Looking into the life through others' eyes: The Cultural Probes (as methodological proposal)
department of sociology and social research University of Trento Italy, http://portale.unitn.it/sociologia/
Research Unit Regional Istitute of study and social research Trento, Italy
The aim of this paper is to present the Cultural Probes (C.P.) qualitative methodology (Gaver et al. 1999) starting from our CP study. CP born inside the field of Information System as participative approach for the design of information technologies. In our case study, we adopted CP to understand the elders' domestic life and, consequently, to individuate the requirements for Ambient Assisted Living technologies to promote their wellbeing at home.
Using CP means to produce and give people creative tools (such as diaries, post-it, disposable cameras, maps, postcards, friends or family pictures, etc.) to describe their daily life. This methodology allows researchers to obtain intimate information and subjective accounts about the dairy people experience without being inside the research context. The researchers look their setting through the others' eyes. Through the maps, the pictures, the dairies, the stories, the metaphors or the poems, the objects, people give to the researchers the possibility to -discover and explain the way in which they (?) understand, explicate, influence and manage the dairy situation? (Van Maanen, 1986, 36). So CP could be useful when it is difficult to have access to the research area (for example we think to the organizations or to in - home observations) and to use ethnographic or shadowing methodology.
The participative nature of CP implies a great researchers' efforts during the preparation of the CP kit. It's not exist a general CP kit, but it's necessary to design it basing on the characteristics of the people involved and of the context explored. In the following paper we will describe how we have construct the probes kit in cooperation with the elder people and other mediators, and how we have organize the kit distribution. Secondly, we will present our difficult to interpret the data collected and the follow up interviews conducted to discuss the researcher's interpretation of the relevant material and topic with the participants. In other words, we will introduce the pros and cons of CP as methodological proposal.