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Overview Information on the S-Direct Partners


iMinds-SMIT (Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication)


Located at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, iMinds-SMIT is specialized in user-driven technology research built on the idea that technology is shaped by the social contexts in which it is embedded. iMinds-SMIT has strong expertise in research on the relationships between social and digital inclusion, living lab research, user empowerment studies, and user and policy research in Africa. iMinds-SMIT researchers play a leading role in iMinds Living Labs, a unique Living Lab facility in Flanders, which performs living lab research and is one of the leading organizations in the European Network of Living Labs (EnoLL).


Participating Researchers:


Prof. dr. Leo Van Audenhove: International Communications; Extra-ordinary professor UWC; Director iMinds-Smit


Dr. Ilse Marien: Post-doc researcher, iMinds-Smit (All from Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences & Solvay Business School, Department of Communication Studies, iMinds-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel)



The Material and Sensory Cultures of Africa - Study Centre (MASC)


Located at Ghent University, MASC is a newly established research unit comprising anthropologists and sociolinguists working in a wide range of African countries, such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, DR Congo and South Africa. When engaging with local communities, the concept of participation is key in the research approach of MASC. Gaining new insights into local communities, their social needs and the way they interact with digital technologies, can only be obtained on the basis of ethnography and long-term fieldwork. In a complex and highly stratified society such as South Africa, sustainable solutions take into account the agency of local communities. Adopting the insiders’ (‘emic’) position, the intention cannot be social engineering – ‘developing local communities’ through digital technologies. Instead, digital innovations will be studied for their cultural impact on local communities and their potential for dealing with local social challenges. Cultural settings innovate technology, introducing unforeseen use and syncretism, because of the firm rootedness of social life in on-going traditions, knowledge transmission or initiation of children, gender patterns, power relations, hierarchies based on age and social status, and local technologies of medicine, ritual, and ‘magic/witchcraft’. Because digitality is a culturally rooted, societal transformation touching upon the primary concerns of the people involved, such as education and employment, ethnographic research will be indispensable in socially innovative digital inclusion.

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