Chris Csikszentmihályi was in Montreal, Canada, to present a research paper entitled The Space of Possibilities: Political Economies of Technology Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, one of the most important venues for HCI related research.
HCI researchers work within spaces of possibility for potential designs of technology. New methods (for example, user centrism); expected types of interaction (user with device); and potential applications (urban navigation) can extend the boundaries of these possibilities. However, structural and systemic factors can also foreclose them. A recent wide and shallow survey of over 116 individuals involved in technology development across 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa reveals how factors of political economy significantly impact upon technological possibilities. Monopolies, international power dynamics, race, and access to capital open or constrain technological possibilities at least as much as device-centric or user-focused constraints do. Though their thrust may have been anticipated by reference to political economic trends, the structural constraints we found were underestimated by technologists even a decade ago. We discuss the implications for technology development in Africa and beyond.
The Space of Possibilities: Political Economies of Technology Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Publisher ACM