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. (





Taking Good Care of Things

To have an open brief is difficult and finding a decent jumping off point for, what feels like, a very important piece of work is tricky.

My interests lie in human behaviour, design & emotion, speculative design and product design. Finding a project that can act as a vehicle for all of this should be possible, but will take careful consideration.

Research Funding

I have secured some funding from  the Art & Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University to support the following project:

bicycle lubrication
Bicycle Lubrication Chart

From initial research it is clear that many products exist that allow users to engage in active care and maintenance as a means of extending the product lifespan. Most examples are of established products with recognised rituals and procedures and are often practiced by niche groups of enthusiasts.

There are many examples of products past and present that require some form of active care to maintain effective or optimum performance. This has become eroded as society moved towards the promise of convenience during the 20th Century and it could be argued that care practices are disappearing as a consequence. In the context of sustainably responsible design, extending product life can be an important factor in reducing the environmental impact of consumerism.

Building on the research undertaken in the Caring Project, this work will examine the practices of users who engage in the active maintenance of their possessions: the rituals they employ, the tools that they use and the social networks that exist to support such practice.

Responding with critical design, the aim is to discover ways that designers can encourage users to engage in preventative maintenance and therefor extended the life of their possessions.

My intention is to use the MA Design – Project 2 to support this research project and I will document and publish the work as a blog.