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The Gender Perspective in Cultural Probes

Gesche Joost; Sandra Buchmüller; Katharina Bredies


This paper is a reflection on the application of participatory design methods in a gender sensitive approach. Investigating their appropriateness to gather gender specific insights, we are particularly interested in their potential of avoiding the recreation of gender stereotypes. In this context, we reflect the design of our research environments, methods and tools according to their unconscious gender assumptions which might cause stereotype answers. Our empirical study, called ‘Women’s Phone’, aimed both at involving female prospective users to avoid gender clichés and to critically investigate conventional and stereotypical design solutions for mobile phones. We judge the suitability of the methods used in three respects: • Their value in preventing researchers from reproducing conventional gender images, • The researcher’s influence on the gender image that the methods implicitly suggest, • The impact of the researchers’ gender image on the research result. We consider our set of ‘cultural probes’ used in the project as the strongest evidence of the researchers’ inherent gender assumptions. Therefore, we will explore the visibility of the ‘gender point of view’ in the probes and draw implications from it for future gender-sensitive design inquiries.