Designing technologies for indigenous knowledge

Using 360 video conferencing to develop indigenous knowledge among diaspora youth

Two women sharing a tablet screen.

Project overview

Research into the design of technologies for indigenous knowledge has grown significantly over the last decade. The common approach involves the collection, translation, validation, preservation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge. However, indigenous knowledge acquires meaning through activity. It is developed through social and physical interactions amongst the people and is closely tied to the community’s homeland. Indigenous knowledge cannot simply be preserved, for it lives and evolves with and through the community that practises it.

In this project, we are investigating ways in which digital technologies can support elders on their homelands in developing and promoting indigenous skills and practices among indigenous youth in the diaspora. The team is focused on how technology can be utilised to develop indigenous knowledge as opposed to collecting or preserving it.

This research unpacks how the sharing of indigenous knowledge plays out when the elders and the youth are remotely located. This involves studying the social, cultural and technological interactions that take place among indigenous community members when they share indigenous knowledge over distance, and determining how these interactions can be mediated by the use of technology.

Through field studies conducted on communities in Australia and Kenya, this project explores the use of video-mediated communication to support the social, situated and physical interactions that enable the development of indigenous knowledge between physically separated groups. We use a 360° video-conferencing prototype to explore the limitations of mobile devices in the cultivation of indigenous knowledge over distance. Our research suggests that designing technology with an indigenous lens for an individual and communal experience can better support the development of indigenous knowledge sharing.

Project team

  • Kagonya Awori, PhD Candidate, Microsoft Research Centre for SocialNUI, The University of Melbourne
  • Frank Vetere
    Frank Vetere, Professor, The University of Melbourne
  • Wally Smith, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Contact details


Awori, K., Smith, W. & Vetere, F. (2016) Sessions with Grandma: Fostering Indigenous Knowledge through Video Mediated Communication In Proceedings of the 2016 AfriCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (AfriCHI 2016), New York: ACM Press

Awori, K., Vetere, F., & Smith, W. (2015) Transnationalism, Indigenous Knowledge and Technology: Insights from the Kenyan Diaspora. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2015). ACM, New York, NY, USA, pp. 3759–3768 [PDF, DOI]

Awori, K. (2015) What indigenous knowledge is not: an introductory note. In N. Bidwell & H. Winschiers-Theophilus (Eds.), At the intersection of traditional and indigenous knowledge and technology design. Santa Rosa, California: Informing Science Press.