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Theorising the design-reality gap in ICTD: matters of care in mobile learning for Kenyan community health workers

Henry, Jade Vu; (2018) Theorising the design-reality gap in ICTD: matters of care in mobile learning for Kenyan community health workers. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis examines the sociomaterial relations of “design practice” in order to advance new perspectives on success and failure in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD). I conduct an ethnographic case study of an academic research intervention and update the widely-cited theory of design-reality gaps (Heeks, 2002). Using methods from classic actor-network theory and post-structural material-semiotic tools, the analysis: 1) disentangles the entwined sociomaterial practices around design, production, and use of technology; and 2) integrates these insights into more elaborate conceptualisations of gaps, sustainability, scalability, and project failure. In doing so, my study answers the research question: What are the sociomaterial relations of “design practice” in a globally-distributed, multi-stakeholder, and technologicallymediated ICTD project for poverty alleviation? My research narrative describes how an array of humans and non-humans participated as designers in a transnational, interdisciplinary Participatory Action Research project to train Kenyan health workers using mobile phones. At least six different patterns of sociomaterial relations operated through a given set of people and things, enacting the material-discursive apparatuses (Barad, 1998) of educational research, healthcare, the market, the state, and the local community. I assert that in this Participatory Action Research project for mobile learning, the design-reality gap was not so much a matter of geographic or socio-cultural divides, but was instead constituted as fluid space (Mol, 2002) separating the educational researchers’ designerly practices from the multiplicity of ways in which health workers, mobile phones, and other actors lived in relation to one another. I conclude that these ontological politics enacted design as an empirical matter of care – an affective and morally-charged sociomaterial practice with an ethico-political commitment to the marginalised (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2011). I therefore present a conceptual model of success and failure in participatory ICTD projects that explicitly incorporates the affective and material dimensions of care, and conceptualises social justice – not solely in terms of universal claims or global standards – but as embodied, sociomaterial enactments.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Theorising the design-reality gap in ICTD: matters of care in mobile learning for Kenyan community health workers
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10058036
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