Transfer or translation? Rethinking traveling technologies from the Global South

Miao LU*, Jack Linchuan QIU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Technology flows are becoming increasingly diverse in the twenty-first century, calling for an update of concepts and frameworks. Reflecting on the inherent tensions of technology transfer, including its technocratic dreams, insensitivity to technological materiality, and narrow focus on certain human actors, we propose technology translation as a complementary conceptual framework to understand traveling technologies. Taking a socio-technical approach, technology translation views artifacts as socially shaped with distributed agency, which makes technology flows unstable and unpredictable. In so doing, we develop a typology to explain five technology flow scenarios, shedding new light on the mechanisms of technology traveling by foregrounding the role of translators. Last, we discuss the politics of translation and elaborate how technology translation opens new space to engage with the complexity and uncertainty of technology flows, especially in the Global South.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-294
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Global South
  • transfer
  • translation
  • traveling technology
  • typology


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