Cultural probes in real life

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Cultural probes, or diary studies, provide a way to conduct user research when we can't directly observe their behaviour. This slideshow was presented at UPA Europe, 2008, by Gerry Gaffney.

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Cultural probes in real life

  1. 1. Cultural Probes in Real Life Information & DesignGerry Gaffney www.infodesign.com.au
  2. 2. “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted” (孙子) Probes are “…designed to prompt and elicit information from people about their lives andPhoto: I, Shane, flickr, creative commons license local culture” (Bill Gaver)
  3. 3. We can’t observe if… • The area or subject is sensitive • Our presence may interfere too much • We need to observe over a long period.Image: NASA
  4. 4. A “probe” may contain• Diary (or blog)• Camera• Video recorder• Audio recorder• Postcards• Anything that enables participants to self- report
  5. 5. Analysis?“We don’t analyse the data… we’ve got real returns from real people… It’s nice to work with the… raw materials because they force you to re-interpret them pretty much every time you look at them.” – Bill Gaver, in an interview with Gerry Gaffney
  6. 6. Commercial necessity• The objective is likely to be more immediate than in an academic context• A focus on deliverables• Frequent or ongoing re-interpretation is not encouraged!• So analysis and synthesis are necessary.
  7. 7. Case study• www.linkme.com.au• Studied 6 people who were looking for employment (key part of the target audience)• Asked them to keep a diary over a three-week period• Interviewed them during & after the study• Analyzed the diaries and associated materials.
  8. 8. Handling theflood of data Photo: Alexis Rondeau flickr, creative commons license
  9. 9. How to estimate?• Comparable to contextual enquiry in terms of: – Preparation time – Recruiting time (but requires more care) – Quantity of data – Analysis method and effort.• Participant payment/incentives more costly• Amount of consultant time theoretically may be reduced.
  10. 10. Conclusion• Relatively simple technique• Needs careful planning• Deliverables include – Personas – Scenarios – Artefacts.• A useful technique to add to your toolkit – applied to the appropriate projects.

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