Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Scoping the field of design for peace in Cyprus: initial review of literature, context and visual practice

This post sets out some of my initial exploratory work for a wider project on the use of design thinking and practice by civil society actors in relation to econo-legal aspects of the current talks on the possible reunification of Cyprus. It is an early insight into my work in progress, it is directed towards a non-specialist audience, it is brief and leaves out far more than it includes. 

Thanks to the Socio-Legal Studies Association for funding fieldwork and language training related to this project in June-December 2016.

Annotated bibliography

Heller, S. and Vienne V. (eds.) (2003) Citizen designer: perspectives on design responsibility. New York: Allworth Press.
This is a collection of about 70 pieces of writing on the subject of responsibility in design. It presents ‘responsibility’ in the design context as having social, professional and artistic dimensions. Each of these will be significant in the context of Cyprus reconciliation, not only in terms of paving the way for, and implementing, a possible agreement, but also in terms of setting the tone for the social, economic and cultural future of the island. So I expect these pieces to help me to develop a critical framework for assessing civil society’s efforts in Cyprus.

Hunt, D. (ed.) (1982) Footprints in Cyprus. London: Trigraph.
An edited collection of 299 pages, 289 images (colour, black and white) of objects, locations, representations from Cyprus, catergorised into ages/eras between around 7000 BCE and 1982. It offers a singular history of Cyprus told by a collection of six mostly foreign voices through the conceptual lens and visual language of archaeology. It aims to be definitive, which is not hard to achieve in such a small market as Cyprus, but which is problematic given the fact that Cyprus holds multiple histories, all of which must be acknowledged if it is to change. I expect it to be a valuable reference as I develop my understanding, as a foreigner, of the rich range of visual languages and material cultures of Cyprus.

Papadakis, Y., Peristianis, N. and Welz, G. (eds.) (2006) Divided Cyprus: modernity, history and an island in conflict. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
This multi-contributor volume plants its feet in the discipline of anthropology, but approaches the topic of division in Cyprus with a wide-angle lens. It explores apparent conceptual binaries such as myth and history, memory and forgetting, modernity and postcoloniality through specific empirical contexts such as gardens, childhood, and propaganda. I expect it to help me to appreciate some of the range of mindsets or rationalities (public and private, formal and informal) that are at play in the Cyprus reconciliation negotiations process, and with/against which civil society actors must engage; as well as to help me find metaphors on which to build a visual language.

Cypriot Puzzle (2016). Available at:
The Cypriot Puzzle is a varied collection of individuals from a range of professions who seek to inform and engage the public on the pieces and potential solutions to the ‘puzzle’ of division in Cyprus. Their Twitter feed is of interest because it re-distributes relevant news from Turkish, Greek and English language outlets, often with translations, as well as its own original research. So it is useful to me every day both as a source of information about the use of visual communication, and a source of visual communication.

Ker-Lindsay, J. (2011) The Cyprus Problem: what everyone needs to know Oxford: OUP.
This slim volume seeks to distinguish itself by offering a neutral account of the evolution of the ‘Cyprus Problem’. It sets the historical scene: the anti-colonial movement of the 1950s, the Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot civil war in the 1960s, the Turkish invasion of 1974 and its continuing occupation, and the peace-keeping efforts of the United Nations throughout; and then moves to a Frequently Asked Questions format. The aim is to render the ‘Problem’ accessible to outsiders—an aim that has special merit given that outsiders have done so much to create and worsen the Problem. I expect to rely on it for an account of the (disputed and agreed) facts and sites of conflict.

Context review

My annotated bibliography reveals two threads of interest: public-centric, socially respsonsible design thinking and practice; and econo-legal aspects of Cypriot reunification negotiations (parties to which are currently on a credible track to submit to referendum plans for a new bizonal, bicommunal federation).

The island’s division into predominantly Greek Cypriot south and predominantly Turkish Cypriot north has always been graphic: from a 1958 British-drawn map that was the ‘first graphic representation of the capital’s formal, negotiated division along ethnic lines’ (Calame and Charlesworth 2009, 130), through to the vast Turkish flags drawn on the Kyrenian mountains above Nicosia since the 1974 invasion.

Equally graphic visual communication might be applied to reunification processes. Design methods are of interest not only for the resulting visual communications but also because they provoke deeper and wider (dis)engagement with, and (dis)-trust in, the processes of change.

This is especially important in Cyprus since any reunification plan will be put to popular referendum; and, if accepted, its success will forever be in the hands of the general population.

My attention is drawn to the use of graphic design thinking and practice among civil society actors, and to questions such as: who uses/does not use visual media, especially graphic design, and why? What is the relationship (if any) between the (non-)use of visual media and public trust in the negotiation process? Three econo-legal fields look productive: inter-communal trade; rights to property owned by persons displaced in 1974; and regulation of the commercial sector in the heart of divided Nicosia.

Practice review

The existing graphic practice of reconciliation-oriented Cypriot civil society actors ranges widely in terms of message, audience, media and style.
The PRIO Cyprus Centre produced these printed public information brochures as accessible introductions to the failed 2004 ‘Annan’ reunification plan. The typography and images are typical of public policy documents.
Annan plan
Alexiou, A., Gürel, A., Hatay, M. and Taki, Y. (2003) The Annan Plan for Cyprus: a citizen’s guide. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre. Platis, S. (2006) The Property Regime in a Cyprus Settlement. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre.

The Economic Interdependence Project (2011) made these tri-lingual fantasy news programmes from 2030 to highlight the potential economic gains of reconciliation.

The Cypriot Puzzle has animated issues such as Cypriot ethnographic history (2016) and the legal intricacies of the bi-zonal bi-communal federation under negotiation (2014).

SeeD (2016) uses information design, distributed via social media, to communicate data from the SCORE Index.This Index tracks levels of trust, especially between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, seen as indicators of the likelihood of reunification.
SCORE tweet copy
Recent years have seen examples of more interactive, potentially dialogic design for peace.
Nicosia: The story of a shared and contested city, a project by Association for Historical Dialogue and Research  (2016), allows users to move through demographic and cultural time in the divided city of Nicosia between 1878 and 1974, overlaid with contemporary music.
Nicosia Story BW

Perhaps most radical is Hands on Famagusta’s (2015) interactive 3D model which allows members of the public to sketch possible futures for the town Varosha which has been deserted since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

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