Posts tagged “door”

Alexandra’s War Story: When One Door Closes

Alexandra Wills is an ethnographer working at Fuse by Cardinal Health, an innovation center in Columbus, Ohio. She told this story on stage at Midwest UX 2017.

I’ll never forget when I did ethnographic research for a project aimed at helping a car manufacturer learn what Millennials with small children really needed.

The project was hard. Taking on a project at the height of the Great Recession meant navigating a radical change in client engagement from what I had experienced since starting the work two years prior. “It’s Friday at 5 p.m. in Ohio and you want me in Los Angeles on Monday?” Okay. “We’re doing video diaries and in-home interviews and a post-interview ideation session with participants in two cities, all in two months?” Okay.

Added to all that, I had a nine-month-old and simply didn’t want to leave her for days at a time. Over the past few months of work, I had already breast pumped on an airplane and in dirty airport bathrooms. I had already begged flight attendants and fast food workers for ice to put in the cooler carrying pouches of my “liquid gold.” Did I mention it was my birthday?

At one point in the project, I was hanging out with a family in Austin who had a toddler. I knew nothing about toddlers. After all, I had a nine-month-old. Did I mention I am not a ‘kid person’?

We had just returned from running errands in their car. As we got out of the car, they were showing me some specific details about the vehicle. They had a Honda Element – the car with the interesting doors that open and close like a book. I was paying close, close attention to the parents and I had no idea that the little kid was right near me. So I closed the door. Suddenly, we all heard the kid screaming! His parents rushed to his side and looked him over, examining his hands. All I could do was yell impulsively, “I didn’t do it!” I was horrified. I thought, “I hurt a child! This child! A participant’s child! Oh noooooo this is bad. How am I going to fix this? What am I going to tell Melinda (my boss)?” To this day I don’t know if his finger got caught in the door, or if me closing the door just scared him.

There was no blood, no broken fingers. But inside, I wanted to die. I already felt plagued by my own mommy guilt and that feeling spread throughout my body like lava. So, not only did I feel like a horrible mom for leaving my kid, but here I was in Austin, making someone else’s kid cry. What a moment. Needless to say, any rapport I had developed in my time with the family evaporated in that instant.

I stopped recording, stepped back, apologized to the mom and waited for the parents to finish calming down their kid. I waited for them to say, “This is over.” They didn’t. Miraculously, they continued the interview, even if I could feel all their judgment the entire time as we wrapped things up. “Maybe I didn’t traumatize this family,” I thought insecurely.

The icing on the cake was that we used video to capture all our data, so not only did this happen, but my boss got to see the whole thing when she reviewed the video. Later in the project I mentioned the incident and she said, “Yeah I saw that.”

Out and About: Steve in Barcelona (2 of 2)

More observations from the trip to Barcelona. See part 1 here (and the complete set on Flickr).

Graffiti scarification. At Park Guell, people mark the cactus so future tourists can see that they were there and they were douchebags.

I’m sure I’ve never seen a sign for a detective agency before. But within days of seeing this, I come across a New Yorker article excerpting Mavis Gallant’s diary from Spain, in 1952. She mentions the ubiquity of signs for detective agencies in Barcelona! Who knew?

Gaudi’s Casa Batll??.

Delicious pinxtos.

Recycling depot with a book-exchange rack and a used-clothing-for-charity collection box.

The presentation and form factor of the Jam??n ibérico is sufficiently iconic that you can buy an inflatable non-meat version.

Gestural guidance.

Curating Consumption now playing at Johnny Holland

We are delighted to announce the debut last week of our new series, Curating Consumption on Johnny Holland. The idea was born right here on All This ChittahChattah as an occasional curated collection of musings, seen through the bifocal lens of consumer/researcher. Not to worry if you missed it, we have it right here!

When is a door not a door? When the sign on it clearly states “Do not Touch, Pull, or Use This Door. Thank You!” I came across this (not a) door during a recent fieldwork trip to New York City, where I found myself invariably studying every door I walked by because they all seemed to have great stories to tell. Sadly, this story is one of inability to fulfill one’s useful purpose. What is a door if it is not a portal to some other place; a threshold to cross? Now it is a wall, and a window. I wonder if it will be repaired or replaced or reframed as an aesthetic relic that will remain in its present location and state of dysfunction. /TC

This television was hanging out on the sidewalk in the Mission, right here in San Francisco. I am curious who labeled this anthropomorphized electronic with feelings of inadequacy. It could have been added by a passerby; a reflective commentary on the choice by the TV’s previous owner to upgrade and abandon. In fact, a man passing me as I shot this picture told me “I love rich people, man! They throw away the greatest stuff. I got a vacuum cleaner last week that works perfect.” Or maybe the words were put there by the person who left that unsatisfying TV on the street. A “Dear John” letter from consumer to consumed: It’s not me, it’s you. /TC

When visiting Dublin, I was prepared for (and delighted to experience) all Guinness, all the time. What I didn’t realize was the supporting infrastructure required to make that happen. They’ve got tanker trucks of the stuff rolling down the street to meet the demand. /SP

Just days after the Kony 2012 video went viral, hitting the national media, images of the dictator appeared as stencil art on the streets of Austin. From Facebook and YouTube, the story touched the activism (or some say slacktivism) nerve. But what meaning is implied or inferred when the medium changes? Stencil art is hip, ironic, anti-mainstream. The street art form has none of the outrage of the previous forms. Is the previously unknown Kony now accorded folk hero status? /SP

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Toepener — Hands Free Solution – [While this smacks slightly of "gadget" I like the idea of simple improvements to everyday activities based on a) shifting social norms and b) observed behaviors. Text from related news article] The Toepener is a pedal designed to open a public washroom’s door with one’s foot rather than having to touch the door handle. It is the brainchild of Max Arndt, a student at the Carson School of Management. Arndt and his classmates were asked in the Entrepreneurship in Action class to come up with ideas for a new business product or service. Arndt, 22, came up with the Toepener. He hated the idea of opening a public restroom door after he’d washed his hands. It was such a simple idea but he figured it would have tremendous draw. He was right. His class was equally enthusiastic and it was chosen as the product the entrepreneurship class would attempt to market. The product was launched in mid-January. Arndt said the company has sold close to 100 toepeners, which go for $50 each.

Sliding Doors

Public bathroom doorway, Karuizawa, Japan, January 2008

Before we hiked up the nearby mountain I wanted to use the bathroom. I was very frustrated to find the door locked. I pushed and pulled and saw the keyhole for the deadbolt and figured I was out of luck. Then I saw someone enter the adjacent women’s room – by sliding the door. I wouldn’t expect a bathroom door to slide, and I didn’t interpret any of the cues (or affordances) about how this door works to suggest sliding was a possibility.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Dan and I have already mentioned (here and here) our stay at Chateau Avalon (an “Experience Hotel” – quick and easy ways to see times and past and locations distant, all without leaving Kansas City). Now a bit more about what was horribly wrong with my room. Let’s assume that most people who stay there fall within their intended demographic (couples, local, looking for a quick getaway), and let’s set aside issues of personal taste.

I was in the Colorado Frontier room.
The bed is in the back, which is sort of another room.
That room is extremely tight around the bed; one can barely get by, and I found the best way to open and close the drapes was to stand on the bed itself. No dresser, but a fairly big closet. Confusing light switches, with no light source that was reachable from the bed itself. And a massive TV that loomed above the bed rather threateningly. The literature promised satellite TV so I looked to see how to get beyond the usual hotel 15 channels, eventually calling the front desk. Those are the channels, it seemed. HBO was the satellite channel. I expressed some confusion and they explained that it’s a satellite channel “around here.” Okay.

The room had completely useless workspace. I didn’t want a thematic chair to sit on for editing PowerPoint decks, transferring video, managing cameras and media and chargers and so on. I wanted something comfortable, and I wanted a big enough table to get my stuff on. The only other flat surface for wallet, keys, etc. was the bedside table (already covered with hotel crap and rather difficult to reach unless you throw yourself on the bed like a beached whale).

The bathing facilities were smack in the middle of the main part of the room, and quite far from the water closet portion of things. Do you want to invite a colleague into your room when your tub (and inevitable tubby paraphernalia) is front stage?

The whirlpool spa was also a shower. But it was quite deep, so to get out meant tentatively raising a foot rather high and over the edge. What’s on the outside? Narrow stone steps. Umm, right? I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck getting out of that thing. There was no place to put a towel and no safe way to get out. Very irksome. Part of the stone stairs went down only to the level of the porch floor while others went a few inches further to the level of the main floor.

My (least) favorite design failure. The bathroom was as wide as the door. The sink was to the right and the toilet was to the left. To reach the toilet, one must step into the bathroom and to the right, then inhale and push the door past. A person of girth would absolutely not be able to do it. I could not do it without the edge of the door dragging across me roughly.

There was a lot of energy put into the design choices, but it’s the most shallow form of appearance versus usable I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps the owner of the hotel should be forced to stay in each room and try getting things done, other than savoring luxuriant chocolate (or cranium-filling cinnamon rolls) and heavenly rose petals. Say, going to bed, getting up, washing, using the toilet, etc. Activities of daily living type of stuff…

mystery solved?

I wrote previously about a weird experience with the door, the dog, and the doorbell. And a strange bone.

Today while walking the dog, a guy a few doors down said that our dog was wandering around the street the other day, and came up to him, so he brought him back to our house, rang the doorbell, but the door was wide open so he put him inside and closed the door.

Mystery solved, I guess. Except how did the dog get out? Only explanation is that I must not have closed it tightly and it swung open (or the dog nosed it open). I’m having a hard time grasping that I was so lame, but it must have been.

Very nice of the neighbor, very logical explanation to a situation where I couldn’t figure out any likely possibility.


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