Skip links

Cultural Probe

Graduate Student Project


For our Interaction Design Methods course, we were asked to create a cultural probe to send to a group of elderly citizens living in San Francisco. The goal of this probe was to understand people’s beliefs, desires, and preferences. The data collected from the cultural probe was to be used to create a hypothetical interactive art installation to promote the city’s initiative, targeting both the senior citizens and their loved ones.

box with items for the cultural probe

Design Process

We were given a total of two days to research and design this cultural probe. After doing some research on San Francisco, our team decided to focus on elderly citizens who are single (divorced, widowed, or unmarried). We researched scholarly journals, blogs, Wikipedia, Flickr, and various other websites to get a better understanding of San Francisco and elderly citizens living there.

Final Concept

We ultimately wanted our probe to be open-ended, personal, and a bit of fun. We really wanted to understand what our target audience thought about San Francisco, the locations where they spent their time, as well as their values in general. Our cultural probe consisted of the following items:

  • Adventure Elephant and camera.
    (asking seniors to “Photograph his adventures in San Francisco”)
  • Open ended postcard questions.
    (hand crafted)
  • An emotion map.
    (with custom emotive stickers, and blank stickers)
  • A collage answering the question “What does San Francisco Mean to You?”
    (with a starter magazine)
  • Write a letter to your 18 year old self.
    (with custom paper and a handmade envelope)