01 For an introduction on how to use cultural probes in design see, for example, Gaver, B., Dunne, T., & Pacenti, E. (1999). “Design: Cultural Probes.” Interactions, 6(1), 21-29.
02 Photo: Martin Jordan.
03 Photo: Martin Jordan.
04 Photo: Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond.
With this approach, researchers prepare and send a package to participants which can include a set of instructions, a notebook, and a single-use camera. Nowadays, cultural probes are often also done virtually using online diary platforms or mobile ethnography apps. Research participants are then asked to follow the given instructions and self-document certain experiences with field notes and photos, and/or to collect relevant artifacts based on an autoethnographic approach. 
Cultural probes can include diaries kept over a day, a week, or even several years. Participants may be asked to take videos with their own smartphones following a simple script defined by the researcher, or to take photos of how they use specific products in various contexts. There are numerous variations of cultural probes and what they might contain. Sometimes researchers guide participants through daily or weekly emails or text messages, giving them tasks to document or focus on. Cultural probes are often used to get the most intimate insights from participants without the need to have a researcher physically present. They help researchers to understand and overcome cultural boundaries and bring diverse perspectives into a design process.
The aim of cultural probes is to gain unbiased data that has been collected by participants themselves in context without having a researcher present. They often suggest input for further research using other methods such as participant observation approaches or co-creative workshops, or are used as a sensitizing exercise for in-depth interviews.