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.)

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.

Electric Turkish Coffee Makers: Capturing Authenticity for Global Markets

New chapter for the book Objects in Motion: Globalizing Technology, eds. Nina Möllers and Bryan Dewalt (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press). Some excerpt below:


Whether and to what extent nations can still be considered the organizing principle of culture has been under close scrutiny for almost three decades. As localities across the globe become more interconnected, cultural interaction defies and disrupts national boundaries. The technologies of rapid communication and transportation, once considered to serve nation-building projects under technological nationalism, today facilitate alternative transnational connections and global cultural formations. In Arjun Appadurai’s formulation, the global flow of people, ideas, capital, and technologies is no longer isomorphic—either contained within national borders or highly regulated by nation- states. It takes place more independently and is therefore patterned in increasingly dissimilar ways that challenge nation-states’ efforts to channel and manipulate them.


In this chapter, I argue […] that national cultural authenticity can be evoked not only to protectionist ends but also in a generative mode. In certain settings of technology and product development and design, authenticity can be an explicit discursive and practical concern, even coupled with discourses on national ownership and pride, yet this does not necessarily entail a traditionalist defense of existing traditions in the face of globalization. On the contrary, global markets, both as institutions and an idea, can provide the very thrust behind commercial technological projects that make use of nationally charged cultural material.




The case study of electric Turkish coffee makers shows that the very practice of commoditizing national cultures is closely related to a distinct form of Turkish nationalist discourse. The liberal neonationalist discourse, coupled with technological nationalism, becomes the basis for nationalist pride and responsibility in commercial dealings within, or with an eye to, global markets. Technology and product development practices regularly resort to discourses of national ownership and national cultural continuity. In so doing, these practices have the effect of nationalizing—that is, rendering national—those vernacular material cultures and practices that are not necessarily homogeneous within or limited to national borders. They posit as they employ nationhood. Captured in the materiality of the final product, as it is spread to kitchens around Turkey—and, if the technologists’ ambitions are satisfied, all around the world—an otherwise richly variant practice of Turkish coffee making risks being reduced to a cultural package promoting a single abstracted technique.

The case of Turkish coffee provokes further questions as it provides insights regarding the automatization of national traditions at the intersection of global markets, nationalist discourses, and vernacular everyday practices. One of these regards the changing faces of technological nationalism in response to the intensified globalization effects: Today’s technological nationalism is not concerned so much with radios and railroads that make nations possible as with kitchen appliances that represent authentic national cultures competing in a global market. […] Overall, to fully account for the capturing and commodification of authenticity in the form of technical objects, it will be necessary to extend the field of investigation and not to be contented with aggregative explanations that presume the homogenization or hybridization of cultures across the globe.

Special Dossier for Arredamento Mimarlık: Tasarım ve (Biyo)politika

Arredamento kapak

We (HK and OŞ) invited Levent Şentürk from Osmangazi University, Eskişehir, as a guest lecturer to ID 708 Critique of Design II, and he shared with us his new book on architecture and biopolitics (Mimarlık ve Biyopolitika, 6.45, 2013). This triggered a classroom discussion on design and biopolitics, which ended up as a special dossier for the architecture magazine, Arredamento Mimarlık.

You can download the dossier (in Turkish) here.

Table of contents:

  • Harun Kaygan, “Çadır” (Tent)
  • Sedef Süner, “Direniş” (Resistance)
  • Osman Şişman, “İsyan Teknolojisi: Tasarım, Teşhir, (Biyo)Politika” (Technology of Riot: Design, Exposition, (Bio)Politics)
  • Efe Alpay, “Yansımaya Dokunmak” (Touching the Reflection)
  • Yekta Bakırlıoğlu, “Bilinçliyim, Ekolojik Tüketiyorum” (I am Conscious, I Consume Ecological)

Reference: Osman Şişman and Harun Kaygan, eds., “Tasarım ve (Biyo)politika, Arredamento Mimarlık 272, September 2013.