Dec 2016: Nairobi Sessions Call for Papers

Announcing an open call for papers for the conference AfriDesignX – Nairobi Sessions: AFRICAN DESIGN AND DIGITAL STORYTELLING


Nairobi Sessions Conveners: Cher Potter, Lilac Osanjo
Abstract deadline: 24 February 2017.


Design has long been understood as a medium for translating our human stories – whether this is through the formulation of a product solution to an everyday problem, through a specific garment that illustrates our engagement with traditions and customs, or through the narratives told in digital design mediums such as graphic animation or video games design. By extension it follows, that the world’s leading design manufacturers today are also the globally recognized storytellers of the 21st century. The theorist Olayinka Fatoki, working with specific reference to the Nigerian knowledge context, claims that digitization has the potential to make Africans producers and exporters of indigenous stories and knowledge, rather than passive consumers of imported knowledge (Fatoki, 2005).

The conference AfriDesignX – Nairobi Sessions: AFRICAN DESIGN AND DIGITAL STORYTELLING, hosted and supported in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, explores the stories embedded within design, with particular reference to the Kenyan and larger African context. The conference will offer insights into local Kenyan product design, wearable technology and video games and explore the relationship between developing a local market, a local audience and local narratives within design.



The conference seeks to incorporate papers from academics grappling with the concept of African design and its possible definitions as well as from design professionals across disciplines outlining models of practice within an African context. The editors invite submission of academic conference papers, conference reports, surveys, presentations of designed objects or experiences, and manifestos for practice. Ultimately the conference will include a combination of longer, academic papers (4,000-6,000 words incl. references) and shorter presentations in more diverse formats (up to 2,000 words) including Images, illustrations, diagrams, gameplay excerpts, animation segments, and more. All submissions that help to document and advance the notion of design and African storytelling are welcome.


Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • What is storytelling in the context of design and how might it act as a means of challenging western hegemony?
  • How might design play an ideological role in preserving local cultural heritage?
  • How does technological leapfrogging transform story structures as certain legends and myths move from oral tradition directly onto digital platforms?
  • How might the use of local current affairs, stories and mythologies within design contribute to growing a local audience and consumer market?
  • What social and economic divisions result from African design being opportunistically driven in connection with current mobile and technology initiatives in the service of future development?
  • What are some of the mechanisms that allow African knowledge to be exported to the world via design product?


Paper and Presentation Proposals

Paper proposals should consist of a title and a 1,000-word extended abstract that specifies and motivates the research question, describes the methods and data used, and summarises the main findings. The authors of accepted proposals are expected to submit full papers prior to the conference.

Short presentation proposals should consist of a title and a 500-word abstract that specifies the nature and purpose of the presentation, the design practice involved and the methods used (a maximum of 3 images, audio files or animated excerpts may be included).


Important Dates

• Extended abstract submission deadline: 24th February 2017
• Decisions on abstracts: 15th March 2017
• Full paper / poster submission deadline (for accepted abstracts): 15 August 2017
• Conference dates: 27 – 28 September 2017


By submitting your abstract to us, you will benefit from:

• Open Access – all articles freely available online to view and download from the website.
• An invitation to present amidst like-minded academics and design professionals
• Retaining the copyright to your contribution
• In addition, 5 – 7 papers will be selected from across the Nairobi Sessions (September 2017) to be included in the peer reviewed Journal of Digital Creativity (tbc) published by Taylor and Francis.


Selected paper referee panel:

Mugendi M’Rithaa, President of the World Design Organisation, Lecturer in Industrial Design at Cape Penninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Dr. Lilac Osanjo, Head of Design at the University of Nairobi, Kenya
Cher Potter, LCF/Victoria and Albert Musuem Senior Research Fellow, London, UK
Dr Lorraine Amollo Ambole, School of Arts and Design, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Olayinka Fatoki, University of Ibadan
Dr David Pratten, Lecturer in Social Anthropology of Africa, University of Oxford, UK
Dr Charlie Gore, Lecturer of African Art, SOAS, UK
Dr Jane Harris, Associate Dean of Research at London College of Fashion, UK
Dr Ralph Borland, Founder African Robots, South Africa, South Africa
Dr Kamau Gachigi, Executive Director of the Gearbox; former Head of the University of Nairobi (UoN) Science and Technology Park


You can download a pdf of the call here.

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