Cultural Inquiry

While living on a small Greek island that had been leveled in a 1953 earthquake I conducted research to determine the interest and capability among landowners in the redevelopment of their shattered village. During a project aimed at planning for redevelopment we did not want to loose the voices of those who had lived in the village before it was ruined.


Based on the significant places we had encountered on our hikes and GIS surveys of the fallen village, we designed a short interview (to be held in Greek) that would collect some memories and highlights about life and places in the village before the earthquake.

I attended all of the interviews and documented them with recordings, photographs and notes. I actively recruited interview participants by talking with locals about the village in question. People who had never been contacted by the program were interviewed about their early years in the village.

We wanted to find out what residents remembered most clearly from their lives in the old villiage. Which parts of the town were most nostalgic for them. We also were curious what the rhythm of life was like, before electricity, before frequent international contact, before tourism. It was important to us that the elderly village members had a voice in the future of the village. We asked them about the aspects of the village they would preserve for the future generations to enjoy.

I designed the interviews to be open-ended and short, as many of the participants were elderly and did not have the energy to speak at great length. We hoped to let them talk as much or as little as they wished. Each one of them was cheerful and happy to talk to us about their memories and experiences.


We had access to very few people on the Island who were able to talk about Old Farsa, so for those who had a connection to the village but were too far away or busy to be interviewed, we developed a survey.

The survey covered many of the same topics but was focused more on interest and willingness to redevelop the fallen village. The questions in the survey were check boxes (multiple choice and check all that apply) as well as open-ended follow up questions. An earlier survey of open ended questions had returned no results, so we created a form that would be quick and simple to fill out, while still providing us enough information to get an idea of the economic feasibility of redevelopment and the strength of the connection the descendants and landowners had to their ancestral village.

Due to the brevity and relevance of our short survey, we experienced a large response rate. In our short 3 month stay out of 50 individuals, we received around 15 mailed-in responses from eager participants.


In order to show the residents and community members the work we had been doing, we hosted community event in their local community center where children, families and elderly often convene for public gatherings. We created large scale displays including photographs of the people we had come in contact with, quotes and stories they had relayed to us. We also displayed the GIS work we had done, the characterization and mapping of the roads and pathways, as well as highlights featuring the central gathering places of the village – the Square, the Cafe, and the Church.

The event aimed to bring people together to remember collectively and to garner hope and enthusiasm for rebuilding in the future. This group of Farsa women are strong roots in the community. Their memories and energy will be instrumental in creating a new village that reflects the old one.


About calliewheeler

Callie is an enthusiastic proponent of user centered design and usability research and discovery. Her passions lie in social entrepreneurship and experience design.

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