Fastco interviewed Chrissie Brodigan, design and UX researcher at GitHub to talk about how they're using deprivation to study people's reaction to removing elements from a product.
The gist of the technique is to work with a set of participants who develop a pattern of use around a feature or design characteristic and journal their experience. After some time, at a point when they've had time to be accustomed to that thing, they take away or alter it, and observe through the journal what the users' reactions are to its removal.
It seems like A/B testing with a greater focus on qualitative measurement. Deprivation could be a powerful factor and tool for assessing value of features on both new and existing products. Designers and developers get to measure the features by removing them, and seeing how upset their users get within a controlled group. Removing features from an existing product is difficult, but the upside in measurement could be that features that have a cost to the user or vendor might turn out to be unnecessary, or the research could lead to improvement.
This is technique is new to me, but I'm not unfamiliar with the pain of having features removed for me, or the backlash you can experience when you change something as a designer.