Designing Umeli: A Case for Medsersiated Design, a participatory approach to designing interactive systems for semi-literate users
This dissertation documents a journey into the design of Ummeli with a community of semi-‐literate job seekers in Khayelitsha, Cape Town whose primary access to the internet was through their mobile phones. Working closely with this community over many months, we developed Ummeli, a suite of tools that allow the user to build their CVs; browse and apply for employment and training opportunities; recommend and post jobs; get employment tips and connect to other job seekers. To design Ummeli, Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) was embraced, not as a methodology, but as a research approach, a foundation from which to incorporate participatory approaches to designing Information communication technologies for development (ICT4D). User Centered Design (UCD) was incorporated as a design approach. Ummeli was built by a combination of insights drawn from a lived-‐in experience, and employing UCD informed methods of participatory design (PD). Here we employed Human Access Point (HAP) a form of PD that allows for a member of the community to be a proxy for the design process. Learn to Earn, an NGO based in Khayelitsha became the HAP, and took the critical role in that they, highlighted, translated, evaluated and represented what was most crucial for the community; their input allowed Ummeli to match the community’s need. In the process, we came across concepts such as Umqweno, which represents yearnings and desires, replacing our own perception systems requirements. Siyazenzela, representing a communal participatory approach to doing life; and Ubuntu, which captures the spirit behind Africa’s communal identity, which were all adopted into the original EAR framework. In this document we set out to demonstrate what it means to be a “reflective practitioner” as we adopted appropriated and reconfigured aspects of participatory UCD methods to fit culturally relevant contexts. The process allowed for constant reflections leading to “aha” moments. In the end, we had created Ummeli, with over 80,000 users, and developed Mediated Design, a culturally indoctrinated xii participatory approach to designing interactive system with and for semi-‐literate people.