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Nicola Bidwell wins the IFIP Interaction Design for International Development (IDID) Award

Nicola Bidwell wins the IFIP Interaction Design for International Development (IDID) Award for tge paper titled 'Situating Asynchronous Voice in Rural Africa', co-authored with Masbulele Jay Siya.

Nicola J. Bidwell and Masbulele Jay Siya. 2013. Situating Asynchronous Voice in Rural Africa. In: Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2013 14th IFIP TC 13 International Conference Cape Town, South Africa, September 2-6, 2013 Proceedings, Part III, edited by Paula Kotzé, Gary Marsden, Gitte Lindgaard, Janet Wesson,  Marco Winckler, LNCS 8119, pp. 36–53, Springer, ISBN 978-3-642-40476-4.

Designing for oral users in economically poor places has intensified efforts to develop platforms for asynchronous voice. Often these aim to assist users in rural areas where literacy is lowest, but there are few empirical studies and design tends to be oriented by theory that contrasts the mental functions of oral and literate users, rather than by local practices in social situations. We describe designing an Audio Repository (AR) based on practices, priorities and phone-use in rural Africa. The AR enables users to record, store and share voice files on a shared tablet and via their own cell-phones. We deployed the AR for 10 months in rural Africa and illiterate elders, who have few ways to use free or low-cost phone services, used it to record meetings. Use of, and interactions with, the AR informed the design of a new prototype. They also sensitized us to qualities of collective sense-making that can inspire new interactions but that guidelines for oral users overlook; such as the fusion of meaning and sound and the tuning of speech and bodily movement. Thus, we claim that situating design in local ways of saying enriches the potential for asynchronous voice.


This paper received the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Technical Committee 13 (TC 13)     Interaction Design for International Development (IDID) Award.

The citation for the Award reads:

This paper forms part of a long-term research programme that is exemplary for interaction design and international development. The authors pay close attention to the detailed practices of interaction between people, and to interactions between people and technologies. The work is taking place in rural South African, in a primarily oral culture. The authors’ observations throw into sharp relief unconscious design assumptions that are common to interaction designers because of our shared cultural background, and they illustrate some novel design responses. These ideas can contribute to new interaction designs that are more usable, useful and accessible for people whose cultural background is primarily oral, and whose experience of digital technologies is very limited.

The close, long-term relationships between professional researchers and community participants in this programme, the deep respect shown for the established communication practices in this context, and the determination to design a technology that reflects this reality make the work exemplary as a truly user-centred approach to designing for development.

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