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Exploring ICH and use of technology

Keywords: understanding user; cultural probe; interview; ethnography; intangible cultural heritage.

Aims and Rationale

The aim of this activity to sensitise and develop students’ expertise in collecting data to inform design of ICH digitally mediated tools.  As such, it represents the main opportunity to collect data for the design work. This data should concern particular aspects of ICH that would suit a digitally-mediated documentation, as well as information about the members of a community of choice as users of mobile or other technology.

The quality of the concepts and lessons explored during the Discover and Define stage will now become crucial for a high-level investigation by the students.

Learning Outcomes and Associated Areas of Knowledge

As a result of the preparation for the workshop facilitated by you, students should be able to:

Translate and revise learning and experience about data collection methods and principles into practice in the form of a live workshop facilitated by them

Design and manage a workshop to collect workable data to be used for ICH-HCI technology design


As a result of the workshop facilitated by the students, they should be able to:

Assemble a wealth of knowledge about the cultural practices of a community

Identify elements in needs of protection or suitable for documentation

21st Century skills

  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Self-Direction
  • Research Skills and Practices
  • Flexibility and Adaptability


Any notes or resources students have used in previous sessions (such as the notes from Ethnography skills and Interview skills).

A shared working area where students can record and document their plans – this could be digital using word processors such as Google Docs or a large area to write ideas. The ideas and plans recorded need to be available for all students to take-away and consult after the planning session.

For the workshop with the community, students will need the cultural probes created during Inspiring ideas, conversations starters (such as photos or videos), interviews (prepared beforehand) and, possibly, audio-recorders. 

How to

This activity would be divided into 2-3 phases as you and your students think are required. The first would be a planning phase to consolidate previous learning, and the second (or third if you think more planning sessions are required either in your presence or not) is the actual workshop delivery with community members.

Pre-arrange the visit from the community members. Explain to the students that there is not a “right” way to conduct the workshop, yet they should aim at developing a deeper understanding of the community members’ ICH and technological realities.

Workshop Design Principles: Opening the workshop

This is a team-based exercise in which every group will work with one or more community members. While each of the teams will participate in designing the workshop activities, the number of team members who will conduct the workshop should be proportional to the number of community members (for instance, no more than one community member for every two students). Students will have to lead and self-organise the structure of the workshop. It is a good practice to facilitate the conversation with community members by suggesting that to the students that they introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the workshop (by presenting a list of up to three workshop goals), and how the participation of the members would help their student projects. The early stage serves the purpose of icebreaker/conversation starters, that could be pursued through the use of multimedia and other visual elements such as photos and videos. Students can also be informed that they should introduce the community members to the ethical aspects of the workshop, assuring them the possibility to refrain from answering any questions that they do not feel comfortable addressing. In addition, a formal permission should be asked before taking photos, notes, or audio/video recordings.

Workshop Design Principles: Generating Usable and Workable Data

Three main research techniques will be deployed by the students in their workshop to collect information about ICH and the use of technology which could become data.

The first is in-depth interviews. It is crucial that students prepare the interview questions ahead of time according to what they learned during the Data gathering lecture and the Interview skills activity. Students should also practice and pilot asking these questions with other team members or their family members to elaborate on their clarity and communication.

The second research technique is ethnography. As explored during the Data gathering lecture and the Ethnography skills activity, students should take notes of everything noteworthy they observe and elaborate their interpretations afterwards. From our experience of working with students to help them design workshops with community members, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of actively and deeply listening to the community, who should also be put in the best condition to ask questions back.

Thirdly, students should also give to the community members the cultural probe they prepared during the Inspiring ideas activity. This should be accompanied by a full and clear explanation of what they are asking the participants to do. Ethnography comes again into place in this phase as students will have to write down significant observations about her/his reaction to the proposed probe. Should the participant refuse to take the probe, her/his decision must be respected and, if believed appropriate, a redesign of new probe that follows the participants’ direct suggestions can be proposed.


As explained in the Inspiring ideas activity, inexperienced students may tend to create overcomplicated probes that do not suit the cultural background of the participants. It is therefore important that students focus on the importance of this process for collecting meaningful data and create probes that are consistent with what the participants can easily understand and fulfil.

If the community of choice has distinctive social practices that the students do not share, the students may tend to overemphasise the cultural distance of the community and struggle to adopt an emphatic view. To avoid these sorts of situation, the quality of the lessons learned during Data gathering, Interview skills, and Ethnography skills is paramount and therefore worth reviewing with the students in the preparation work you facilitate. Students should try to be respectful at all times and not judge the culture but use their existing and new skills to appreciate the diversity and the opportunity of exploration, learning, design, and ICH documentation that this provides.

Assessment for Learning

The workshop represents a stepping stone for the students to go through an authentic research experience. There are valuable lessons that will be learned during it regarding relevant heuristic and ethical aspects of the whole research and design process. Example of these are the best way of getting pregnant answer to interview questions, how to put participants at ease, how to take useful notes and carry out observations, and how to design probes whose proposed tasks are welcomed by the participants.

Assessment 'How to'

As a take home assignment, ask the students to answer in a written report the following open-ended questions:

  • What were your goals for the workshop? Did you fulfil them and how?
  • How effective were your interview questions? Please provide up to three lessons that you have learned about qualitative interviewing?
  • How would you rephrase questions whose answer you were not satisfied?
  • Have you noticed something unexpected in your observations (i.e., body language)?
  • Were your participants at ease and what did you do to put them in a comfortable position?
  • What was your participants’ reaction to the cultural probe? Did he fully understand the proposed tasks? Did he (or will he) fulfil the tasks?
  • How would you redesign your cultural probe to make it even more user-friendly?

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Download Word File of activity in English
Student Assignment Editable Word File


  • Invite the students to create in advance their cultural probes and practice their interview questions beforehand.
  • Stress the importance of not judging the community and appreciate any type of diversity.