Framing Indigenous Knowledge in Digital Context: Technologies, Methods and Tools

Framing Indigenous Knowledge in Digital Context: Technologies, Methods and Tools

Tariq Zaman (CECOS University of Information Technology and Emerging Sciences, Peshawar, Pakistan) and Hasnain Falak (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJEUCD.2018070103
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For more than three decades, designers have been increasingly involved in various design activities through a large number of participatory design projects in indigenous communities. To understand the indigenous information taxonomies, the designers need active participation and engagement of the local community in the design process. Designers are in the continuous quest for methods and tools that can work as “all-in-one solutions.” However, every project is unique, and it is necessary to decide which design approach, method and tool to use in a specific context. This article covers the experiences of the community-driven design process in the development of indigenous knowledge management systems in a rural site of Borneo. The authors' endeavors lead them to question the validity of techniques and interpretations of interactions originating from a Western scientific paradigm and pursue the creation of an indigenous HCI paradigm to frame design methods. It hoped that the experience will help designers to understand the importance of local communities' active engagement in the design process.
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Indigenous Knowledge Management (IKM) systems are different from modern organizational knowledge systems in many ways; therefore, they need to be designed differently (Stevens, 2008). Current technological trends and developments in human computer interaction (HCI) have hardly been informed by the intrinsic and unique architecture of indigenous knowledge systems (Kapuire, & Blake, 2011). As a result, traditional approach to technology design for indigenous knowledge management, lack of understanding the inherent structure of indigenous community's system, their knowledge perspectives and priorities lead to failures of IKM initiatives (Reo, 2011).

Over the last two decades, in the field of HCI, there is an increasing interest in designing technologies for “traditional/indigenous” knowledge that differ from those that dominate in producing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The focus of these technical solutions is on knowledge-centered and knower-centered approaches (Van der Velden, 2010). The knowledge-centered approach focuses on “contents” while the knower-centered approach focuses more on “tools” enabling knowledge representation in more informal ways.

Previous researches emphasize on the needs and importance of the community's engagement and participation in the design process (i.e. Kapuire & Blake 2011; Winschiers-Theophilus, 2006) to transform the user-centered design paradigm into Participatory Design (PD). The concepts of “engagement” and “user participation” in design activities are context-specific (Kim, Kim, & Wachter, 2013) and vary greatly from case to case which has often contended in developing technologies “for” indigenous knowledge that can be used by indigenous people. Normally, indigenous communities are considered marginalized in terms of their skills and knowledge eager for ready solutions instead of contributing to make and design solutions. Hence, the tools and techniques for engaging non-designers are mainly developed to inform the designers instead of making the process participatory and conducive for the co-creation of design artifacts.

In our long-term partnership with indigenous communities of Malaysia, we practiced a system-centered approach to integrate a holistic view in designing technologies for indigenous knowledge conceptualization and representation. In a system-centered approach, the context defines local and situational parameters related to the design process that is then aligned with social, cultural, structural, and human attributes. The local community of Long Lamai has a positive attitude towards technology adoption in their daily life, hence the collaboration and partnership in co-designing processes' results in creating a shared space where the community is framing indigenous knowledge in the digital world. This paper shares, cases of using participatory designing methods and tools to develop specific ICT solutions for cultural preservation. The structure of the paper is the following: after the Introduction, we presented the related work and discussed the tools and methods practiced in the PD research field. The section is followed by the context of the projects and background of the partner community. Then we described our approach and interventions in detail, which is followed by the discussion and conclusion of the paper.

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