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24. Cultural Probes - Pg. 54

ReseaRch MethoD 24 Cultural Probes Cultural probes are provocative instruments given to participants to inspire new forms of self-understanding and communication about their lives, environments, thoughts, and interactions. 1 Cultural probes consist of any number of materials designed to inspire people to thoughtfully con- sider personal context and circumstance, and respond to the design team in unique, creative ways facilitated by the provocations. Cultural probe studies have used postcards, maps, journals, cameras, recording devices, and various pieces of text and imagery to guide personal responses. Cultural probes use several such artifacts, packaged together for participants. The materials, much like the method itself, are intentionally flexible and open-ended. The creators of cultural probes place the method in the artist-designer realm, with an emphasis on being openly subjective, collecting inspira- tional data to stimulate design imagination. 2 In a study of interaction techniques to increase the presence of the elderly in three european communities, Bill Gaver et al. created cultural probe kits to gain impressionistic views of participant cultures, preferences, beliefs, and desires. 3 Postcards contained obscure images and were pread- dressed for return to the design team, posing open questions about the cultural environment, life, and technology. Several maps printed on various papers asked the elderly to mark zones for meet- ing others, being alone, dreaming, and going somewhere they could not. disposable cameras were provided to take images of both assigned and self-selected things, and to use these in telling a story in a small album included in the kit. Finally, a media diary asked about technology interactions and 1. The seminal research on cultural probes is by Gaver et al., created for the "Presence Project," examining technology and the increased presence of the elderly in their local communities in norway, the netherlands, and Italy. See "Cultural Probes" by Bill Gaver, Tony dunne and elena Pacenti, in interactions, January-February 1999, pp. 21­29. 2. See note 1 above. 3. See note 1 above. 4. See note 1 above. Further Reading W. Gaver, A. Boucher, S. Pennington, and B. Walker. "Cultural Probes and the value of