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Subversion, Conversion, DevelopmentCross-Cultural Knowledge Exchange and the Politics of Design$
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James Leach and Lee Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027168

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027168.001.0001

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

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

1 (p.1) Anthropology, Cross-Cultural Encounter, and the Politics of Design
Subversion, Conversion, Development

James Leach

Lee Wilson

The MIT Press

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

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