About RVDS
Audrey Bennett
Ron Eglash
Mukkai Krishnamoorthy
Teresa Hubscher-Younger
Marie Rarieya
Donna Tytko
Educational games
Field Report

A Virtual Design Studio Pilot Project: Facilitating the Participatory Design of an AIDS/HIV Awareness campaign with a remote audience in Kenya


The “virtual design studio” concept has been used by many researchers for computer supported cooperative work. But these are typically specialized for professional projects (e.g. architects talking to architects). Here we seek to create a virtual design studio dedicated to participatory development with lay communities.

Our pilot project is titled: "A Virtual Design Studio Pilot Project: Facilitating the Participatory Design of an AIDS/HIV Awareness campaign with a remote audience in Kenya." In this research project we sent our graduate research assistant to Kenya to participate in an AIDS/HIV Awareness campaign design. The GRA then established internet communications with our design team here at RPI, with the following goals:

·         Demonstrate the feasibility of creating a virtual design studio to help HIV prevention in Africa.

·         Provide a "proof of concept," showing major funding agencies how a participatory design approach can be used by a computing center in Kenya.

·         Demonstrate how a participatory design process can improve HIV prevention.

·         Enable us to determine the limitations and maximum potential of our existing information technologies ; a critical data set in justifying the external funding needed to generate IT innovation for the full virtual design studio we envision.

The success of this project promises to open new multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research frontiers. A virtual design studio is more than just a tool to hand over to local folks; it offers a profound bridge across geographic and cultural distances.  


Spring 2003 was dedicated to preparation for the mock-run of VDS in the summer. We assessed our computer equipment needs and other technical logistics for the mock-run's communication infrastructure. We derived a feasible plan for recruiting Kenyan participants and applied to the Institute Review Board for clearance to work with human subjects.

Summer 2003 saw a mock-run of Virtual Design Studio carried out by our Kenyan graduate student using a combination of local instruction and small-scale distance education simulations. Collecting the posters, flyers and other communication materials generated by the participants, based on their local knowledge systems and worldview, was a critical part of our research data set. A second data set was generated from information on technology interactions; both from the view of remote instructors as well as local participants.

Fall 2003 is focused on the qualitative analyses of this data and generation of subsequent proposals for major external funding. Individual members of the team are also developing entrepreneurial research projects on HIV/AIDS and writing papers on the current state of distance learning in graphic design: 

Software Tested
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