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Using Cultural Probes in the Sensitive Research Setting of Informal Caregiving. A Case Study

Susanne Hensely-Schinkinger, Marén Schorch and Hilda Tellioğlu
From the journal i-com


This case study report covers our experiences in using Cultural Probes during the first phase of our European and interdisciplinary research project TOPIC (The Online Platform for Informal Caregivers). In that stage of our research, we focused on two major issues: first, describing and analyzing the characteristics of the care and coordination work of elderly informal caregivers, and second, on first implications for design for the field of informal care. Although our general methodological approach was qualitative (ethnographic) with participant observation and interviewing, we included Cultural Probes as an additional method to ethnography for gaining insight information about the care practices by the means of self-observation of and reflection by the informal caregivers. The paper describes our adaptation of the Cultural Probes approach, the similarities and differences to Gaver et al. [1999. Interactions. 6(1): 21–29], the items of our TOPIC Cultural Probes Kit in detail, and re-constructs the design process of one of the items (the actimoClock). Based on the experiences of our participants with the probes kit and our analyses of that use, we also present lessons learned, pros and cons for including that method in the sensitive setting of informal caregiving.

Funding source: Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie

Award Identifier / Grant number: 837737

Funding source: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Award Identifier / Grant number: 16SV608K

Funding source: Agence Nationale de la Recherche

Award Identifier / Grant number: ANR-12-AALI-0002-03

Funding statement: The TOPIC project and its research has been funded by the European Union within the AAL Joint-Program (AAL-2012-5-169), the Austrian Ministry for Transport Innovation and Technology (Austria, Project number: 837737), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany, Project number: 16SV608K), and the French National Research Agency (France, Project number: ANR-12-AALI-0002-03).


The authors thank all the informal caregivers and their families in Austria and Germany for spending their valuable and rare free time with giving us input for our research and especially opening their homes for our extensive participatory observations. Furthermore, we want to thank all professional care organizations and other gatekeepers for their great support. We want to thank our great research consortium in the project: A special thank goes to Myriam Lewkowicz, Aparecido Fabiano Pinatti de Carvalho, Matthieu Tixier, and Lin Wan for their partnership and support in scientific issues and for our important and constructive discussions.


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Published Online: 2018-08-07
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston