Finding Alternatives

As part of my research proposal, I went to different groups or communities in London working or addressing sustainability to see how they are approaching this subject. By going to these places, talking and/or participating in their activities, I had the opportunity to meet four people who are engaging in some sort of alternative practice in London. After speaking with them, I asked them to participate in the present research by documenting their lifestyles for a week.

I provided them with a cultural probe kit1 consisting of a diary, a camera and an album for collected items. Their collaboration and inputs provided a great, interesting and rich source of information into their chosen lifestyle alternatives and the meaning, issues and implications embedded within them.

Even if it might be impossible to look inside someone else’s head, after reviewing the kits, these people did not feel at all like strangers2, and in the absence of blood and memory transfusion3, it is argued that cultural probe kits seem to be a valuable tool to better understand singular people’s lifestyles, although it is clear that this understanding and the possible design proposals are influenced by the  author’s own subjective interpretations4.


1. “Probes are collections of evocative tasks meant to elicit inspirational responses from people—not comprehensive information
about them, but fragmentary clues about their lives and thoughts” (Gaver: 1).

2. Commenting on the open-ended, playful nature of the probes, Gaver, Boucher, Pennington and Walker state that “the Probes dramatize the difficulties of communicating with strangers”. Then they emphasize that “the point of deliberately confusing our volunteers and  ourselves”…”is to prevent ourselves from believing that we can look into their heads” (Gaver: 5).

3. In Virginia Woolf’s “Three Guineas”  she argues that “complete understanding” into other people’s motives and behaviours “could only be achieved by blood transfusion and memory transfusion”. In its absense she refers to biography and autobiography as tools that could aid in this endevour.

4. (Gaver: 5).


Gaver, William, Andrew Boucher, Sarah Pennington, and Brendan Walker. “Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty.” Interactions Oct 2004. Web. 21 Apr 2011.

Woolf, Virginia. “One.” Three Guineas. University of Adelaide, 12 01 2011. Web. 30 Apr 2011.

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  1. […] obtained through the collaborators’ own lifestyle documentation using the provided “cultural probe kits“, a set of tools was designed for each one of them to communicate the value that seemed to be […]

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