Completed PhD thesis: Selin Gürdere Akdur on social design in Turkey

My first ever PhD student to complete her studies, Selin Gürdere Akdur has successfully completed her PhD, titled “Socially oriented design practices in Turkey: A critical analysis of participation and collaboration” and presented her thesis on 16 September 2019. Her work involved the compilation and analysis of 93 social design practices at the first stage, and the analysis of participatory approaches via in-depth interviews with facilitators of a selection at the second stage. The findings of the first stage were published here, where we discuss the salient features of the social design field in Turkey, from which we start deriving a framework for the study of local social design practices.

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.

Graduate forum of April 2017

We had our Graduate Forum no.3 with six presentations by my (Harun’s) graduate students; Selin Gürdere (PhD), Betül Gürtekin (PhD), Utku Ay, Pınar Şimşek, Burak Taşdizen, Ahu Yolaç, three of whom are nearing completion, and with a one newcomer. Excellent presentations and great comments from all contributors! Here’s the Graduate Forum III Program.

Graduate forum of March 2016

The first in a hopefully years-long series of graduate forums, we (meaning, MSc and PhD students under my supervision) have come together to present the current status of our work and get feedback from each other. Thanks everyone for a wonderful session. The program with the list of participants is here. Below is an overview:

  • Fazıl Akın (PhD stu.), “What I expect from a PhD: Topics, Use and Form”;
  • Utku Ay (MSc stu.) on scarves in football subcultures;
  • Çiğdem Demir (MSc stu.), “Design Considerations, Guidelines and Examples for the Co-habitation of Humans, Animals and Plants in the City”;
  • Selin Gürdere (PhD stu.) with a review of her DQE paper on social design literature;
  • Ceren Köktürk (MSc stu.) a summary of her thesis on food culture and lunch box design, which is almost completed now;
  • Pınar Şimşek (MSc stu.), “Envisioning Human Bodies from the Perspective of a Product Designer”;
  • Burak Taşdizen (MSc stu.), “Between Open-Source and Commerce: Micropolitics of Authorship and Originality in a Knitting Community”;
  • Ahu Yolaç (MSc stu.), “Bodily Interaction with Mouse and Keyboard, and the Structure of Gaming”

Final projects for ID 708 2014-15: Mapping Technology

In the Spring semester of 2014-15, we ran ID708 Critique of Design II as a team of four: Harun Kaygan, Pınar Kaygan, Osman Şişman, and Şenöm Yalçın. We had an inspiring selection of readings, and a series of four assignments which then formed the basis of individual final projects — a heterogeneous set, from performances to videos. Many thanks to all our students for their hard work.

Below you can view some of the final projects:

1. Open Cake by Özümcan Demir (performance)

The Open Cake performance tries to create an event where every individual would listen to an audio recipe and contributes to the creation of The Open Cake Book by writing their own recipe. In order to do that, participants should combine what they hear with their personal sensorial history, memories, experiences, and intuitive knowledge.

Open Cake Session

Soundclip is here. Sample recipe pages from the workshop below.

Open Cake Recipe 2-1Open Cake Recipe 6-1Open Cake Recipe 17-1


2. Superencypher Rhizome Machine by Selin Gürdere (poster presentation)

Machine produces the flow of desire codes and these codes constantly are remanufactured in different forms by infusing themselves into everything. … This is the production of production. … It composes constatnly new events, new desires and thoughts. So this cycle goes to infinity.

superencypher rhizome machine


3. What Holds Things Together by Duygu Bostancı & METU Contemporary Dance Group (performance)

Refrain. Refrain Machine. Movement. Human. Move-ment. Move-mental. Mental move. Mental? Physical? Body. Body-move. Dance. Choreography? Dance-writing. Could dance be written? Improvisation. Inter-action. Inside-action. Within the body. Butoh? Affection-body-movement. Body-movement-affection. Movement-body-affection. Movement-affection-body-ground. Ground-theoretical ground. What is theoretical ground of this performance? Deleuze-Guattari-Guattari-Deleuze-Deleuze-Guattari-Laura Cull-Portanova Spinoza? One less manifesto-deleuze philosophy of performance. –Escape representation–(Cull, 2009: 5 )

DuyguB_WHTT 2
DuyguB_WHTT 1

Images from the performance


4. The Lady Slipper and The Bee by Pelin Aydıner (fiction)
Short piece of fiction and video work, depicting the lady slipper orchid and the bee as a Deleuzean masochist couple. Here is a taste:

On a hot summer day, flying above the trees, floating in the air, feeling the breeze- I saw it. My body felt weightless, my legs trembled. Diving from the top of the tree, I let myself into the arms of the bulb of colour.

Come here- come to the whore of Babylon- Haven’t seen your kind for months! Spread my smell, bring those feet to me, bring those wings.

Blood rushing through my body, my eyes bright, my body letting itself go down- I want it, I told myself. I want it now! Let me feel it, let me smell it, eat it, suck it.

The scent got stronger as I was getting closer. I wanted to be filled with it, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to -be- it.


I remember the bright pink colour. I have felt a lot of colours, but this one struck me more than anything. I almost lost my sensation, the control of my body when I saw it. The colours got more vibrant, stronger and stronger. I could see the bright lights peaking out of the petals, the bulb was screaming my name.

Check your back- is there anyone behind?

Come to my body. Water it with the extracts of other flowers. Swim in my dust, spread it with your wings. Let your desire scream. Let my desire control yours, I will let you control mine.