Probing the Probes
Keywords: Methodology, participatory design, cultural probes, domestic probes, ethnography, art and design, design practice, home, workplace, ISBN 0-9667818-2-1.
AbstractEthnographic studies of technology have focused on trying to understand the socially organised, naturally occurring uses of technological artifacts in socio-technical systems. This paper describes the design work of two separate research groups utilising "cultural probes" as a mode of participatory design for domestic settings. The first group created specially designed probes to analyse the motivations that shape home life, to inspire future designs. The second group used a cultural probe derivative as an adjunct to an ethnographic study of a sensitive "home" setting - a sheltered housing complex - and used them for "information" rather than "inspiration". The paper outlines an innovative evaluation of the production, use and methods that inform the use of probes for a participatory design and explore the ways in which cultural probes and probes hybrids might present alternative strategies for exploring "sensitive" settings.