Ethnographic & User Data

Do you remember Gardol?

Colgate Gardol Ad

Do you know what Gardol is? Unless you are close to retiring, probably not… So here’s a bit of background: Gardol is sodium lauroyl sarcosinate — not a very harmonious sounding chemical. I’m guessing Gardol was a clever marketing trick of combining the words “Guard” and “All”, relying on the phonetic combination to drive home the idea of protective quality of this chemical compound. In our society, chemicals don’t sell — we have an aversion to chemicals, we only want natural products! The common Western p-prim (or folksy wisdom) is that chemical are bad for us, and products created from natural ingredients are good for us … never mind arsenic! Gardol might have disappeared from the drug store ads, but the chemical sodium lauroyl sarcosinate didn’t — today it goes by the name “Advance White” and is part of a very well respected for its natural and health-consious products, Arm & Hammer toothpaste! Oh, and we don’t like the word “dental cream” — it’s toothpaste now…

Culture, education, language, and thinking

How we think about problems depends in part of how we are taught to do so. And that education is seeped in our culture and language. Metaphors, mnemonics, analogies, riddles, word choice for explanations are tightly interwoven into our language. Just like it was probably impossible for Romans to invent calculus given their numeral system, it is difficult to think clearly about some problems in some languages. I’ve learned advanced physics and mathematics in English and find it very difficult to express thoughts in those domains in Russian (my native language). But when I first came to New York, I marveled at how poor my cohorts’ geometry proofs were — their presentations took a lot of space and too many steps to achieve what I was taught to do in minimal configuration. I was taught to jump and bound from concept to concept (in geometry), while the students in America were taught to crawl through ideas. I found that maddening! But it was a different math language, and as such it allowed for a different set of affordances… It is difficult to easily show the differences in thought process that language makes in this short blog. But here’s a bit…

Cultural Differences or Child Abuse

Russian parents Aleksander and Anna prepare to bathe their 2-month-old Viktor in icy water in St. Petersburg, where the air temperature was 27 degrees. Viktor obviously prefers hot baths. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky, Associated Press

We view the world through our own personal and cultural filter. We can’t help but do that. But put us in another cultural frame or time period, and we might be horrified at what we might witness. Consider this image: This baby is only two months old. And the people about to dip him into the freezing waters of St. Petersburg’s lake are his parents. I’ve been to this lake. I saw my own dad do the dip. He was a grown man at the time, and I still thought it was crazy. In Russia, the folksy wisdom is that such dips are good for you. But here, in U.S., the parents would be arrested, their son taken away by child protective services… It’s all relative! And here’s a few examples: /blog/2011/01/cultural-differences-or-child-abuse/

Task Analysis and Product Design

Kids from India and Vegetable Choices

Imagine your were given an assignment to develop a product that could help people eat healthy. How would you go about creating such a thing? What would you need to learn/understand? What is the right medium or technology vehicle for such a product? How would you even start? Below is a very brief outline of how to get started and the key tools necessary for the job. Project Goals The first order of business is figuring out the business needs and goals: What is the product really supposed to do? You have to ask this even if you are the one who is the client on this project. But, most probably, you are working for someone else — the client — and you have to start by understanding what your client really wants to do. You can do that in several ways: Analyzing the Request for Proposals: On many such projects, there will be an initial document, something like an RFP, that outlines the business goals and desires of the client. While some RFPs are very detailed and fully fleshed out, most are not. There are many reasons for this. Some clients are worried someone will “steal” their ideas and…

Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!

Who would have thought that our KFC fried chicken would be an object of desire in Japan? But perhaps all it takes is some very good PR (and some luck), and a product designed to please a very specific audience finds a new user group… Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas Dinner Japanese tradition started in 1974. While Japan is not a Christian nation — most Japanese (84% to 96%) identify themselves as Shinto or Buddhists — people do celebrate Christmas. There are Christmas office parties, people put up trees and give gifts, and families and friends eat Christmas dinners together. But unlike here in U.S., Christmas turkey dinners are not common — it is almost impossible to get a turkey at a local supermarket. To celebrate the Christmas spirit with an authentic American flavor, Japanese turn to KFC! The Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii — or Kentucky for Christmas — is so popular, that people have to order their Christmas fried chicken buckets a month in advance! This is the power of advertising.

Who Controls Social Networks?

Article: Bohannon, J. (2012). “Who Controls Social Networks?” sciencemag.org. Visited on Oct 9, 2012:http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/who-controls-social-networks.html This article is about how ideas spread in social groups through peer influence. A theory long debated is that a small number of people who are influencers spread ideas through their peer groups. Critics of the theory argue that is it not how much influence these people have but how susceptible to the new idea people are. The study of peer influence has proven difficult to conduct, but the rise of social networks such as Facebook provide a means for researchers to study a large number of people. One study in the article found that on Facebook there was a clear divide between influencers and those that were susceptible to new ideas. Conceptually, it’s important for any product developer to understand who their product’s influencers are if they wish their product to spread through peer influence. The article suggests that the personality traits of people affect influence. Examples: Women influence men more than women. People over 30 were more influential than those under 30. The article states that the most important finding is that Influencers and those who are susceptible are not traits found within the…