Master Thesis Evaluation

Author: Vahid Mortezaei 

Year of Publication: 2020 

Department: Department of Media, Aalto University, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Degree programme: Visual Communication Design 

Title: Is Food a (Cross-cultural/Interpersonal) Communication Medium? 

Type of Work: Master’s Thesis 

Language: English 

Number of pages: 185 

Key Words: Food Design, Communication Medium, Intercultural Communication, Cross-cultural, Gastronomy, Multisensory Experience, Storytelling 

This master thesis tries to find an answer, whether food is a cross-cultural or interpersonal communication medium. Another aim of this master thesis is to decode food design. It has been chosen to get analyzed because it is written by an Iranian student in Europe, Helsinki with an Iranian cultural background, in addition he has chosen one medium “Food” to case-study different societies. My master thesis topic is also about intercultural communications, choosing one medium then make comparisons in different cultures, as a result getting information about different or similar perceptions in distinctive cultural areas.

This master thesis starts with the main question for the writer that is an identity doubt “Lost in Translation” of an Iranian designer in Finland. He tries to answer this identity question using food as medium. Because food makes participation of our all 5 different senses. It is mentioned that food is not only a medium to communicate, but it could also be the communication itself. Afterwards, he tries to decode food design as well as gastronomy design and provides a framework to show that food is a very strong communication medium that can overcome cultural and lingual barriers.

The second chapter is about the research method that has been used in this master thesis, it is explained that food is a complex and multidisciplinary topic and finding right resources could be challengeable. The method used in this work is “Constructive Design Research”.

The third chapter is about “Who are the food designers?” Chefs, artists, stylists? After 1950s and the emerge of mass production, many new job titles have appeared at the same time, numerous firm old jobs have been vanished. Food Design is a very complex and ancient matter, however food design for communication aim is certainly a new criteria. A chef can call herself a food designer as well as a communication designer who can also use food as a medium to transmit a message.

The next chapter is about finding the answer for “What food is” from a holistic perspective. As far as we know, our perspective towards food has been changed. Food is not a survival matter for us anymore, with mass consumption many perceptions toward different matters have changed.

Food as a communication medium: This chapter is based on Leeds-Hurwitz ideas. Food is analyzed in macro-level, which means that food is not only an artifact on the plate, however it is a mixture of different things that connects people together. Another analyzation is micro-level that explains how food works in transmitting a message. Different intercultural matters are also investigated in culinary communication.

Food as a multi sensory communication medium: Following, food will be studied as a multisensory communication matter. Food takes different feelings in action and can create memories and the concept of time.

Modernizing the cuisine: Making radical Changes in culinary culture is quite impossible. This area has remained surprisingly very conservative. It could be possible to only have subtle changes. However there are some chefs and designers, who try to discover the capability of food on the other side of its nutritional value.

Men think, dream and act according to what they eat and drink.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

The Case Studies: In this chapter there are two case studies discussed. The first case study was a traditional approach to food as a medium for gathering people around and socializing them. It was about finding right participants with different social and cultural backgrounds. Participants were asked to bring a recipe from their childhood or something that they had memory with. The recipes were collected. During the pre-workshops, the participants talked about their recipes and some of the overall recipes were chosen to get cooked together. During the day of workshop, people started cooking together and later on eating together while socializing. Verbal conversations and sessions were documented as photos.

In the second case study, food is an active storytelling mean. The writer established a platform “Persikka”. It is a platform that allows many Iranians to share their stories as a misunderstood nation. He used food as a bridge to share Iranian culture and heritage. Persikka is his way to answer the question “where am I from” to the one of the most heard but not seen countries in the world. It is an undeniable fact that being an Iranian means carrying a terrorist label wherever you go. All over 7000 years of history and culture is hidden under a distorted image of the currupted politics at the moment.

Fig. 81 Bridal Rhubarb
© Petri Juola & Vahid Mortezaei 

Conclusion: Food is a crucial fact of human lives, which shapes their beliefs, thoughts, culture etc. We as human beings actively shape our surroundings and communicate with diverse means for example using our multisensory feeling via food in order to transmit a message. This topic is very multidisciplinary and is not investigated yet. This master thesis took 6 years to finalize and is a beginning to research more in this area.

Bibliography: This master thesis includes a very interesting and diverse list of resources, despite the fact that this topic has not been thoroughly investigated yet. It contains 41 recourses.

There is also a glossary at the end that defines different terms used in this thesis.