Daniel Fine

media | projection | system

 design & integration

House of the Spirits - Cultural Probe

Theoretical Project for an In-School Cultural Probe/Residency



Co-Creator, Website Design

Fall 2011


Tempe, Arizona


Class Project, Arizona State University


For a Master's level dramaturgy course, I lead a team that created a novel approach to theatrical study guides/In-School Residencies. We were asked to create a theoretical study guide for the play House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, which the ASU School of Theatre and Film produced in April 2012. I wanted to push the boundaries push the boundaries in traditional approaches to study guides for theatre performance, so I suggested to the team that we use a cultural probe to augment and enhance student's reading of the book and to expand their experience of seeing the play. A cultural probe is a device intended to both give information and get information reciprocally. We included historical information about Chile and the author as well as information about Arizona State University’s production of the play. In turn, we are asking for information from students that would be used in various ways, including pre-show lobby displays. The information they would give us will also be used to educate others about both silenced groups and today’s youth culture. Each aspect of the cultural probe deals with different themes and elements of both the book and the play.


We crafted an experience where students would be asked to relate the themes of the novel and the play to their real world experience. By creating a thoughtful cultural probe that carefully balances the exchange of educational materials, with the creation of content/stories, we hoped to engage the targeted High School AP English of twenty in new and exciting ways. Our aim was to get students thinking not only about the themes of the play and novel, but also how they relate to their life, their community, and our shared, global humanity. The cultural probe kit is designed so that each of the twenty students in the class would receive an iPad, on which they would be able to take photographs, record audio and video, write blog entries, research, and interact with our website. The website houses the project prompts, provides the students with information, and allows them to interact with each other and the stories they create. Our approach to the cultural probe was not traditional in the sense of what a cultural probe is typically designed to achieve. We crafted a hybrid system that would educate the audience about Chile and The House of the Spirits and then asks students to engage in activities by creating their own data. We ask them to upload their data to the website, where they can further the conversation by commenting on other student’s work. By creating a relationship where their work exists along side the Chilean and world contexts, they begin to better understand their connection and their place in history and in their current lives. All the activities that are crafted follow this formula of providing historical and/or artistic context to Chile, the novel, and the play and then asking them to connect and relate the information to their lives.


The Songs of the Revolution section, which I created, takes life from the character of Pedro Tercero Garcia, who is a protest singer in both the novel and the play.  Exploring the theme of protest songs and singers, Songs of the Revolution aims to teach students about political activity through music. Presented on a global interactive map, the songs are introduced according to geography. This allows the students to not only learn about the song and what it is reacting against, but also that this type of political action and art takes place all over the world. I ask the students to participate by adding at least one song to the map. By making global connections hopefully they may also make a local one.


Visit the website here. Read more about the project by downloading a paper here.

Tech Specs:

WYSIWYG website, Google interactive maps, sound recording and production.

Screenshot of Songs of the Revolution page.

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Screenshot of Songs of the Revolution interactive Google map.

Screenshot of Songs of the Revolution page.

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