Technology is Culture: Building a Transdisciplinary Team to Address Community Energy and Urban Revitalization Challenges

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Traditional development models assume that countries of the Global South will undergo an economic trajectory roughly equivalent to that of the Global North. The reality of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels raises the prospect that a new model, founded on renewable and sustainable energy will have to be designed. At the same time, rural locations in North, face devastating economic consequences of an industrial model that has left them behind. Our international, transdisciplinary research team, working in Eastern and Southern Africa on sustainable biomass energy and in New Kensington, PA on rural small town renewal, seeks to understand the intersection of community preferences, technological innovation, gender relations and environmental sciences to develop socio/technological interventions. We flip the development model, bringing African expertise to bear on US-based problems and US-based insights to understand subculture specific cultural preferences in Kenya. This presentation outlines how we work together, the methods we use to engage in creative problem solving and the unique “kitchen laboratory” used on the Kenyan side to assess cooking energy needs.

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