Cultural probes as discursive objects


Making as a design practice is a successful way of engaging participants in dialogue about specific topics. I have developed a workshop based around ‘reciprocity’ (between humans and non-human worlds) as a specific concept within commons/-ing.

Participants are given clear instructions for making a kaleidoscope from materials provided. They are asked to collect small items from the beach to place in the kaleidoscope. They are ask what they might ‘gift’ back to the environment they are in.

This exercise successfully creates a space for people to reflect on their connection to place and ecology. They experience being on the beach discovering what’s there and reflecting on their responsibilities to that place.

A reaction to the materials generates interest in the topic and perhaps, what the participants feel about the issues relating to place. These become discursive objects that can conjure scenarios through the experience of creation and use. There is a lovely element of surprise when the kaleidoscopes are made.

It is important to bring in play when engaging with others, as Hella Jongerius says ‘without play, there can be no design that inspires’.