Cultural Probes are tools developed in 1999 by Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne and Elena Pacenti, that allows to collect information about consumers and their environment that can’t be found with observation and interviews. They are packs of tools such as diary, cameras and maps, that are given to participants during the research stage and are left with them over a period of time. This packs contains instructions and tools designed specifically to engage participants in the research and are often more image than text based. When packs are handed back, designers analyse the results and often generate Personas or Storyboard based on the findings.
Sometimes it is really useful to interview participants after the analysis of the pack in order to explore in more detail the research findings.
Gaver, W.W., Dunne, A., & Pacenti, E. (1999) Cultural Probes. Interactions, Vol.6 (1), pp. 21-29.
Loi, D., Voderberg, M., Liney, B., Marwah, S., Manrique, P. & Piu, G. 2004, ‘”Live like I do” – a PD case study using Cultural Probes’, in A Bond, A Clement, F de Cindio, D Schuler & P van der Besselar (eds), PDC 2004, Vol. 2, CPSR, Canada, pp. 191-4. 2003