Looking in the mirror

In order to study different behaviors in individuals they are multiple tools which can be used. From more traditional tools as questionnaires or focus groups, to observation under methods like “fly on the wall” or even interviews to more personal strategies such as permitting the research subjects to capture their own information. This last method is defined as probe research. As the class reading suggested, is like opening a window into someone else’s life, but the most interesting aspect is that is the subject himself the one opening such window hence it can get really personal.

Can you imagine arriving to your best friend’s wedding and finding a disposable camera in your table with a sign “capture your best photos for the couple”… if this happens in every table, for sure the pictures at the end will be amazing!! Better than hiring a professional photograph. 😉

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Well, this is the concept of probing. In order to do so, a probe package must be handed in to the research subject with the required information you want him to input. In a diary kind of activity, he will be registering a lot of personal information, which gathering by any other mean would be practically impossible.

For my empathic design class, we use this methodology in order to design for a classmate. We were handed in a probe package and we had to guess who was the maker, and later on, with our perception, propose something we would think he would be interested. This was a great experience, since the probe didn’t have any personal information we must first define the personality of this individual. Later on, when we were describing this person we were able to acknowledge who he was and see if our proposal was interesting for him. Finally, we asked him direct questions to see if our proposal have met or not his expectations. For this time, we did it!!! The most interesting aspect of this exercise is that this clearly represents the action of designing to any given client where you must capture his essence and yield a result.

Another methodology used in class to understand the other person was the design slam. We were given diverse profiles or “persona” from which we selected an older adult with macular degeneration. He was an older boxer called Mr. Rocky Balboa which after years of strength now felt himself vulnerable since he wasn’t able to read correctly mundane things like product labels. Gladly for him, John, his grocery salesperson admired him since his childhood and hence designed a system using radio frequency ID (RFID) to be able to help him with his shopping. While such technology very much innovative, it is cheap and can be easily applied, helping Mr. Balboa to “see” by hearing the descriptions displayed by a handheld device speaker. With such simple gesture John was able to enrichen Mr. Balboa’s life. We can affirm that John looked in the mirror and saw himself in a hopefully distant future.

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Our next project will be to design to a given individual. We are currently figuring out to whom we want to design, since being international students newly arrived to Stillwater we don’t know much people here. Nevertheless, a design probe was sent to my origin country to a person I know which is an older adult and we expect to have the information required to be able to design for her, if not we should address someone here in Stillwater, maybe not as interesting but more accessible.

I Hope to get you more advances in our project in the near future. In the meanwhile, don’t forget to look in the mirror, and step into someone else’s shoes!!!

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