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Thursday, June 8 • 5:00pm - Saturday, June 10 • 7:00pm
‘She Is Not Alone!’ Afrofuturist Wearable Devices For Speculative PTSD Treatment in Kenya

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This research explores speculative wearable technology to reimagine Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment for female-identifying domestic abuse survivors in Kenya. The speculative wearable devices are envisioned to aid in continuous monitoring of PTSD associated with domestic abuse as well as aid in self-directed PTSD treatment. The development of the wearable devices employs mixed methodologies that combines Health Design Thinking, Design for Wearability, Speculative Design, and Modular Design to imagine the form, functions, wearability, and design of the wearable prototypes. Drawing design inspiration from Kenyan culture situated within Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism frameworks, aims to convey symbolism of empowerment for female-identifying domestic abuse survivors and in a much larger context highlight the importance of raising awareness of domestic abuse in Kenya.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic watching the news had been especially difficult. With the daily tally of COVID cases and deaths projected on the screen, and all the unknowns about this new disease it had been a tough time not just for me but everyone around the world. Aside from global news about the pandemic there had also been several stories about domestic abuse in the Kenyan news. The stories highlighted were not just about GBV but also included child and elder abuse. At the time of watching these news stories back home in Kenya, I did not realise the impact it had on me or that it would lead me to my thesis project. Domestic abuse in Kenya had been happening long before COVID-19 but the pandemic exacerbated the cases. According to a survey by Kenya’s Department of Gender “more than 5,000 cases were reported between 2020 and 2021, nearly five times the number of reported cases in 2019” (Amunga 2021). Now more than ever there is a growing concern about the magnitude of GBV in Kenya. With the growth of awareness on GBV in Kenya, I had this innate urge to be part of the conversation and gain further understanding on domestic abuse and its effects. My specific interest was geared towards the psychological effects associated with domestic abuse and investigating what interventions exist. My research led me to PTSD which is prevalent in domestic abuse survivors (American Psychiatric Association 2013). PTSD is a “psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.” (American Psychiatric Association n.d.) According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD “is more prevalent among females than males with increased risk attributable to a greater likelihood of exposure to traumatic events, such as rape, and other forms of interpersonal violence” (2013). PTSD symptoms include intrusive thoughts and reexperiencing of the traumatic event, negative alterations in cognition and mood, persistent arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event, and avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event (2013). 5 PTSD is a relatively recent diagnostic construct and is considered to be different from other psychiatric disorders in that, diagnosis requires that symptoms are caused by an external traumatic event (Jenkins et al. 2015). While effective interventions to treat PTSD like psychotherapy and medication are available, these interventions typically require expert mental health professionals providing treatments that are usually lengthy and costly to the health service (Sijbrandij et al. 2016). Hence my research investigates wearable technology as a complementary or additional Speculative PTSD Treatment. With my background in Industrial Design and my interest in Afrofuturism, I was drawn to the idea of designing an Afrofuturist wearable device to aid in speculative self-directed PTSD treatment. With the understanding that domestic abuse is both a sensitive and important topic it was crucial for me to highlight both facts within my research. Hence the objectives of this thesis are:
➢ To explore wearable technology as a complementary or additional PTSD intervention for female-identifying domestic abuse survivors in Kenya
➢ To leverage Afrofuturism as a design lens to empower domestic abuse survivors in Kenya ➢ To design a wearable device rooted in Kenyan culture to raise awareness of domestic abuse in Kenya

avatar for Patricia Mwenda

Patricia Mwenda

Research Assistant, OCAD U

Thursday June 8, 2023 5:00pm - Saturday June 10, 2023 7:00pm EDT
Steuben Gallery