Clapperton C. Mavhunga

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Technology] Words have meaning. More specifically, the definitions attached to words shape our perspective on, and how we categorize, the things that we encounter. The words of “technology” and “innovation” are exemplars of how definitions impact perspectives. Ask most people what they think of when they hear these words, and most often they will respond pictures of computers, the Internet, and mobile systems. But these pictures fail to encapsulate the true meanings of technology and innovation because they are narrow, and reflect bias toward the idea of the digital or information society.

What’s needed is a broad view of technology and innovation that encompasses a wide variety of the ways that different communities solve problems. In Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe (MIT 2014), Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, an associate professor of Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, asserts that technological innovations are ways in which regular people solve the problems that they face in everyday life. Focusing on communities in Zimbabwe, Mavhunga demonstrates how innovation happens not only in laboratories or studios, but also in the spaces where individuals encounter obstacles.

To do so, Mavhunga details how creativity can be found in the mobilities of African people. In addition, he makes evident the folly in ignoring and sometimes criminalizing traditional knowledge when that technology has, time and again, proven indispensable.

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