The Re-read


I decided to go back and re-read The Cultural Probe Article in a more analytical careful way. I am attempting to make my project for this class more grounded in the theory and end result rather than the act of gathering qualitative data through a probe. I also wanted to better understand why the researchers chose a probe as a method rather than more traditional ways of gathering information about a demographic of people.


The reading starts by stating that the goal was to “look into novel interaction techniques to increase the presence of elderly people into their own communities”.


The designers who worked on this project wanted to “provoke inspirational responses” rather than just collect answers to questions.  They emphasized inspiration over information. Unlike more scientific methods of research, they were concentrating on esthetic control and cultural implications of design”.


The responses to the probe were meant to highlight how the elderly people felt about “their lives, their cultural environments, and technology.”


Here I begin to run into some problems with my proposed project because, since I’m not attempting to design anything with the data I collect, I am now uncertain whether I have chosen an incompatible means of research by choosing to focus on Cultural Probes.


My proposed project on food is set up to explore how different individuals navigate bringing their upbringings, influences, and pasts into their current lives and personalities. More specifically I want to look at the psychological borders people carry and how we have compartmentalized or incorporated the disparate parts of our pasts into our presents.


As someone who has moved a lot and tried on many different kinds of lives, I feel simultaneously connected and isolated from everyone else. I am interested in making sense out of my self and the world but I struggle with metabolizing my embodied borders.


With that in mind, my reasoning for wanting to do this project is not scientific and maybe very self-serving. When I examine why I am drawn to this project in general what I am left with is that I just want to understand people better. I want to attempt this understanding in a less standardized more disarming way and perhaps, through that, get a broader understanding how I connect to, and function within the world.


Maybe, this is navel-gazing?


Back to the Elders:


“Instead of designing solutions for users’ needs we worked to discover new pleasures from forms of sociability to new cultural forms”.


I think I have been more focused on the resulting film that I want to make from my cultural probe then the art of what’s actually going to be happening in the moment. Perhaps putting a larger emphasis on the actual meal that is produced and how it might serve as a platform for a strange and intentional space would be helpful for my project. It could be a space where a community (that would not usually interact) can share in the act of eating and connecting together.


This made me think more about The Situationists and how they advocated for “disassociation and confusion as a method for liberation”.


I took another look at Guy DeBord and the first couple of readings we were assigned. I have come to the conclusion that, either I don’t understand what they are talking about and how to fully relate the “re-enchanting of a city” or “drifting” as an act of rebellion against “the cultural homogeneity assumed by commercial interests” or I just disagree.


Also if I am to accept that “the spectacle” of our modern media-saturated culture forces us to be consumers of our own experience. (which, I think, I can get behind) The, buy turning the stores of the people I want to include in my project into a literal spectacle (a film) am I totally missing the point of all of this.


I know I am running into all these problems because my proposed project doesn’t really have a point. But I am also more and more confused about exactly what this class is supposed to be. What are these readings leading us towards? What is this project meant to result in? Theory? Some kind of reach for social impact? Art?


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