Smash the Black Box: designing for creative mobile machinery


Session Title:

  • Communities: Culture and Art in the Field

Presentation Title:

  • Smash the Black Box: designing for creative mobile machinery



  •  (Long paper)

    Keywords: Visual Design, smart phone, South Africa, mobile creativity, resource-constraints, DIY

    With the rise of the ‘visual web’ the visual design capabilities on feature- and smartphones are increasingly expanding. We investigate how young resource-constrained people in Cape Town, South Africa are using the free tools on their mobile phones to make instrumental visual designs. We suggest that an alternative space for production of, and learning about, electronic arts and design is offered by ubiquitous mobile phones among this group. We offer a discussion of this repertoire of tools in relation to ‘professional’ design software, such as Adobe Creative Suite – describing the need for software that blurs the distinctions between professional desktop tools and casual mobile tools. We relate experiences from the participatory design and development of an open-source design tool for mobile in response to such a need, and find that many of these design processes are, in turn, hampered by limited developer libraries for visual design on Android. We posit that, in order to promote cultural diversity within the public domain, and in mobile-centric young people’s lived realities, it is becoming increasingly necessary to expand and democratize visual design tools for the mobile ecology, in order to explore local design needs and visual vernaculars.

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