Cultural Probes

These are a research tools that offer a less than scientific, but effective means of generating insight and inspirational materials that can help define the direction of a project. This is could provide an interesting start point, but it is difficult to know what to include. Design Research Techniques – Cultural Probes offers a useful description of this technique.

Developed by Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, and Elena Pacenti in the late 1990s (Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti, 1999), this technique was designed to be deliberately casual as means of gaining a more natural response from those engaged, that could facilitate research.

The final research event from a group research project that I was involved in, the caring project, identified a number of people who actively ‘cared’ for one or more of their belongings. As an initial step in this project I am going to ask a number of these people to use a Cultural Probe Set with the aim of identifying interesting avenues to explore further down the line.

The kits generally consist of a number of means of recording information and typically contain some form of diary, a camera for recording images and other ways to prompt a response. They are often employed when the activity that needs to be observed  takes place in remote locations, over a long period of time or where there is a requirement for minimal influence on the activity to be recorded. (




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