Wearable Probes for Service Design

By Aaron Mullane, Jarmo Laaksolahti, Dag Svanæs (2014)
Probes are used as a design method in user-centred design to allow end-users to inform design by collecting data from their lives. Probes are potentially useful in service innovation, but current probing methods require users to interrupt their activity and are consequently not ideal for use by service employees in reflecting on the delivery of a service. In this paper, we present the ‘wearable probe’, a probe concept that captures sensor data without distracting service employees. Data captured by the probe can be used by the service employees to reflect and co-reflect on the service journey, helping to identify opportunities for service evolution and innovation.

Service designers rely on a broad range of methods to elicit insights and contributions fromstakeholders at different stages of the design process. Examples include role play (Svanaes &Seland, 2004); co-design (Sanders & Stappers, 2008); ethnography (Blomberg et. al, 1993);design games (Brandt & Messeter, 2004); make-tools (Sanders, 2000); situated andparticipative enactment of scenarios (Iacucci, Kuutti & Ranta, 2000); and design probes(Mattelmäki, 2006; Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti, 1999).

The above methods have to a large extent been used to learn about end customers, but currently service designers are increasingly involving service employees rather than end customers in their service innovation projects (Blomkvist & Holmlid, 2011) for reasons of efficiency, time, and availability. Various methods have been developed that focus on capturing insights into the service moments from a service employee perspective, including service mapping, sequential incident technique, and customer-sensitive walkthroughs (Rasila,2012). However, little has been done on capturing the in-situ, moment-by-moment aspects of the service delivery that provides a more detailed understanding of the service as it is performed (Holmlid, 2009).

In user-centred design, probes allow end-users to inform design by collecting in-situ data from their lives. This paper proposes a probing approach that enables service designers to continuously gather insights, elicit reflections, and establish a dialogue amongst the service employees. This can be used both for innovating new services and for improving existing services.

Probes in design
Probes have traditionally been used in user-centred design to provide user participation through self-documentation. Users are given specific assignments that match the information needs of the designer. The assignments are generally in a form that enables the user to capture the tasks and describe them through reflections; most commonly using diaries and cameras (Graham & Rouncefield, 2008). The results of a probe enable a designer to take a look into the personal context of a participant, uncovering elements such as cultural environment, feelings, values, needs, and attitudes. Probes must have open and exploratory qualities. These qualities enable the participant to record and reflect, in addition to exploring new opportunities for design. Since the early 90’s, Gaver et al. (1999) and colleagues ́ cultural probes have manifested into various forms: Informational probes (Crabtree et al., 2003);Technology probes (Hutchinson et al., 2003); Domestic probes (Vetere et al., 2003); Mobile probes (Hulkko et al., 2004); Empathy probes (Mattelmäki & Battarbee, 2002); and Urban probes (Paulos & Jenkins, 2005).

Mobile probes (Hulkko et al., 2004) allow for in-situ capturing of data, and can provoke dialogue between the participant and the designer during and after their use. One drawback with the existing mobile probes is that they are disruptive by asking the users to stop and reflect on their actions. Taking inspiration from the emerging field of personal informatics and self-monitoring, we believe that a probe can be built that reduces these in-action disruptions on service delivery moments, while at the same time promoting individual and collective reflection...

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