2020 Dec 7. Transcript of Audio Clip on What Counts as "Technical."


Transcript of Audio Clip Recorded December 7, 2020

Angela Okune:

I can start with the technical education since I'll probably draw from the post that I wrote kitambo [a long time ago] and like pull from other stuff. I think what's really interesting about the technical education is like, I think there are two parts that I would want to pull out...like number one is the continuity over decades, you know, of like, what counts as technical education, and why something is called technical versus non-technical and like why something is considered more important than something else.

Like for example, at one of the research companies, they started calling qualitative research skills like technical skills, which to me was really interesting because if you ask anthropologists--or anyone in my department--I don't think they would say like, oh yeah, I have these technical skills, you know?...

Leo Mutuku:

Whaaat?! I always say like technical skills is something that like a pedestrian person can't just like pick up and do in one second. (Laughs) Even like how people like professional athletes, like how I don't know, Michael Phelps swims. There's like some technical stuff to that. So, that's why I'm always like, for me, technical is where like, you actually need to spend time learning an approach to do it.

Angela Okune:

But isn't almost everything? Like jua kali work that's all technical skills. Like I couldn't just like pick up a hammer tomorrow and like figure out how to make something you know. So it's like, but what ends up like...

Leo Mutuku:

I think you can. But like the physics behind it, you know, the physics behind it so that when you sit on that table it doesn't break. Like, I feel like there's some balance, you know, it might not be taught in the most conventional way, but pretty much you're trying to apply like, I don't know some Newton's laws of gravity, whatever it is, so that the table doesn't fall apart. But like, if you just needed to put a hammer to a piece of wood, like, you don't have to go to school to do that, or to sit and watch someone doing it.

So that's why I'm always like when you are really trying to perfect that craft or skills...like as a qualitative research, you know how to struggle at the beginning, even with how to analyze all those documents. How do you pull some central themes from it? Even like how to collect that data like that's really technical or...you don't think so?

Angela Okune:

No, I do. I think, you know, they're important skills. That's why we have spent so many years trying to like, work on them. But I don't think that these people would call them "technical skills." I think when like an anthropologist thinks of a technical skill, maybe they're thinking of like server maintenance or they're thinking of like computer programming or they're thinking of like things that have to do with technology in like a traditional sense.

Because I think traditionally when you say technical skills, it's like those kind of like STEM, computer engineering-type skills. And anyway...because when like the government says "we're going to invest in more technical education," they're not thinking we're going to set up more anthropology programs. They're not thinking we're going to set up like a humanities, digital humanities center somewhere.

Leo Mutuku:

But you know what they'll do to support the anthropology programs? They will help teach specific research skills. So it's like how you apply it. That's when it becomes something else. But like the actual technique (laughs), "technique" is technical. So I was just Googling and it's like "technical relates to a particular subject, art or craft, and its technique." Yeah. But what most people know is the second one: "involving or concerned with applied and industrial sciences." Yeah.

Angela Okune:

Anyway, I think what we could do is like basically we just divvy this up and we like start just like get something on paper for us to discuss together, because then we can like read each other's and then we can like have a discussion about it and like, change it. (Both laugh)


Creative Commons Licence

Created Date

December 7, 2020 - 10:15am


Contributed date

January 15, 2023 - 7:24pm

Critical Commentary

This is a transcript of an audio clip recorded during a Zoom call between the co-authors Angela Okune and Leonida Mutuku which took place on December 7, 2020. As part of conceptualizing their paper, the co-authors were discussing technical education and definitions of what counts as "technical."

Find the audio clip associated with this transcript here.


This transcript is part of the source data for the article "Becoming an African Techpreneur: geopolitics of investments in “local” Kenyan entrepreneurship" by Angela Okune and Leonida Mutuku, published in the journal Engaging Science, Technology, and Society.

Find the full associated data here.

Explore other data published as part of the STS Spaces and Places Thematic Collection.



Group Audience


Cite as

Angela Okune and Leonida Mutuku, 7 December 2020, "2020 Dec 7. Transcript of Audio Clip on What Counts as "Technical."", contributed by Leo Mutuku and Angela Okune, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 16 January 2023, accessed 31 March 2023. https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/2020-dec-7-transcript-audio-clip-what-counts-technical