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Full title

Using cultural probes in ethnographic field studies

Keywords

Ethnography, cultural probes, field studies

Summary

Cultural Probes have recently gained prominence in interactive systems design, where they have been employed to explore the role of pervasive systems in the home of the future. Cultural Probes originated in the traditions of artist–designers (Gaver et al. 1999) and have been deployed to provide ‘inspiration’ for design activity. Cultural Probes are specifically concerned to explore how future technologies can support the domestic values that motivate and drive the adoption and use of new technology.

We use Cultural Probes as a way of obtaining information from the members of our user groups who are more difficult to research by other means due to the sensitivity of the investigation and the remoteness of the locations and as a way of uncovering or at least shedding light on users social, emotional, and aesthetic values and habits. The probes also provide an engaging and effective way to open up communication channels and foster an ongoing dialogue with users involving them in the design process. The probes have enabled us to overcome some of the distance that inevitably exists between researchers and users and, thereby, to gather a rich set of materials that grounds designs in the lived realities and textures of everyday life.

Sensitivity to the feelings of the participants who agreed to be part of our study required a range of sympathetic data gathering techniques. Some agreed to keep personal diaries of their daily activities. All were also supplied with Polaroid cameras and voice activated Dictaphones in a Cultural Probe pack. In addition to these items, the packs consisted of a disposable camera, photo album, visitors book, scrapbook, post-it notes, pens, pencils and crayons, a set of postcards addressed to the researcher, and a map. These were handed out, much like a birthday or Christmas present, and the use of the probes was explained. The photograph below shows typical contents of a probe.



Our probes, whilst apparently performing many of the same functions as Gaver’s original probes, were then very different. They were less obviously ‘designed’ in character, consisting of readily available commercial devices with relatively mundane instructions, they were intended primarily as an informational input for design. Our prime concern was to gather information into how the members of our user groups lived their lives, their everyday circumstances, routines and rhythms, their practical concerns, everyday aesthetics, and so on.

Links

Ethnography

Papers

Biocca L, & Dewsbury G (2004) Housing and Technologies in the EU for Promoting Quality of Life, In Proceedings CDROM of the CIB World Building Congress 2004, Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Canada, May 2 - 7, 2004

Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Fitton D, Hughes J, Rouncefield M, Sommerville I, (2003) 'Cultural Probes: Eliciting Requirements for Dependable Ubiquitous Computing in the Home' in Stephanidis, C. (ed) Universal Access in HCI: Inclusive Design in the Information Society Volume Four of the Proceedings of HCI International 2003, Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, London, pp 329-333, ISBN 0-8058-4933-5

Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hemmings T, Hughes J and Rouncefield M, (2003) 'Design With Care: Technology, Disability and the Home', in Harper R (Ed) Inside The Smart Home, Chapter 9, pp163-180, Springer-Verlag, London Ltd, ISBN: 1852336889.

Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hemmings T, Kember S, Rodden T and Rouncefield M (2003) Designing Assistive Technologies for Medication Regimes in Care Settings, Universal Access in the Information Society (UAIS), Volume 2, Number 3, Springer-Verlag Heidelberg , ISSN: 1615-5289

Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Rouncefield M, Sommerville I, Blythe M, Baxter G, Wright P (2003) Gathering Requirements for Inclusive Design, 2nd BCS HCI Group Workshop on Culture and HCI: Bridging Cultural and Digital Divides, June 18th 2003, University of Greenwich, England, in Gunter, K., Smith, A and French T. eds (2003) proceedings of 2nd BCS HCI Workshop on Culture and HCI: Bridging Cultural and Digital Divides. pp 65--71. University of Greenwich ISBN 1861661916

Cheverst K, Clarke K., Dewsbury G, Hemmings T, and. Rouncefield M. (2002) “When Geography Matters - Location Awareness and Community Care”. In Richard Harper, editor, The Social Shaping of Mobile Futures - Proceedings of the Third Wireless World Conference, pages 69--83. Digital World Research Centre, University of Surrey, July 2002

Cheverst K, Dewsbury G, Fitton D and Rouncefield M (2002) 'Getting the Message': SMS Messaging and Community Care, In Proceedings of the 2nd EQUATOR conference, October 2002

Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hughes J, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I (2002) 'Sore legs and naked torsos': Using cultural probes in dependability research' In Proceedings of the 1st DIRC Conference on Dependable Computing Systems, London, November 20th-21st, 2002

Clarke, K. Cheverst K, Dewsbury G, Fitton D, Hemmings T, Hughes J, Rodden T, Rouncefield M, Sommerville I (2003), “Cultural Probes: Eliciting requirements for Dependable Ubiquitous Computing in the Home”, in the 10th International Conference on Human - Computer Interaction (HCI International) June 2003 Stephanidis, C. (ed) 'Universal Access in HCI: Inclusive Design in the Information Society' Volume Four of the Proceedings of HCI International 2003. pp 329-333, Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, London. ISBN 0-8058-4933-5

Crabtree A, Hemmings T, Rodden T, Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hughes J and Rouncefield M (2003) Designing with Care: Adapting cultural probes to inform design in sensitive settings. In Proceedings of OzCHI 2003, New Directions in Interaction: Information environments, Media & Technology, 26-28 November at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. pp 4-13.

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Hemmings T, Hughes J, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I, (2004) The Antisocial Model of Disability, Disability and Society, Volume 19, Number 2, March 2004, ISSN 0968-7599

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Hughes J, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I (2003) Designing Dependable Digital Domestic Environments, In Proceedings of HOIT 2003, 'The Networked Home and the Home of the Future', April 6-8 2003, in Irvine, California

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Hughes J, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I (2003) Growing older digitally: Designing technology for older people, In Proceedings of INCLUDE 2003, 'Inclusive Design for Society and Business', Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, Royal College of Art, 25-28 March 2003, p57-64, ISBN 1 874175 94 2

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Rouncefield M and Sommerville I (2002) Appropriate home technology: Depending on dependable technology systems, In Proceedings CD ROM of the European Network Housing Research (ENHR) 2002, Housing and Health Workshop, Vienna, Austria, 1 July - 5 July 2002

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I (2002) Home Technology Systems, Housing Care and Support Journal, Pavilion, Vol 5 Number 4, November 2002, 23-26, ISSN: 1460-8790

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Rouncefield M, and Sommerville I (2004) Depending on Digital Design: Extending Inclusivity, Housing Studies Volume 19, Number 5, September 2004, ISSN 0267-3037

Dewsbury G, Clarke K, Rouncefield M, Sommerville I, Taylor B and Edge M (2004) Designing Acceptable 'Smart' Home Technology to Support People in the Home, Technology and Disability, Volume 15, Number 3, pp191-201 ISSN 1055-4181

Dewsbury G, Rouncefield M, Clarke K, and Sommerville I (2002) Designing appropriate assistive technology for home users: Developing dependable networks. In Proceedings of the CIB Working Group W084 - Building Non-Handicapping Environments "Inclusive Design and Mobility Response in Indoor/Outdoor Public Buildings and Facilities" , Viale Marx, 43 - 00137 Roma, Italy, 21st and 22nd October 2002

Kember S, Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hemmings T, Rodden T & Rouncefield M, (2002) ‘'Keep Taking the Medication': Assistive Technologies for Medication Regimes in Care Settings’, in Keates S, Langdon P, Clarkson PJ & Robinson P, (eds) (2002) Universal Access and Assistive Technology, Springer-Verlag, London ltd, pp285-294, ISBN 1-85233-595-5

Kember S, Cheverst K, Clarke K, Dewsbury G, Hemmings T, Rodden T & Rouncefield M (2002) 'Keep Taking The Medication': Assistive Technologies for Medication Regimes in Care Settings, In Proceedings of the 1st Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology (CWUAAT) (incorporating 4th Cambridge Workshop on Rehabilitation Robotics), Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 25th-27th March, 2002

Author

Guy Dewsbury

 

 
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