Experience sampling is a way to find out more about an experience while the event is actually happening. Participants stop what they are doing and take time to note their experiences over a period of days, weeks, or even years — which can result in hundreds of data items per participant. Sometimes, more objective methods are used, such as activity monitors or random sound recordings (Zirkel, 2015). The method can help researchers understand people’s thoughts, actions, and activities with minimal intrusion into participants daily lives.

  • Behaviors, interactions, thoughts, or feelings self-reported in real time when signaled
  • Experience sampling requires participants to document something specific when signaled by a device alarm.
  • Before smartphones, participants were signaled by pagers, hence the common nickname of “beeper study.”
  • Behaviors, interactions, thoughts, or feelings are guided by clear instructions and entered into a pre-established form, often with photos in a diary or journal.
  • Technology allows for documenting and sending photos, text, or audio entries through smartphones.
  • This is a form of design ethnography, collecting strategic samples of life in place of in-person immersion by researchers.
  • Samples can give the designer a comprehensive picture across time or individuals for any particular design study.
  • The method is useful in exploratory and generative phases of design research.

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