, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 419–435 | Cite as

A classification of cultural engagements in community technology design: introducing a transcultural approach

  • Heike Winschiers-TheophilusEmail author
  • Tariq Zaman
  • Colin Stanley
Original Article


Community technology design has been deeply affected by paradigm shifts and dominant discourses of its seminal disciplines, such as Human Computer Interaction, Cultural and Design theories, and Community Development as reflected in Community Narratives. A particular distinction of community technology design endeavours has been their cultural stance, which directs the agendas, interactions, and outcomes of the collaboration. Applying different cultural lenses to community technology design, shifts not only practices but also directs the levels of awareness, thereby unfolding fundamentally distinct cultural engagement approaches. Previous community technology design research indulged in cross-, inter-, and multicultural approaches to community engagement; it was occupied with meticulously deconstructing and reconstructing perspectives, interactions, roles, and agendas. We argue that when deeply immersed in joint design activities in long-term collaborations, we look beyond individual cultures and enter a transcultural mode of engagement. A transcultural community technology design endeavour supports a continuous creation and re-creation of new meanings, originating from individual entities yet being diffused and continuously reflected within the existing design space. We suggest that within community technology design, a context with abundant cultural diversity, a heightened awareness becomes a necessity. We exemplify different instantiations of the cultural engagement approaches within our long-term collaborations and technology design projects with indigenous communities in Malaysian Borneo and Namibia. A transcultural approach to indigenous knowledge preservation and digitisation efforts with indigenous communities opens up a controversial debate about protecting versus integrating local epistemologies.


Transcultural Multicultural Crosscultural Intercultural Community technology design Cultural engagement Penan OvaHimba 



Firstly, we thank our community collaborators who have enabled us to gain insights beyond our own previous worldviews. Secondly, we acknowledge our Universities and the funding agents, the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology in Namibia and the Information Society Innovation Fund Asia in Malaysia, who have supported our research explorations. Thirdly, we thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and critical feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heike Winschiers-Theophilus
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tariq Zaman
    • 2
  • Colin Stanley
    • 1
  1. 1.Namibia University of Science and TechnologyWindhoekNamibia
  2. 2.Universiti Malaysia SarawakKota SamarahanMalaysia

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