Pressure Project 2: Cultural Probe


Description of community/rationale: After brainstorming a few communities like prisons or chef’s kitchens, we decided to go with the community of doctors working with Doctors Without Borders because it is a community we knew nothing about and seemed a great candidate community to probe. The community is made of 90% local staff and work specifically for people in a state of medical crisis. They also consider certain diseases as medical emergencies, such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and malnutrition. The community is at about a 15:1 ratio of local to international staff.

Documentation of the overall presentation of kit:

For each individual, there will be a kit comprised of a disposable camera, a mannequin, a tip book, and a journal. Additionally, there will be a box of crafting supplies provided for the whole group to use at their leisure. The participants will use our probing kit throughout the whole time they are away in order for us to gauge their initial reactions to the culture as well as how their views change over time. At the end of their trip, we will request all of the materials to be shipped back so we can go through the data they collected. The instructions for individual components are below.


Documentation of each element of the kit:

-Disposable camera/phone camera:

Instructions: Take a picture of your food before and after each meal.


We are including a disposable camera in case they don’t have their own cell phone camera and giving the option to choose. In trying to think of a pleasurable way to probe a community without making it feel forced or intrusive, we figured a lot could be gleaned from what they eat. Perhaps taking pictures of your meal is only fun in a more relaxed environment, but we hope taking before and after shots of a meal could reveal values the community holds as a whole. The pictures of food could possibly reveal their food preferences, their mood, the value of food itself, and if they are eating the same thing everyday. Another possibility would be if participants start using the picture as a vehicle for creative expression, such as taking more artistic pictures or making things with their food before taking a picture.



Instructions: Keep your mannequin with you as much as possible. Feel free to decorate the mannequin however you please. Please take a picture of it at least daily.


The mannequin serves multiple purposes. First, it gives the participants another way to use the camera. This way they get used to using the camera for multiple purposes and move on to photographing other things later on when they comfortable. Secondly, we wanted a way for the doctors to relieve their stress in an open-ended manner. The mannequin is the only component that involves creative self-expression that does so in a non-textual manner. It also does not involve any concrete rules bounding the user’s use of the item.However, it is specific enough that data can be compared between participants and that the user does not feel intimidated by it. Thirdly, since the mannequin resembles a human we get to see how the user reacts to it. We’ll get to know: whether they’ll project themselves onto the mannequin and have the mannequin mimic how they feel, how their views on the human body will change over time, whether they develop an emotional bond to it, etcetera. Fourth, this is the artifact most likely to gather the most extraneous data since the instructions aren’t concrete and allows the user to express the emotions most subtly.


-Tip book:

Instructions: Jot down any cultural tips for someone from your home country who’s moving to the area you’re working in.


Doctors in Doctors Without Borders often work in countries drastically different from their home. As we want to learn more about our doctors, we believe one of the best ways to coax this information out of participants is indirectly. This small portable book will allow doctors to write “cultural tips” for someone from their culture to understand the culture they’re working in. From this, not only do we learn what the culture they’re immersed in is like, but we also learn what the doctors value, find strange, and notice about the culture they’re in.



Instructions: Write about experiences from your day under the category that is most similar to your current emotions. Make sure you include the date with each entry.


    • Things you want to remember
    • Things you’ve learned
    • Happy
    • Relieved
    • Frustrated
    • Sad
    • Inadequate
    • Uncomfortable
    • Just write!

The journal aspect will consist of a moleskine journal and a pencil. At the end of the day, we will ask them to reflect and categorize their experiences by emotion (instead of just chronologically). Since writing about frustrations is often a form of therapy, this will give them an outlet to vent if they need to or just remember all the things they experienced. Since most people write from top to bottom, we will also have a record of how they tend to feel as their time there goes on. This is probably the most intrusive and least fun activity of the probe kit, but it will give us valuable insight about their thoughts without asking specific questions.


Individual reflections:



The design process was difficult as I’ve never attempted to design a probe kit before, or even know that probe kits were a thing. The overall experience was pleasant because the group discussions were very productive with a bunch of good ideas flowing. I think our probe kit does a good job of attempting to extract values from not only the unique environment of crisis, but also the community of doctors. Our kit lacks experienced design – mostly just guessing that our artifacts will garner some data that will help us understand the community. I think probe kits in general are an effective codesign method with willing participants. The downside is that they require long periods of time and funding to gain the trust and willingness of the participants.



This was a cool project! I had never heard of probe kits, so it was interesting to change our line of thinking to create a probe kit. Our group worked really well together since we could discuss and bounce ideas off of one another. This process allowed for more creative results than we would have if we had done the project alone! I think it would be interesting to actually try this out to get a better idea of which aspects of our design work and which don’t. Since none of us had any experience with Doctors Without Borders, our probe kit was based on speculations and may not relate to them at all!



I enjoyed this project. At our in-person group meeting, we made a lot of progress. We had a lot of ideas flowing, and I think the solutions we came to were very elegant. Unfortunately, it was difficult to think of items to place in this kit that doctors would actually want to use. These doctors will likely be very busy, emotionally and physically exhausted, and not have time for tedium outside of work. However, within the scope of the project, I think we did a good job. With some more refinement we could arrive at a kit that benefits both the researchers and doctors well.



As for the project, I liked several things about it. I liked how open ended it was. This allowed me to come up with ideas left and right without filtering myself, with a lot of them making the final product.  I really liked the hypothetical nature of this project. It allowed me to ground my ideas and come up with different scenarios. I liked the cultural aspect of this project. It naturally made me come up with ideas that are unique to the situation. I liked the non-invasive aspect as it made our ideas subtle, elegant, yet powerful.

As for the product, I like it. If I was a participant, this kit would give me some amount of joy in my day. Or at least a way to express or de-stress. As a researcher, I feel like it gives us some good information about intrapersonal and interpersonal nuances of the community.

As for my group, I liked them too. For of all, they liked most of my ideas, which is good. But also, we had respect for each other and facilitated good communication. Also, our meetings were super enjoyable yet productive. All in all, good project.


Tagged , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: