Culture Probes – Researching through a Design Practise!


–>‘When Reason is Away, steroids Smiles Will Play’ – Paul Eluard and Benjamin Peret

Recomended reading > cultural probes and the values of uncertainty

I heard about it in March 2006, surgery never heard about it before until Yoko mention about it to me. People use it to investigate certain things or situation that we cannot see visually or reach to, expecially in medical and aerospace study and practise. Then, because it is very intersting to me, as I don’t know anything about it and Yoko make it sounds interesting as well I decided to read more about this things that called ‘Culture Probes’. Then Yoko had a chance to teach cultural in her Master’s class. And I ask Yoko if I can be in her class as to assist her in her teaching and to get to know more about culture probes. Finally i end up in ther class every tuesday afternoon, for three hour class as her assistant and as a participant. I manage to understand what is cultural probes and explore the process of creating and designing the probes (which i the most interesting part for a designer I guess). I designed three probes but i will only upload two, as the other one is still in the working progress.

About Nurul’s “cultural probes’
My subject as a client in this project is a research student, who worked as an Architect in Israel. She’s maried with two kids. She arrived in June, 2006 from Israel to Australia. So pretty much she’s struggling with new places, people, culture,community and I’m sure much more. From our first meeting she told me about her trip to uni from her home. The trip to uni tooks her nearly 1 hour with train. That is all I know about her. Our brief, overall is to understand what is cultural probes by designing the probes. It is base on researching through design. We need to find someone that we don’t really know. So in this project I will try to find out more about my client, the personal interest, hobbies, likes, dislike and ect. I started to strolled around in the city area and other places like Prahan, Sydney Road and even to Camberwell market just to get some ideas about it. Finally I decided not to waste money on anything. I’m not buying anything for my probes. I am going to use or recycle anything that I have and make use of it as a probes.
The perpose of this is anything that can be possible to open up any possibilities. Probes A is a ‘wishing envelopes’. I use an old ‘Big Issues’ magazine as material to design my probes. In the wishing envelope there is a note of wishing, and my client have to write what is her wish about the envelope Issues. The envelope is made from selected pages that i found an interesting article. These envelope is readable, what i mean readable is my client can read the article and then perhaps make the wish, The wish can be an influence from the article or from my client personal memories or experiences. Second probes i called it a ‘paper clip album’. It’s a collection of images that I cut out and mix and match from Melbourne City Council Annual Report 2005. This album is just to triggers an idea for my client to act. Behind every image, there is a sentence and my client have to continue and finish the sentence. That is as for now my probes, others is still in working process.

Probe A “Wishing Envelopes”

Probe B ‘ Paper Clip Album’

Just to define and to understand more what is Cultural Probes;
W.Gaver, A.Boucher, S.Pennington and B.Walker from Royal College of Art in their paper about cultural probes in Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty define cultural probes as a design-led approach to understanding users that stressed empathy and engagement. Probes are collections of evocative tasks meant to elicit inspirational responses from people—not comprehensive information about them, but fragmentary clues about their lives and thoughts. It is been suggested that the approach was valuable in inspiring design ideas for technologies that could enrich people’s lives in new and pleasurable ways.

Gaver,B., Dunne,T. and Pacenti, E wrote in a design journal (Jan-Feb 1999) explaning the cultural probes processes and meaning. “The probes were part of a strategy of pursuing experimental design in a responsive way. They address a common dilemma in developing projects for unfamiliar groups. Understanding the local cultures was necessary so that our designs wouldn’t seem irrelevant or arrogant, but we didn’t want the groups to constrain our designs unduly by focusing on needs or desires they already understood. We wanted to lead a discussion with the groups toward unexpected ideas, but we didn’t want to dominate it “.


This image is taken from: Online Cultural Probes

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