Theme

“Thriving communities”

Under the theme “thriving communities”, the aim of AfriCHI 2018 is to expand and enhance the participation of Africans in the practice and study of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Interaction Design (IxD), and related disciplines. By including diverse African artists, scholars, designers and practitioners, we hope to advance and grow the HCI community. The theme of AfriCHI 2018 equally reflects the thriving of local African communities that practitioners and researchers have been engaging with. Generally, to thrive is to grow, to develop, to live healthily, to have sufficient access to (technological) resources, and to nurture social capabilities toward collective empowerment.

However, if we consider this theme critically, what and whose notion of ‘thriving communities’ is being advanced? In action research and design interventions, the ‘community’ is often considered an integral component to the development agenda. This is observed in modern HCI undertakings, some which are (at least theoretically) open to the notion of fluid, agentic and dynamic communities. This is also against the background of recent scholarship in community informatics that has promoted a holistic view “that the lived physical community is at the very center of individual and family well-being – economic, political, and cultural; a belief that this can be enhanced through the judicious use of ICT; a sophisticated user-focused understanding of Information Technology; and applied social leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity.” (Gurstein 2008:12).

However, this view presents some fundamental problems for HCI research-practitioners. These are, primarily, the concrete definition and engagement of ‘lived physical communities’ in the context of research and development actions; therefore, deriving (and negotiating!) workable concepts of community and community involvement in respect of using technology as a means to ‘thrive’. This refers to the mutual or collaborative defining of a (target) group of participants that represent the so-called community, and to co-creating spaces and conditions through which these members can participate in research-based interventions.

These activities necessarily take place within local power structures, and within complex social and cultural resistances that give shape to a thriving community. There is no silver bullet in the pursuit of thriving communities; HCI research-practitioners will need to adapt to the ebbs and flows of indigenous circumstance. However, while this micro-local context will mediate the (technology) intervention, it cannot be reduced to mere local views or practices of participation. Rather, HCI research-practitioners carry their own views, whether implicit or explicit, and these have fundamental bearing on how the intervention or project will progress.

Moving toward a workable concept of thriving communities is therefore not the construction of ‘community members’ as recipients or beneficiaries in a colonial sense, but to creating a hermeneutic ‘third space’ in which the horizons of designers/researchers/developers meet and fuse with the horizons of citizens/community members. Within this space, communities are refigured beyond in-/external, object/subject, us/them, or even physical/virtual dichotomies. Rather, they are negotiated and mediated as complex and heterogeneous arrangements of ideas and people, some of who participate in the tackling of collective issues. A word of caution however, as the introduction of this third space does not avoid potential power struggles or development politics. The third space is then contested; a struggle for power, voice, authority, and importantly, representation, may often define it.

It is within this contested (and contestable) third space that community is also understood beyond a “lived physical” reality so often confined to spatial and temporal aspects. Beyond these confines, communities are flowing and often imperceptible structures in which multiple, plural realities may reside. This extends to hybrid manifestations of community, from ‘lived physical’ to ‘collective ephemeral’ spaces, in respect of history, practice, networks, and interaction. For example, we may recognise many instances of informal learning communities, communities of practice, intra-organisational communities, online or virtual communities, knowledge communities, and spatial-temporal communities. These may and do intersect and contain multiple memberships of individuals who also subscribe to other instances of community.

Ultimately, we may come to understand community as a flowing collective: one characterised by the dynamic intersections of history, intersubjectivity, culture, values, and ethnicity. These aspects shape the research-based practice of HCI, and in many ways determine the course of action. And as is apparent, to thrive is a complex and long-term endeavour; one that cannot be reduced to narrow and one-sided ideals of development. We therefore hope that this conference can stimulate some critical undertakings, both in theory and practice, toward the collective thriving of local African communities.

Vision

Develop and sustain a forum and local expertise for Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Interaction Design in Africa.

Mission

AfriCHI’s mission is to be a pan-African conference that brings together researchers, academics, practitioners, industry professionals and students who are African, are based in Africa or undertake or collaborate on HCI and Interaction Design projects about Africa. The conference showcases contributions on practical, technical, methodological, empirical and theoretical aspects on all topics related to HCI and Interaction Design from as many African countries as possible.

Goals

The goals for 2nd AfriCHI conference include to:

  • Consensually develop an ethos and shared vision for AfriCHI that supports African knowledge, practices and aspirations.
  • Promote and advance regional excellence in HCI and interaction design.
  • Increase African participation in HCI scholarship and improve Africans’ contributions to other international fora and publications, such as CHI.
  • Catalyse the development of an Afrocentric HCI curricula
    Promote the visibility of excellence in research in HCI and allied disciplines in African universities and the availability of quality supervision in higher degrees.
  • Inspire African researchers, practitioners, students, and teachers to deepen and extend interaction design and HCI research on Africa.
  • Build a core network of people to develop and sustain AfriCHI bi-annually.
  • Increase opportunities for Africans to communicate more effectively into global HCI.
  • Increase networking, mentoring and collaboration opportunities between African scholars and practitioners, and other communities of ACM SIGCHI.

Objectives

The conference aims to:

  • Promote collaboration, dialoging and networking opportunities in HCI between International and African scholars, researchers, students, practitioners, and teachers across the sectors.
  • Showcase research, design, methods, tools, and pedagogies already being carried out in Africa
    Increase the visibility of African HCI and interaction design research and practice to the international HCI community and fellow Africans through the conference publications and other fora.
  • Widen participation of Africans in international HCI fora.
    Bring together researchers, practitioners, and industry professionals from across Africa in HCI, interaction design and allied disciplines.
  • Involve representatives from at least 70% of African countries.
  • Increase geographical, cultural and linguistic access to those who cannot easily participate in HCI conferences beyond Africa, and enable those from beyond the continent to engage deeply with perspectives located in Africa.

Thus, AfriCHI seeks to attract participation from a range of disciplines and sectors, including but not limited to User Experience Designers, Information Architects, Software Engineers, Mobile Application Designers/Developers, Human Factors Experts, Information Systems Analysts, Social Scientists, Architects, Engineers, Planners, and scholars and practitioners in creative industries and science and technology studies. AfriCHI will use different strategies to ensure broad access to the conference programme and wide dissemination of its proceedings.