This summer, from June 18, 2009 to August 16, 2009, after receiving a grant from the Visual Studies Initiative, I collaborated with Dr. Sherryl Broverman, Dr. Eve Puffer, and Dr. Eric Green of Duke and New York Universities to develop and investigate methods for using geospatial technologies to represent local knowledge about the ecology of AIDS on a map. Together with the citizens of Muhuru Bay, our team made a map that is being used to understand how aspects of the social and physical environment influence increased risk for HIV transmission among young girls in the community as well as where intervention programs can be placed to alter these environmental circumstances.

Within the project, I focused on investigating (a) the cultural context of the mapping project, (b) how this context both shapes and is shaped by the use of PGIS technology, and (c) whether or not this technology is capable of capturing cultural spatial truths. To this end, working closely with Dr. Eric Green, my summer research activities consisted of 5 main phases: 1.) building a base map of Muhuru Bay, 2.) conducting focus groups to learn about the community (specifically what areas are considered good, bad, and lacking adult supervision.) 3.) playing a research game with local youths to collect the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates of these places and 4.) conducting survey interviews to understand daily routines and having kids draw maps to understand their conceptions of their community. Explore the website to learn more about the project and what I learned from it!

The following video provides more information about how the project was born:

Duke Students to Map a Health Landscape