BEGINNINGS: What questions or elaborations do you have about ways this STS formation has narrated its origins and founding motivations?


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August 19, 2018

The essay explains how iHub was born out of recognition of the lack of research about Africa being produced by Africans and African institutions. It also elaborates how it provided a space for “techies” in Kenya to tell their own story and archive their own history of technological innovations happening within the country. Okune narrates how, early on, the organization was advised against referring to what they were doing as “research,” suggesting that others believed it lacked the intellectual rigor of other research endeavors. I’m curious how insights from STS can be used to unpack the boundary work surrounding conceptions of what counts as legitimate research. How does “research” get differentially defined “across borders”? What theoretical and ethical commitments drive individuals to draw boundaries around what counts as research and what doesn’t, and what historical, (geo)political, and systemic forces drive who ultimately gets to decide (i.e. what research gets trusted, published, cited, and acted upon)? Would iHub research like to be seen as doing research in the same way that research gets done in other parts of the world and in other institutions, or would they like to be seen as evolving what it means to do research (perhaps, to be more inclusive or just different)? How does finding an appropriate balance between these two poles implicate how knowledge gets produced about Africa and about technology?