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 gains meaning from activity, is developed through social and physical interactions amongst the people and is closely tied to the community’s physical environment. 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 in their homelands, in developing 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 involved studying the social, cultural and technological interactions that take place among indigenous community members when they practise indigenous knowledge, and determining how these interactions can be mediated with technology.

To that end, we chose to use video mediated communication technologies given their potential to augment, at least in part, the physical, mobile, social and situated interactions that foster indigenous knowledge. We are investigating how 360 video conferencing can mediate hands-free movement, remote camera manipulation and promote a sense of presence and participation when indigenous elders share indigenous knowledge with diaspora youth.

Through three studies between Kenya and Australia, this research will contribute knowledge on how video mediated communication technologies can be designed to support the social, situated and physical interactions that enable the development of indigenous/traditional knowledge, when users are remotely located.

Project team

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

Contact details


Awori, K., Smith, W. & Vetere, F. (in press) 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.