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1 day

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Physical or virtual cultural probe package that might include:

  • instructions

  • notebook/diary

  • disposable photo camera/video camera or voice recorder

What is this tool and what is its purpose and benefit?


Probing is a tool that focuses on self-documentation and reflection. It encourages participants to self-document their everyday lives and experiences by taking notes and photos. This provides an unbiased view of their perspective and experience of the researched issue because it has been collected by participants themselves in a context without a researcher. The data reveals development points, needs and other relevant issues on the topic.

Steps how to use this tool in practice

The same steps apply when working individually, in pairs or in a group.


Based on your problem and the goal of probing, identify the people to involve in probing. They should be related to the problem so that their experiences help you to gain insight on the researched issue. They can be customers, potential customers, other stakeholders, or people from your organisation.


Establish next the self-documentation method to be used in probing. This can be for instance diaries, voice/video recordings, and/or photos. Write the instructions to the participants considering the chosen methods, and the time to use.


The participants start their self-documentation journey independently and carry it out within the set time frame. They document all experiences and moments linked to the researched issue as part of their everyday lives. For example, if they use the Internet on their phone, they can write a diary of when and how they use it, or if they are visiting a hospital, they can video record and photograph their journey and all the essential parts of that visit. You should not contact the participants during their probing process.


After the end of the self-documentation, participants provide you with their diaries/recordings. Analyse their documented information. Pay attention to their experience and needs, and try to see the researched issue from their perspective.

Tips and hints for using this tool

  • Make sure that your instructions are clear and participants are well aware of what they need to document. Preparation is key for successful probing.

Other tools of this phase

6 questions for gaining a comprehensive view of the issue.

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A visual model of the service for research.

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A map to gain insight into customers’ emotional and cognitive perceptions.

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Interviewing with images to stimulate more spontaneous responses.

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Interview to get a better understanding and insight of an identified problem.


A map of all stakeholders, and their importance and relations.

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Obtaining user experience information through observation.

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