Digital technologies are normally created by and used by ‘conventional’ users in developed countries, and typically the design assumption is that economic, educational or geographic constraints are the same worldwide. Emergent users of technology are often excluded from creating devices and services that may be better suited to their situation, even when their insights could lead to better technologies for everyone, everywhere.
The Future Interaction Technology (FIT) Lab at Swansea ran co-design workshops in Sub-Saharan Africa, India and South America, with participants from communities creating designs and insights for their future digital landscapes. The team also worked with community members in South Africa, Argentina, Kenya and India to co-produce apps, toolkits and platforms to aid users in their daily life.
Hundreds of community members who attended workshops run by the team have been trained to become digital innovators, and new digitally-mediated services have been developed with and for emergent users around the world. For example, working with colleagues at IIT Bombay, the FIT Lab team put street speakers (think Alexa or Siri) into shops in Dharavi, a suburb of Mumbai, which allowed customers to ask questions and receive answers from either a computer voice assistant or a human answerer. In Argentina a simple digital storytelling app helped indigenous communities to connect with and share media that depicted their ancestors, creating multimedia historical narratives. In Langa, a township near Cape Town, the community co-designers envisaged a way to share mobile phones’ hardware and software features, so the best parts of each device could be linked together digitally to benefit everyone. A similar idea was later deployed in a remote keyboard app in India to help with language learning and support.
Swansea FIT Lab videos - find out more about our research
Professor Matt Jones talks about the Smart Speakers project in Mumbai