• joshwilsher

Day 9 - Artifact Analysis

A way to see how artifacts or older items were used and also to gain insight into the behavior of a culture, people or person.

What I Learned:

Like evidence based design, this method borrows from another subject, and that is anthropology. With this method, we can look at user experience of the past to help design for the future. I've always wondered myself about what ideas lie with technology that has phased out over the past 20 years. With artifact analysis there are 3 parts to it:

  1. Material - physical and material quality

  2. Aesthetic - historical reference

  3. Interactive - use and behavior

With these areas, we can learn a great deal from different patterns of use, then from that determine why they were used a certain way. As said previously, it can help see into an individual experience or a cultural one. Overall, this method brings history into UX research and design.


For this practice, I dived into my box of "artifacts" from my childhood and pulled out a Nintendo Gameboy Pocket with Pokemon Red (I'm not planning these Pokemon mentions btw, but I do have a nerd side). I looked at the gameboy and did a small artifact analysis to give insight into how it was used. Due to me not having played it in a good 10 years, this felt like viewing a historical item.


As you can see with the Gameboy itself, there wasn't too much wear on the controls and system body. That said, there were definitely signs that it had been played extensively such as small scratches on the screen, bumps and notches on the sides and wear on the back sticker. One area that caught my eye was the scratches on the cartridge insert area. You can tell that games were swapped in and out many time due to the scuff marks and their direction.

On the cartridge of the game, you can see the exact same scuff marks from where it's been taken out and put in.

It's also interesting to note the front of the game where the decal is. Notice how the top of the decal has been slightly rubbed off due to it being a high touch area to gain traction when removing the cartridge. Another area of interest is the battery panel missing, how did it go missing? Is it still functional and easy to use without the cover?


The sticker on the back gives a look into the era that the item is from as it states "1989-1996 Nintendo". With it being a handheld game, we can decipher that there was some most likely emotional attachment, especially if you look at the popularity of the device in the era it was in.


How was it used? Well obviously to play video games. Judging by the name of the device Gameboy "pocket", it was likely carried around portably whether in a pocket or bag. The back area is used to slot in cartridges as we deciphered from the wear on the slot and game. There isn't evidence of misuse or that its been used for anything other than its original intended use. The screen in very small but could have been used for communal enjoyment, or passed around. A question could be asked like "was a low quality screen like this as addictive as screens are today?"

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