What is Cultural Probes?

Probes are collections of tasks designed to elicit inspirational information from people about their individual lives. They provide an alternative to more traditional methods of user research from the social sciences, such as questionnaire studies, focus groups, or ethnographies.
(The probe approach was initially developed for the EU funded Presence project by Interaction Design Research, and has since been extended for the Equator project also by Interaction Design Research.)

Probes is about using a design-led approach to engage with people and their experiences in order to develop a new design space.

Probes is about practise-based design research, which means to design and make stuff that provokes people to let you know about their lives.

Queue Probe Pack

Queuing is almost a national obsession in the U.K. There are diverse types of queues varying in speed and purposes. From the daily queues in supermarkets and banks to extreme queues of people camping outside stores to get promotional offers or spending days outside ticket offices to get tickets for a certain concert.

The Queue probe pack consists of 7 small tasks for the participants to respond to. They are open enough to be interpreted by the participant and was given out to people in three different kinds of queues in London during a week in November 2004.


Probe 1: Atmosphere of the Queue

Take a sample of the air using the brown paper bag then tie the string so the atmosphere stays in the bag then use the provided sticker to describe what the sample contains


Probe 2-3-4: Have you heard about...

This probe is one of three similar tasks. The idea was to get the participants to create stories about the services that three (imaginary) companies offer:


Probe 5: Mapping the Queue


The task in this probe is to map the queue


Probe 6: Queuing Rules

Queuing rules is a probe designed to get insight into the rules of the system.
What kind of rules does the participants apply to their Queue?


Probe 7: Imagine...

A queue is fixed in physical space. Normally you can not leave a queue. This probe asks the participants where they would rather be right now. The binoculars was attached to help their imagination.


Probe 8: The Others in the Queue

This probe is again encourage participants to use their imagination by asking them to select someone else in the queue and answer a questionaire by pretending they are that person.

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