Anthropology, Cross-Cultural Encounter, and the Politics of Design

James Leach and Lee Wilson

in Subversion, Conversion, Development

Published by The MIT Press

Published in print May 2014 | ISBN: 9780262027168
Published online September 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780262322492 | DOI:
Anthropology, Cross-Cultural Encounter, and the Politics of Design

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Certain epistemologies, politics, and metaphysics are built into mass produced technological offerings. Apparently neutral seeming tools carry normative principles, and are built on unexamined assumptions about social relations. This chapter argues for comprehending the situated-ness of design by attending to how these assumptions and interests are exposed by the use, and the repurposing, of technologies in differing social and historical situations. As many of the examples detailed in the volume refer to cross-cultural appropriations, subversions, or unexpected (re)-uses of technologies, we discuss the specific treatment of knowledge in different social and cultural contexts, and the effects of particular Euro-American assumptions about knowledge and communication on the design of ICTs. The chapter discusses the potential of anthropology and ethnography as modes of approaching and understanding the design and use of technologies, and makes a strong argument, through examples from Papua New Guinea and the US, for the specificity of technology and design as emergent in particular social relations and forms.

Keywords: ICTs; Knowledge forms; Design and Re-Design; Politics; Social Relations; Innovation; Improvisation

Chapter.  6414 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Knowledge Management

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