This course is an overview of how, why, and when to use cultural probes for the purposes of design research as well as the aesthetic and socio-cultural considerations necessary for using probes in research at a variety of field sites.

Cultural probes are playful and creative artifacts or stimuli that are introduced into a design research process in order to elicit inspirational responses. We will review examples of cultural probes and stimuli that might be used in a variety of design research traditions including critical making, critical design, design fiction and speculative design approaches.

Learning Objectives
Students will become familiar with the use of cultural probes as they are situated within different design research traditions. Specifically, the goals, opportunities and advantages will be compared with the limitations, difficulties and disadvantages of using cultural probes through a series of examples from design projects around the world.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the history of cultural probes within design research traditions
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using cultural probes
  • Articulate the features and purpose of successful cultural probes
  • Understand potential applications for cultural probes in a variety of sectors and with a variety of topics and issues