that digitally extend local knowledge practices. We currently co-design with rural Herero community members mainly at one pilot site in the Omaheke region, in Western Namibia and test transferability of concepts in other communities.

Project aim: The purpose of the IK management system is to create a digital platform where the village elders can represent and share their knowledge in a meaningful way to them and the youth, who have migrated to urban areas. In a early phase of the project, co-researchers as well as community members have captured rich multimedia recordings of indigenous practices, which they considered to be relevant. Attempts of mapping local communication and thought patterns have guided design sessions and past prototype implementations and evaluations. We are currently exploring a number of design directions, one of them being the co-design of a 3D scenario-based visualization of the village to create a virtual context for the multimedia videos, another being a ubiquitous storytelling tool.

Methodology: Our methodology has been refined and we refer to it as “community based co-design”. It is grounded in a participative action research paradigm and a dialogic design approach. In such a methodology the distinction between researchers and community members is de-emphasized and all participants engage in a process of mutual learning, discovery, joint design of processes and products. We conduct ethnographic studies, participatory design sessions, and user experiments to evaluate the usability of the systems. Further, while our processes recognize and respond to the situational context, the outputs include reusable systems, artefacts and procedures.

Current Projects

A Diagnostic Approach to Indigenous Information Retrieval: An Attempt for a Herero Version by Gereon Kapuire

Current technology trends and developments have hardly been informed by African indigenous and rural knowledge systems. Thus either substantial modifications are necessary in adapting technology to the requirements of indigenous knowledge systems or those systems are inadequately represented through technologies. This work explores different options of organising video recorded indigenous knowledge in the pursuit of maintaining local communication patterns and practices. The evolutionary design of our indigenous knowledge management system is informed by a series of interactions and prototype evaluations with a pilot community in Eastern Namibia.

Cross-cultural Co-creation of Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems by Kasper Rodil

Indigenous elders in Sub-Saharan Africa have for decades transferred valuable cultural and local knowledge to youths through interpersonal interactions in collectivistic rural villages. The youths are now sent to the capitol to study a „modern? curriculum as directed by governmental rules and regulations. Previous attempts to preserve and facilitate this knowledge transfer have proven unsuccessful in terms of Western design thinking and lack of understanding of limitations and unique opportunities embodied in a cross-cultural collaboration. The project investigates the potential of digital 3D visualization as opposed to trad. database systems/search-by-term libraries to facilitate knowledge transfer between indigenous groups, and how it can play an intercultural role as a shared language in co-designing knowledge transfer systems.

Since 2010 I have experienced a successful impact on two parallel tracks in prototype development to combat these limitations. Firstly, by focusing on bridging a digital, linguistic and textual gap between developers and elders with 3D visualizations. This research was originally intended as an end-solution, but has now shown as a potential source of communication between various stakeholders. Secondly, by acknowledging localised knowledge and the important interplay of culture, people and the context in early steps of the development. The methodological approach is through Participatory Design, which emphasizes development with the users – not limited to prototype evaluations and usability, but in every step important to strive for creating an egalitarian design process. Through prototypes in Android and Unity3D (game engine) on various devices, and based on the impact with the village elders the project is intended to continue contributing to this corpus of new knowledge of designing interactive systems.

Towards appropriate user interface design preserving rural African Communication Practices -Listeners’ roles in face-to-face communication- by Shilumbe Chivuno-Kuria

In order to design appropriate interfaces for Indigenous knowledge Management systems […] the fact that in those communities, communication takes place primarily through oral transmission also has to be considered. Oral communication involves both narrators and listeners who engage in an interactive correspondence including verbal and non verbal communication during storytelling. Many researchers focus on Narrators but in this thesis, we will concentrate on listeners’ contributions during interpersonal communications in rural communities. Non verbal communication such as gestures are prevalent in traditional oral African communities and these can offer rich information that can be infused in interface designs for human computer interaction.

The aim of this mini-thesis is to identify general socio-cultural norms, communication behaviour such as non-verbal communication structures (gestures) including general verbal utterances of the rural Otjiherero speaking people to provide a basis for subsequent use in the design of local Systems.

Visual Simulation of Livestock Husbandry, Herero Case Study with focus on Social Elements by Paulus Nuunyango

This research study is aimed to evaluate livestock husbandry of communal/smallholder farmers focusing on the impact that social elements have on how they go about maintaining these livestock. Namibian families live in such a community based environment, especially on farms, that many decisions on them are made considering this factor. Since communal farmers rely on this activity for their daily subsistence a complete, relevant and comprehensive representation of livestock husbandry is needed to assist them when using systems/simulations for decision making. As part of Mr. Richard T. Kamukuenjandje, Department of Agriculture Lecturer, Polytechnic of Namibia, PHD research, who is investigating on how to train communal farmers in making better informed decisions in rangeland management and husbandry. My task will be to represent a given scenario in a visual simulation as to appeal to the farmers to make an informed decision.

This study will be implementing a visual prototype and evaluating it with the communal farmers in Witvlei. This research study focuses on studying Herero communal farmers and is purposed to showing the significance of social elements results allowing them to influence livestock husbandry simulations, especially those of Namibian communal farms, to also include social elements to help them in creating it more realistic experience.

See other posts on the Ethnos Project that reference Kasper Rodil