Cultural probes to investigate media use 

Cultural probes to investigate media use. 

Cultural probes to investigate media use. 

Cultural probes to investigate media use. 

During the 6-month Media Usage Study 2014, we conducted a Cultural Probes study to get deeper insights into our participants' world. In the end, 28 people from Germany and Switzerland participated. The insights of the probes were the foundation of our five media usage types and the six personas which we created in the end.

JAN.—JUN. 2014 | 7 MIN. READ

AUTHOR: Robin Auer, M,A, Communication Design


We used the observation to approach the people and tried to win them for our Cultural Probes study. We explained the reason for the study and the interest on which we acted. We also had shopping vouchers sponsored by our cooperation partner. After the participants received the Cultural Probe packages they were able to simply complete the tasks at home. They had about two weeks to process the results and then sent them back to us with a stamped envelope.

28 of the packages arrived and were included in the analysis. First, we compared the results of all participants and then tried to find patterns within the data. It quickly became clear that the biggest differences can be found between the different age groups. So we formed clusters based on the shopping center's marketing target groups. We wanted to understand how the different target groups used their media. The findings from different studies (JAMES, JIM, Shell), the observations and the Cultural Probes have finally been incorporated into media usage types.


We distributed small packages with different materials and tasks to the participants. The methods used in this study are explained briefly.

Media diary
The central element of each package was the media diary. The diary contained general information as well as instructions on the individual components of the whole package and the participants were able to document their media behavior. 

Each postcard asked the participant a different question to their media behavior, which the participant could usually answer by ticking boxes.

Position cards
In a coordinate system, the participants used blue adhesive dots to indicate their position on specific topics. With a second red dot, they should indicate where they would like to be within this coordinate system.

Disposable camera
A list of tasks explained to the participants what they should take pictures of, but also gave them some leeway to show us what they consider important.