Postphenomenology, Technology, Design

How can we use new materialist theories of agency and engagement by postphenomenologists such as Don Ihde and Peter-Paul Verbeek, or anthropologists and archaeologists such as Lambros Malafouris and Tim Ingold to account for the practices of users, consumers and craftpersons? How can we view the relations between technology, design and society under the light of these theories?

We met for a one-day workshop on 10 February 2020 at Middle East Technical University to discuss these and more. Here’s the list of participants:

  • Fazıl Akın (HFG OF_MAIN/PAU), How Technological Developments affect Mediation in Products: A Sample Investigation of Historical Evolution of Writing Instruments
  • Bilge Merve Aktaş (Aalto University), Human-Material Interactions in Craft Making
  • Elif Büyükkeçeci (METU/IEU), The involvement of Design within the Boundaries of Self: A Preliminary Study
  • Özgün Dilek (ITU/EsTU), Rethinking Phenomenology with ANT: An Onto-Phenomenological Inquiry on the Experiences of Makers for Agency and Change in Istanbul
  • F. Betül Gürtekin (METU), Phenomenological Approach to Bodily Experiences: Camera Use as Skilled Practice
  • Harun Kaygan (METU)
  • Ayşegül Özçelik (METU), The Inner Face of Object: Amateur Computer Repair Practice
  • Tuğba Tok (METU/OzU), Rethinking Makeup Practice Through the Material Engagement Theory

Completed thesis: Sezgi Kaya on technology use in Type-I Diabetes

Sezgi Kaya has successfully completed her Master’s thesis, titled “Biosociality and product design: User practices in Type 1 diabetes management” in November 2019 (Supervisor: Harun Kaygan). Congratulations!

Her thesis involved netnography of a social media diabetes forum, followed by interviews with users of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. She documented users’ biosocial practices around device use with special regard to how the devices contribute to the visibility of the illness and how the devices coordinate the patients’ care networks. She was also interested in the user-experiential implications of dynamic, real-time monitoring of glucose.

Sezgi and I will present the findings of her thesis at the Chronic Living conference in Copenhagen 23-25 April.

Social Design in Turkey: Paper on The Design Journal

Our paper with Selin Gürdere has been published on the Design Journal as advance online publication. The paper reviews 27 social design projects from Turkey, uses those to provide a local overview. The abstract goes as follows:

Selin Gürdere Akdur and Harun Kaygan (2019). Social Design in Turkey through a Survey of Design Media: Projects, Objectives, Participation Approaches. The Design Journal, 22(1). DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2018.1560592

The literature on social design consists of studies that report on single cases on the one hand and global reviews that are offered for theoretical purposes on the other. There is a lack of local reviews that report on social design practices that stem from peculiar political, economic, design professional and educational contexts. In response to this gap, we provide a review of 27 social design practices in Turkey from the last decade. The projects are compiled in accordance with social design criteria derived from the literature. Sampled projects were analysed via textual analysis of their representations on design media. In our findings, we demonstrate the ways in which local context shapes local social design practices. We also outline a framework for the discussion of prominent issues, range of actors, objectives, and participatory approaches.

This was a difficult one to write, and it took a huge amount of time and effort to come up with workable selection criteria and a representative selection of projects. It was equally difficult to fit everything into 7000 words. By the way, we do not say that these are the best or even the better projects; we know that there are designers out there in Turkey, trying their best to be helpful, to bring change. We hope that the paper will draw attention to projects happening in Turkey, regardless of whether they are presented here. We also hope that similar work is produced for other places so that we can compare and learn and devise strategies.

Download the paper here. (Please note that this is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Design Journal on 21 Jan 2019, available online: here.)

CfP: Socially and critically engaged design (DRS Learn X Design 2019)

We have proposed a special track for the DRS Learn X Design 2019 Fifth International Conference for Design Education Researchers, which will take place on 9-12 July 2019 at METU, Ankara. Deadline for papers is 10 December. See our call below:


Harun Kaygan (METU), Selin Gürdere (METU), Åsa Ståhl (Linnaeus U.), Guy Julier (Aalto U.)

Recent literature on design competences reports how design education has changed both its emphases and contexts over the last decades. As design educators, we all seem less concerned with the traditional, technical and designerly skills, than ‘soft’ skills, which are expected to help design graduates at the job market navigate a wide range of job offerings as curators, coordinators, design thinkers, and strategists. In these roles designers collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders for a seemingly endless range of innovation problems. A common sight in design curricula are those projects that are shaped with social and political considerations: projects where design students work with communities, with schools, with local craftpersons; projects of criticality and fiction through which they inquire into todays and futures; projects where they learn to position themselves not only professionally but politically within real-world environments. Rather than considering merely to prime our students for a more flexible job market, however, design educators are genuinely enthused by the learning opportunities that socially oriented projects offer: in teaching design students lessons in social responsibility, critical thinking, political awareness, and empathy.

We are interested in papers that contribute to a discussion over possibilities of integrating socially and critically oriented pedagogies in design education. Possible topics are as follows:

– Strategies for integrating social responsibility, critical thinking, feminist epistemologies and intersectional positions, politics of dissent, etc., into design curricula.
– Use of ethnographic, generative and other design research methods in teaching for fostering awareness, reflexivity, criticality and empathy.
– Shortcomings of novel learning models or practices as currently applied in design education.
– Studies of power asymmetries within social, participatory and critical design practices in education, not least between design educators, design students and project stakeholders.

DiSalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial Design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2013)
Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Ratto, M. (2011). Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life.
The Information Society, 27(4), 252-260.
Schalk, M., Kristiansson, T., and Mazé, R. (Eds.) (2007).
Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice: Materialisms, Activisms, Dialogues, Pedagogies, Projections. Baunach, Germany: AADR (Spurbuchverlag).
Simonsen, J. and Robertson, T. (Eds.) (2012).
Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design. New York: Routledge.

Conference website is You may download the call for papers here. There is a submission template and a link for submissions.

Paper at EASST2018 on The Uses of ANT in Design

At the EASST 2018 Conference: Making Science, Technology and Society Together, we presented a paper on the ways in which design scholars have made use of ANT-inspired methodologies. Here is our abstract:

Ali O. Ilhan, Harun Kaygan and Sebnem Timur Ogut, “Uses of ANT in design research: towards a critical dialogue”

Actor Network Theory (ANT) has been increasingly utilized in recent design literature, albeit often with a celebratory rather than critical tone.ANT indeed provides a powerful toolbox to untangle complex technoscientific assemblages, yet—like any other large framework—it is not without its shortcomings. We argue that ANT’s full potential in design research can only be realized through a critical lens.

To this end, we review four distinct uses of ANT terminologies in design research. These are (a) theoretical introductions for design researchers, (b) ANT analyses of design products, which typically foreground the concept of nonhuman agency, (c) ANT analyses of design processes, which often return to Callon and Law’s early work, and (d) the uses of ANT concepts, and especially Latour’s writings, to theoretically ground co-design practices. For each of these headings, we identify key opportunities and potential pitfalls by turning to the original theory and its well-established critiques such as the problematic status of the notion of non-human agency, problem of managerialism and disregard for existing social structures.

We argue that such a critical dialogue with design research can be beneficial also for the STS field at large. Despite its increased relevance today with regard to material, organizational and social change, the agency of design is still largely missing from STS accounts. We demonstrate that current engagements with ANT in design literature provides questions and arguments that complements the STS interest in the mutual shaping of the social and the technological.

We are working on publishing a paper on this, so wish us luck (and perseverance).

A pen that ‘looks like a CEO in a business suit’: gendering the fountain pen

New article about the gendering of the fountain pen is published, co-authored by Harun Kaygan, Pınar Kaygan and Özümcan Demir.

This article investigates the gendering of the fountain pen as a product category mainly used in the office environment. It draws on hobbyists’ accounts and evaluations of fountain pen use from online forums. The accounts suggest that hobbyists perceive the fountain pen market to take executive men as its authentic user group, whereas pens that target women often reflect stereotypical femininities. At the office, this gendering process impacts users’ everyday experiences especially with reference to the managerial norms that govern the use of suits and accessories, since the fountain pen is considered by its users as part of an array of men’s status objects. The article contributes to the literature on the gendering of artifacts by describing a hegemonic manner in which artifacts are gendered, that is, as a range of products that target diverse masculinities and femininities in contradistinction to a single, masculine product type.

Find the article here.

Immoral Objects: A Psychogeography of Urban Transformation in Ulus

New article in Ankara Araştırmaları Dergisi, co-authored by Burak Taşdizen and Harun Kaygan, based on Burak’s course assignment for ID707 Critique of Design I of 2014-15 Fall semester. (Photo: Burak Taşdizen, Ulus, 2015)

Once the political and economic center of a thriving, young Republic, Ulus neighbourhood in Ankara continues to host elements of both the city’s republican and religious traditions. The district, first surrounded by slums and then neglected after Kızılay became the capital’s new economic center, has been left to low income groups. Today, the distinctive and multi-layered character of Ulus is being targeted and condemned for having overshadowed the spirituality and morality of Hacibayram, a significant religious site in the district, and has been witness to a major urban transformation on these grounds. The aim of this paper is to trace the “immorality” that is claimed to prevail in the bazaars of Ulus through the employment of a psychogeographical methodology. In line with the emphasis on urban replacement in the current literature on urban transformation, this paper reveals the experiential justifications behind the gentrifiers’ discursive interventions. For this purpose, Ankara Metropolitan Municipality bulletins published between 2008 and 2016 were surveyed and a series of observations were made in different areas in Ulus, including the bazaar areas of Itfaiye Meydani, Telefoncular Pazari, etc., looking closely at the different objects offered on the shelves, as well as how they were presented to the passers-by. The emergent subjective map provides insight into the material environment, significant practices and different social groups invited into the area, unraveling the three main constituents of this alleged immorality: the prevalent alternative economy, current regime of masculinity, and conflicting nostalgias.

Read the article here.

Material Semiotics of Form Giving: The Case of the Electric Turkish Coffee Pot

DI 32.2 Figure 3

New article on Design Issues 32:2, Spring 2016. Here is the abstract:

The article discusses material semiotics as a valuable framework for the analysis of design processes, and focuses on form giving practices. For this purpose, the design processes of electric Turkish coffee pots are studied through interviews and document analyses. It is argued that neither form giving nor product form can be considered to be singular or stable throughout a design process, and that semantic and material relations that are built and maintained around the product form need to be traced for a fuller understanding.

Download the article here.