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How Probes Work

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‘Cultural probes’, since first being proposed and described by Bill Gaver and his colleagues, have been adapted and appropriated for a range of purposes within a variety of technology projects. In this paper we critically review different uses of Probes and discuss common aspects of different Probe variants. We also present and critique some of the debate around Probes through describing the detail of their use in two studies: The Digital Care Project (Lancaster University) and The Mediating Intimacy Project (University of Melbourne). We then reorient the discussion around Probes towards how probes work: both as interpretative fodder for social scientists and as a resource for ‘designers’. Finally we discuss new possible directions for Probes as an approach and some of the challenges confronting Probes as an approach.