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Journal of Interactive Media

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Volume 17, Issue 2


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

Susanne Hensely-Schinkinger
  • Corresponding author
  • Multidisciplinary Design & User Research, Institute of Visual Computing & Human-Centered Technology, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Marén Schorch / Hilda Tellioğlu
  • Multidisciplinary Design & User Research, Institute of Visual Computing & Human-Centered Technology, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-08-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2018-0010


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.

Keywords: Cultural Probes; informal caregivers; qualitative research; case study


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About the article

Susanne Hensely-Schinkinger

Susanne Hensely-Schinkinger holds a Master in Medical Computer Science from the Vienna University of Technology and a Master in Nursing Studies from the University of Vienna. Currently she works as a PhD scholar at the Vienna University of Technology. Her research was integral part of the TOPIC project and her interests are centred on issues of technological support in the context of informal care.

Marén Schorch

Marén Schorch is a PostDoc researcher and leader of the junior research group “KontiKat” at the University of Siegen, Germany. She holds a PhD in Sociology and is specialized in qualitative social methods. From 2013–2016, she was head of the German part of the EU AAL project “TOPIC” (The Online Platform for Informal Caregivers). Her research and publication focus is in the fields of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Sociology (qualitative methods and biography). She is especially interested in the way how people deal with extreme events, informal caregiving and health.

Hilda Tellioğlu

Hilda Tellioğlu is an Associate Professor at the Vienna University of Technology. As a computer scientist she has been involved with both research and teaching on: software engineering, design & development of information technology in networked (work) environments, computer support for co-operative work (CSCW) in systems design in health care work and in architectural planning, knowledge management, social networks, interaction design, tangible user interaction.

Published Online: 2018-08-07

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

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

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).

Citation Information: i-com, Volume 17, Issue 2, Pages 103–117, ISSN (Online) 2196-6826, ISSN (Print) 1618-162X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2018-0010.

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