Infrastructuring Distributed Studio Networks: A Case Study and Design Principles

Natalia Smirnov*, Matthew W. Easterday, Elizabeth M. Gerber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Design educators have long used studio-based learning environments to create communities of learners to support authentic learning in design. Online social media platforms have enabled the creation of distributed studio networks (DSNs) that link studio-based learning environments into expanded communities of practice and potential networked improvement communities. As learning scientists, we do not adequately understand how to infrastructure learning and resource sharing across distributed studios. In this ethnography of the infrastructure of Design for America, a DSN, we analyzed data from interviews, online communication, and field observations as the organization grew its network of university design studios. We found that Design for America managers faced challenges of providing support and resources to address wide variation in needs across studios. Lacking an existing comprehensive network collaboration platform, managers created a proto-infrastructure to distribute support across studios. By studying their iterative adoption of communication and collaboration tools and organizational routines, we define a unique set of design principles to infrastructure DSNs: (a) surfacing local progress and problems, (b) affective crowding, (c) solution mapping, and (d) help routing. Assembling constellations of tools and designing platforms based on these principles could support learning in and the improvement of DSNs across domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-631
Number of pages52
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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