Across the globe, our work and social lives are increasingly integrated with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), yet massive disparities in the values, uses and benefits of ICT exist. New methods are needed to shed light on unique and integrative concepts of ICT across cultures. This paper explores the use of visual methods to facilitate critical engagement with ICT—defined as situational awareness, reflexive ICT practice and power and control over ICT. This definition of critical ICT engagement is informed by a cultural identity lens, and intends to improve participatory methods in ICT for Development (ICT4D) and community technology design and application. Our notion of critical ICT engagement is developed through an analysis of three case studies, each employing visual methods to shed light on concepts and practices of ICT cross-culturally. This paper makes three contributions to the ICT4D literature. First, it establishes a cultural identity lens to chart out cultural differences between researchers and participants, and to develop situational awareness of ICT in context. Second, it defines the conceptual domain of reflexive ICT practice and establishes the key role of researchers in facilitating it. Third, it argues for the need to support participants to develop capacity to engage critically with ICT as a means to influence social and organizational structures. This paper offers a way for researchers and practitioners to engage with cultural issues in community-based research and design using visual methodologies.

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To be published in AI & Society.

© The Author(s) 2017.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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Bentley’s research was kindly supported with grants from the ICT4D Centre, Royal Holloway, University of London, and a Slawson Award for Fieldwork, from the Royal Geographic Society (with IBG).