PhD research in socially responsive design at Central Saint Martins.
(2017 - ongoing).
Practice - based research:
Tangible Changes in Intangible Cultural Heritage Preservation: Using experience-based co-design to inform cultural policy making practice.
According to UNESCO, the significance of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) lies in the know-how and skills that are passed on from generation to generation. Craftspeople strive to adjust to the competition that multinational corporations and local industries bring with mass produced goods (ICH, UNESCO, 2017) whilst other craftspeople adapt to market needs, by importing and selling craft imitations alongside originals.
This coupled with policy limitations, means that often such communities do not have adequate resources either to conserve heritage via suitable infrastructures or resources for preservation through education (Mavrelli, 2017).
In this study, socially responsive design as design driven by social issues and with social change being its main objective, (Gamman and Thorpe, 2006) will be employed to envision sustainable craft futures.
Experience-based co-design as a methodological approach only used thus far in healthcare, (EBCD, 2018) will be used in this cultural sphere. Bearers of endangered crafts will be asked to film themselves over time making the crafts, to elicit tacit knowledge and to share stories with civil servants and UNESCO officials. They will then be invited to participate in co-design workshops to discuss, design and eventually establish common goals, creating tangible proposals for the maintenance and evolution of ICH.
The study will expand the use of the existing EBCD methodology in the contexts of ICH preservation and community resilience and will form the basis of a socially responsive design methodology which will act as a strategic blueprint for community engagement. The final output will be an updated cultural strategy that makes the value of ICH more visible within government and in communities of endangered crafts.
1. How can socially responsive design engage communities to elicit insights on the practice and preservation of endangered crafts?
2. How can experience based co-design inform cultural policy making on the topic of intangible cultural heritage (ICH)?
During interviews conducted in Cyprus (Mavrelli, 2017), I encountered major challenges being faced by bearers of endangered crafts (BOEC): A decaying crafts museum, craftspeople selling imitation crafts in order to survive and a declining, elderly population with little capacity to socially connect via technology.
These experiences led me to ask what type of government support exists, and how to generate more support for these communities, enabling them to preserve ICH and pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generations.
Unless there is an active change in how these practices are safeguarded, they are at risk of being lost.
The research will bridge a gap by encouraging BOEC to communicate their experiences to civil servants and vice versa through co-design activities. Here, common goals will be aligned to re-shape the current cultural strategy around ICH.
The practice-based inquiry is undertaken in Cyprus, explored through case studies in Omodos and Koilani communities, that practise the “pipilla” needle lace making craft and Phyti community, that practise the “phythkiotiko” weaving craft, both of which are endangered and constitute elements of ICH.
Intangible Cultural Heritage, Unesco. 2017. ich. unesco. [ONLINE] Available at:
https://ich.unesco.org/en/traditional-craftsmanship-00057 [Accessed 12 November 2017].
Mavrelli, T., 2017. Cyprus: Voicing Stories [ONLINE] Available at:
http://www.voicingstoriescy.org/videos-promo [Accessed 2 April 2018].
Gamman, L., and Thorpe, A., 2006. What is socially responsive design? A theory and practise review. London: AHRC.
The Point of Care Foundation, EBCD: Experience-based co-design toolkit. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.pointofcarefoundation.org.uk/resource/experience-based-co-design-ebcd-toolkit/ [Accessed 2 April 2018