Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-invention
Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos | 04/10/2014 - 04/25/2014
The technological imperative is a false Western construction. The form of technology we have come to know and be dependent on is not a given. It is just one of many possibilities. And while operating systems, devices, and applications with more and more impressive features are introduced daily, they rarely challenge the assumptions, politics, and aesthetics of earlier versions. They are in essence just new versions of the same logic, expressing the same basic cultural ideas centred around office life and creative industries. Companies and users alike are satisfied with this progress of thing. No questions asked. The market thrives on. However, it is a process of development that prevents radical and visionary invention or rather re-invention of contemporary technology from other cultural perspectives of non-Western origin. This is a missed opportunity, a forgotten potential.
As a machine of global communication the computer is also becoming a machine of globalisation, enforcing standards on a multiplicity of cultures. The One Laptop per Child programme teaches children computer use through operating systems of the same mold as the ones used by Westerns. Why not use the opportunity to develop an operating system based on the vocabularies, knowledge, and perceptions of the cultures who uses the computer? As anthropologist Wade Davis has pointed out the world is becoming intellectually poorer every day as original languages disappear. The argument could be made that the computer world is also becoming poorer because we are not integrating other languages than the Western ones in our hardware and software solutions. The Italian artist jaromil has created an entire operating system based on Rastafarian philosophy and the project indirectly suggest that other “philosophies” be used to develop other operating systems and technologies.
With Afro-Tech, we want to turn to three countries on the African continent to explore how artists and cultural producers are developing and using technology though other cultural ideas than those of the West. It is an attempt to discover a different approach to technology that while it might not be as high-tech in the conventional sense it is nevertheless advanced in sense of inventiveness and vision and expanded path to a truly diverse and rich global computer culture beyond the horizon of prefabricated products.
Dr. Inke Arns, Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV), Dortmund
Prof. Anne Bergner, Hochschule Coburg
Funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation