Posts tagged “experience”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Camp Half-Blood, a real camp based on the Percy Jackson books – Fans ask me, “Wouldn’t it be cool to go to Camp Half-Blood for real?” We hope you’ll become a part of our demigod family. We’ll do anything to keep kids interested in reading. Since your kids are such huge Percy Jackson fans and have basically memorized the books I felt that it was more important to create an environment, with engaging backstories, that run parallel to the books without copying. This allows your kids to become their own demigod characters within the world of Percy Jackson. Your demigod will get to have adventures and go on quests as their own story unfolds over the course of their camp session. They’ll learn and utilize critical lateral problem solving skills and use creative play and teamwork to win the day. We try to make meaningful connections between history, mythology, literature, art, science, sports, current events, language and rampant creativity. Oh yeah, sword training, chariot racing, archery, lava wall climbing, and phalanx training are pretty fun too.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] On the Road – Complaints of Poor Attitude in Airport Body Scans [NYTimes.com] – [Why does a change in process and design generate such a dramatic change in behavior?] By far, most readers wrote to complain about screeners who were rude. Helaine Fendelman said she felt as if she were in a cage as a screener “yelled at me about why I wasn’t paying attention to those who had proceeded me” through the machine. Elizabeth Wiley wrote of the “generally bullying air of the experience.” Melissa Hickey said a screener “barked orders at me as if I were a common criminal.” Bob Michelet agreed with my view that being ordered around was a “boot camp-like experience,” as he put it. Mary P. Koss said she didn’t like being “yelled at” after a screener decided her fingers were not forming a triangle as instructed while she held her hands over her head. “When I exited the machine, I was yelled at again to stand in place,” she said.
  • [from steve_portigal] Starbucks "Olive Way" test store aggregates Starbucks concepts [The Associated Press] – [While I applaud Starbucks for focusing on the quality of their core product – the coffee – I'm not sure that their secondary product – the experience- will benefit from closeness to the baristas. They need to makeover the staff brand before customers will seek them out] What succeeds at Olive Way will most likely be spread to other Starbucks stores around the country. With muted, earthy colors, an indoor-outdoor fireplace, cushy chairs, and a menu with wine from the Pacific Northwest's vineyards and beer from local craft brewers, this 2,500-square-foot shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood will reopen in the fall with espresso machines in the middle. The machines at Olive Way will be part of what executives call a coffee theater. Counters will be narrower — a slim as a foot in some places — to bring customers closer to baristas; the machines will brew one cup at a time to extract deeper flavor from beans. The store will be the chain's only location that sells beer and wine in the U.S
  • [from steve_portigal] Introducing New Core77 Columnist Steve Portigal! [Core77] – [I'll be writing something monthly for our friends at Core77]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] New Artisanal Pencil-Sharpening Project [Details Magazine] – [It looks like the artisanal food and craft movement may be fading in cultural relevance if it's subject to this level of brutal skewering.] "What better to complement your collection of limited-edition notebooks, small-batch liquors, and locally sourced honey than a pencil sharpened by a true artisan? David Rees, author of the comic book series Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable, discovered his passion for sharpening pencils while working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Now he's parlaying his old-school skills into a mail-order artisanal pencil-sharpening business."
  • [from steve_portigal] An App for ‘Despicable Me,’ to Use at the Theater [NYTimes.com] – [Is there a difference between multimedia enhancement and advertising-supported distraction?] Best Buy Movie Mode is being released in connection with “Despicable Me,” an animated 3-D movie in which an aspiring supervillain named Gru inherits three little girls. The marquee feature of the app is called the Minionator, which translates the gibberish of Gru’s little yellow henchmen called Minions. In theaters, the Minionator will work only during the closing credits, but on Blu-ray disc throughout the movie. “It is disturbing to have people doing things that take people out of the movie,” said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners. Many theaters warn patrons to turn off their phones. Movie Mode tries to appease those who dislike distractions. The app automatically turns off a phone’s ringer and dims the screen to discourage texting. It does not disable the phone. It will still vibrate.
  • [from steve_portigal] Black Taxis offer tours of Belfast [SF Chronicle] – The Black Taxis of Belfast grew out the height of the Troubles. City buses were subject to bomb and sniper attacks as they passed through the strife-torn neighborhoods. Safe passage had to be arranged via taxi, and the taxi drivers could only operate within, never across, each neighborhood's boundaries, The ads for Black Taxi tours promise a neutral historical narrative. That's a tall order, as many drivers have a genuine history on one side of the conflict or the other. Some lost family members. Everyone lost friends. Still, the mere fact that the murals are now a tourist attraction, rather than a touchstone for violence, may signify that peace has actually arrived in Belfast. "We debated whether to encourage this trend or to downplay it," said Bernard McMullan, a representative of Tourism Ireland, of the popularity of the Black Taxi tours. "But in the end, we decided that it was an important part of our history. There's no point in denying it. Besides, it's interesting."
  • [from steve_portigal] Nissan adds noises to Leaf electric vehicle as safety precaution [WaPo] – [The design challenge of creating new, yet familiar feedback cues] After exploring 100 sounds that ranged from chimes to motorlike to futuristic, the company settled on a soft whine that fluctuates in intensity with the car's speed. When backing up, the car makes a clanging sound. Nissan says it worked with advocates for the blind, a Hollywood sound-design company and acoustic psychologists in creating its system of audible alerts. Nissan's sound system is the first created by a major manufacturer. The company says it is controlled by a computer and synthesizer in the dash panel. The sounds are delivered through a speaker in the engine compartment. A switch inside the vehicle can turn off the sounds temporarily, but the system automatically resets to "on" at the next ignition cycle. At speeds greater than 20 mph, any car, electric or not, makes significant noise because of the tires slapping on the pavement, engineers say. The noises for the Nissan operate only at the lower speeds.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Parade magazine writer tries Microsoft’s "Project Natal" – I often talk about how technology creates new gestures that challenge social norms. This writer's gentle assertion that "you have to be okay with looking like a drunken maniac about to be arrested on Cops." is simply another great example. People use the language of aberrant behavior ("drunken maniac") to characterize behavior that doesn't currently fit into an acceptable standard. Natal will presumably be used backstage, in the living room, where such appearances are more tolerable than in public. But these assessments of when a product is breaking established norms are often warning signs that designers and marketers should pay attention to. Can Microsoft celebrate the spasmodic play? Can it reframe the abnormal as successful? Or will it simply recede with time and become acceptable (cf: bluetooth headsets, cell phones)?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Learnvest: Our mission is to provide unbiased financial information to all women – Women have come a long way financially over the last three decades. Women today make up half of the professional work force and are found to buy or influence 80% of all consumer purchases in the United States yet they continue to lag behind men when it comes to managing their personal finances. According to a 2006 Prudential financial poll, 80% of women say that they plan to depend on Social Security to support them in their golden years and 38% of women 30-55 years old are worried they will live at or near the poverty level because they cannot adequately save for retirement. So even today–despite coming so far in many ways–too many women are still ignoring their finances. LearnVest provides a solution that is relevant and timely – it is something women need.
  • Some Queries Prompt Google To Offer Suicide Hotline [NYTimes.com] – Last week Google started automatically giving a suggestion of where to call after receiving a search seemingly focused on suicide. Among the searches that result in an icon of a red phone and the toll-free number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are “ways to commit suicide” and “suicidal thoughts.” The information takes precedence over the linked results and is different and more prominent than an advertisement. Guidance on suicide prevention was suggested internally and was put in place on Wednesday.
  • Virginia Heffernan – The Medium – Online Marketing [NYTimes.com] – An online group becomes formally classified when it comprises an advertising category. That’s the magic point in e-commerce: when the members of an online group turn eager to purchase, say, tank tops or bottles of sauvignon blanc as badges of membership in communities like the ones that flourish at Burton.com or Wine.com. The voluminous content that these sites produce — blogs, videos, articles, reviews, forums — becomes the main event. To sell actual products, the company then “merchandises” that content, the way museums and concert halls and, increasingly, online newspapers hawk souvenirs, including art books and hoodies and framed front pages. At the moment when content can be seamlessly merchandised, a group has generally developed robust forums in which the members (hoarders, mothers of twins, bodybuilders) develop codes and hierarchies and a firm notion that this is a place where they can finally be themselves.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Last supper ‘has been super-sized’, say obesity experts [BBC News] – The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger – in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts. A Cornell University team studied 52 of the most famous paintings of the Biblical scene over the millennium and scrutinized the size of the feast. They found the main courses, bread and plates put before Jesus and his disciples have progressively grown by up to two-thirds. Based on the assumption that the width of an average loaf of bread from the time should be twice that of the average disciple's head, the researchers plotted the size of the Passover evening dishes. The main meals grew 69% and plate size 66% between the oldest (carried out in 1000AD) and most recent (1700s) paintings. Bread size grew by about 23%.
  • Butch Bakery – Where Butch Meets Buttercream – "Butch Bakery was born when David Arrick felt it was time to combine a masculine aesthetic to a traditionally cute product -the cupcake. When a magazine article mentioned that cupcakes were a combination of everything "pink, sweet, cute, and magical", he felt it was time to take action, and butch it up." Flavors include Rum & Coke, Mojito, Home Run, Beer Run, Campout, Tailgate, Driller, and (ahem) Jackhammer
  • Making Design Research Less of a Mystery [ChangeOrder] – Design researchers don't work exactly like professional detectives. We don't sit down with their users and start asking them point-blank questions regarding a single moment in time, such as, "Exactly where were you on the night of November 17th, when Joe Coxson was found floating face-down in a kiddie pool?" We don't consider the users as criminals, having perpetrated crimes against the state—our clients?—that must be solved. The crimes are the points of friction that go remarked (or unremarked) about the course of our subject's lives, in using the tools that surround them, and in the myths and beliefs that drive their everyday behavior. Our methods of detection are geared towards being sponges, soaking up both the large-scale and minute details that indicate layers of behavior that may have gone unremarked in the design and everyday use of various products, services, and interactive systems.
  • The Medium – Shelf Life [NYTimes.com] – People who reject e-books often say they can’t live without the heft, the texture and the scent of traditional books. This aria of hypersensual book love is not my favorite performance. I sometimes suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling? Among the best features of the Kindleis that there’s none of that. The device, which consigns all poetry and prose to the same homely fog-toned screen, leaves nothing to the experience of books but reading. This strikes me as honest, even revolutionary….Most of these books were bought impulsively, more like making a note to myself to read this or that than acquiring a tangible 3-D book; the list is a list of resolutions with price tags that will, with any luck, make the resolutions more urgent. Though it’s different from Benjamin’s ecstatic book collecting, this cycle of list making and resolution and constant-reading-to-keep-up is not unpleasurable.
  • Human-flesh Search Engines in China [NYTimes.com] – The popular meaning of the Chinese term for human-flesh search engine is now not just a search by humans but also a search for humans, initially performed online but intended to cause real-world consequences. Searches have been directed against all kinds of people, including cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, amateur pornography makers, Chinese citizens who are perceived as unpatriotic, journalists who urge a moderate stance on Tibet and rich people who try to game the Chinese system. Human-flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the political issues, polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Books in the Age of the iPad [Craig Mod] – I propose the following to be considered whenever we think of printing a book
    * The Books We Make embrace their physicality — working in concert with the content to illuminate the narrative
    * The Books We Make are confident in form and usage of material
    * The Books We Make exploit the advantages of print
    * The Books We Make are built to last
    The result of this is:
    * The Books We Make will feel whole and solid in the hands
    * The Books We Make will smell like now forgotten, far away libraries
    * The Books We Make will be something of which even our children — who have fully embraced all things digital — will understand the worth
    * The Books We Make will always remind people that the printed book can be a sculpture for thoughts and ideas;Anything less than this will be stepped over and promptly forgotten in the digital march forward. Goodbye disposable books. Hello new canvases.
  • In Our Parents’ Bookshelves [The Millions] – A virtue of digital books is hey take up no space at all!—but even a megabyte seems bulky compared to what can be conveyed in the few cubic feet of a bookshelf. What other vessel is able to hold with such precision, intricacy, and economy, all the facets of your life: that you bake bread, vacationed in China, fetishize Melville, aspire to read Shakespeare, have coped with loss, and still tote around a copy of The Missing Piece as a totem of your childhood. What can a Kindle tell you about yourself or say to those who visit your house? All it offers is blithe reassurance that there is progress in the world, and that you are a part of it…To the extent that bookshelves persist, it will be in self-conscious form, as display cases filled with only the books we valued enough to acquire and preserve in hard copy. The more interesting story, the open-ended, undirected progression of a life defined by books will be lost to a digital world in which there is no such thing as time at all.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Topeka, KS changes its name (for a month) to Google, KS – I wrote about this sort of bombastic advertising in interactions (http://interactions.acm.org/content/?p=1231) referencing the dot-com era's Half, Oregon, and the classic Truth or Consequences, NM
  • Toy Traveling – Travel Agency for Teddy bears and cuddly toys – [Productizing the" trend" of taking pictures of your stuffed animals on your vacation] Is your darling exceptional? Give him extraordinary present – trip to Prague – the beautiful heart of Europe. Except amazing experiences, he will bring back home many great photos and other presents. Do you collect stuffed toys, dolls or other fun “non-living” friends and you believe they also deserve rest and vacation or an outstanding experience in an interesting country? If you do, pack up its suitcase, wish it a nice trip and send it to the Czech Republic where your friend can enjoy the historic beauty of Prague as well as other services that will leave both you and your friend satisfied. Let it go on cool trips, group events and wellness therapy in the heart of Europe – done with respect to your friend and loving care. We are tolerant and unbiased. We will be happy to welcome all kinds of your toys regardless nationality, race, religion, sexual preferences, age or handicaps.
  • A list of UX-related sessions at SXSW Interactive [Nick Finck] – There's a great deal happening at this event! Here's one attempt to filter (including our session on UX methods!)

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lost Garden: Ribbon Hero turns learning Office into a game – If an activity can be learned; If the player’s performance can be measured; If the player can be rewarded or punished in a timely fashion, then any activity that meets these criteria can be turned into a game. Not only can you make a game out of the activity, but you can turn tasks traditionally seen as a rote or frustrating into compelling experiences that users find delightful.
  • With Rival E-Book Readers, It’s Amazon vs. Apple – [NYTimes.com] – Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio. “We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon,” Mr. Freed said. “We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.”
  • Pushing Military Styles to a New Level of Ferocity [NYTimes.com] – A stepped-up demand for vests, blazers and hoodies tough enough to deflect a .22-caliber blast but sleek enough for a night of clubbing suggests that body armor is not just for the security-conscious. Fake or real, it exerts a pull on those inclined to flaunt it as a flinty fashion statement. “The trend to protective gear is pretty strong right now,” said Richard Geist, the founder of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters in downtown Manhattan. “It’s big with rappers, alternative types and even some women.” Uncle Sam’s sells protective gear to the military. But most of its clients are civilians who snap up authentic bulletproof vests for as much as $1,000 or trade down to look-alike versions stripped of their armored lining ($24).
  • ComScore Calls Shenanigans on Gartner’s 99.4% App Store Figure [Maximum PC] – Gartner says 99.4% of app sales in 2009 were from Apple. ComScore disputes the figures but Gartner stands by its determination.
  • Amazon launching Kindle Development Kit so third parties can develop apps – Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Remember that unlike smart phones, the Kindle user does not pay a monthly wireless fee or enter into an annual wireless contract. Kindle active content must be priced to cover the costs of downloads and on-going usage. Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Rankings [Customer Experience Matters] – # Retailers take 12 out of the top 20 spots. Most of the top rated companies on the list are retailers. Hotels also grabbed three of the top 20 spots. Interestingly, three financial services firms also cracked the top 20: credit unions, SunTrust Bank, and Vanguard.
    # Healthcare, Internet and TV services dominate the bottom. The bottom 11 companies on the list came from only four industries: five health insurance plans (United Healthcare, Medicaid, Anthem, and CIGNA), three ISPs (Charter Communications, Comcast, and Qwest), two TV service providers (Charter Communications and Comcast), and one credit card provider (HSBC).
  • Can Design Change Behavior? [Stanford School of Engineering] – Because behavior can be influenced—not just observed—it provides an important opportunity for tackling complex challenges such as sustainability. That opportunity is perhaps best addressed with design…With this outlook, Banerjee says he is excited to be one of the principal investigators in a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in which he is working with other Stanford professors who have expertise in behavioral sciences, communications, human-computer interaction, and behavioral economics. The team aims to create interventions that influence behavior to bring about significant reductions in energy use. But what designers understand well is that people are “predictably irrational” and influenced by emotional as well as rational criteria, Banerjee says.
  • The Art of Asking the Question [UIE Brain Sparks] – Steve Portigal will show your team the art of asking the question. You might visit the user in their office or home, have them come to you for a usability test, or even have a chance encounter at a trade show or while waiting for an airplane. Do you know what to ask? Do you know what to listen for, to extract the critical detail of what they can tell you about your design?

    Steve will help you prepare your team for any opportunity, be it formal user research or less structured, ad-hoc research. He’ll also give you tips on how to work with your stakeholders and executives, who may also be meeting potential customers and users, so they know what to ask and how to listen—integrating their efforts into the research team. (Wouldn’t it be great if they understood why you’re doing what you’re doing?)

    Update: Use promotion code CHITTAHCHATTAH to get lifetime free access to the recording after the fact (normally a separate cost)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Zach Gage’s Antagonistic Books – A set of two books and instructions for how to build them. ANTAGONISTIC BOOKS turns the emotions and actions surrounding the banning of books into physical objects that undermine the user.

    Danger reenacts what has historically been done to dangerous literature, self-immolating when opened.

    Curiosity represents the notion that many book-banners feel, that the true danger of literature is that once you've opened a book you have been forever changed and can never go back. Emulating this notion, Curiosity can never be closed. Once opened, it is locked in an open position forever.

    (via Waxy)

  • Netflix agrees to delay in renting out Warner movies [latimes.com] – "This deal uniquely works for Netflix because our subscribers are desensitized to street dates and more interested in being matched to the perfect movie," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, who handles studio relationships. "Some subscribers will so passionately want to see it in the first 28 days they may go out and buy it, just as some people want to see 'Avatar' so badly they pay to watch it in 3-D." [Snort! Guffaw!]
  • Book Industry Study Group – BISG is the leading U.S. book trade association for supply chain standards, research, and best practices. For over 30 years, BISG has been working on behalf of its diverse membership of publishers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, librarians and others involved in both print and digital publishing to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products.

    In seeking support from and representing every sector of the book industry, BISG affirms its belief in the interdependence of all industry segments. BISG understands that success in business is often easier to achieve through joint effort and that common problems are best solved together.

  • How to create new reading experiences profitably [booksahead.com] – Books have served well as containers for moving textual and visual information between places and across generations. [digita] books need to be conceived with an eye on the interactions that text/content will inspire. Those interactions happen between the author and work, the reader and the work, the author and reader, among readers and between the work and various services, none of which exist today in e-books, that connect works to one another and readers in the community of one book with those in other book-worlds….Publishing is only one of many industries battling the complex strategic challenge of just-in-time composition of information or products for delivery to an empowered individual customer. This isn’t to say that it is any harder, nor any easier, to be a publisher today compared to say, a consumer electronics manufacturer or auto maker, only that the discipline to recognize what creates wonderful engaging experience is growing more important by the day.
  • New York, 2009 [Flickr] – My photos from my recent trip to New York City. Art, street art, strange signs, people watching, and other observations. Check it out!

Encouraging Stick-with-it-ness

I purchased a new shaver recently, and tossed in among all the paperwork (warranty info, ads for accessories, instructions in multiple languages) is this bit of afterthought:

This just screams of missed opportunity. In product development, a lot of effort is put into creating an attractive package that will encourage people to buy; some effort is put into the OOBE, or Out Of The Box Experience (what happens when you take everything out and see it for the first time and then try to set it up and use it); and while there’s a lot of us who talk about the overall user experience, it’s distressing to see products be delivered to the customer with such a lack of finish around something so crucial.

The developers have reason to believe that the first time you use the product, you may be disappointed. Or at least not delighted. Nor the next time. Nor the next time, for 30 days, at which point (gradually, we assume), you’ll be receiving the optimum results.

The automotive industry has framed this sort of issue as “break-in” where you the customer are responsible for taking extra care of the vehicle during that period (with specific dos and don’ts like top-speed, etc.). Consider the difference between “It won’t work at its best for a while” and “Be sure to take care of it while it breaks in.” If the issue was the customer learning curve you might see messages like

Congrats on your purchase of a new Kodak digital camera. If you’ve (somehow) never used a digital camera before, you’ll probably find you are taking a lot of crappy pictures (hey, no film, right?). But after a while you’ll get the hang of it: you’ll figure out how to best aim, focus, and expose your picture, and you’ll also clue into the need to delete all your failed pictures. Until then, you might feel a bit frustrated, but that’s just the regular learning curve and it takes most people about 30 days of regular picture taking before they feel more confident.

The shaver people have to do more than toss a piece of a paper in the box to properly reframe this initial-sub-par-evolving-to-primo-experience. Some ideas (and I’m sure if you’re reading this you have others)

  • A 30-day supply of shaving lotion: “By the time you use up this lotion, you’ll be shaving at peak smoothness!”
  • 30 days worth of calendar stickers showing a progressively more smiling shaving man that you can put on your calendar after each shave (variation: 30 Post-Its that go on your bathroom mirror and are pulled down one-by-one as you count down from 30)
  • A phone call (or text, tweet, email, or snail mail) after 30 days congratulating you on reaching the optimum phase for your shaver and making you mindful of the experience you are now having
  • A 30-day subscription to a local newspaper that will fit into the morning routine. Stickers on the paper remind you who paid for it and count down towards optimal shaving
  • A social media app (i.e., a Facebook page) that alludes to a 12-step program, where members receive their 30-day tokens as they complete their trial period with the shaver (“I’ve got 30 days clean and shaved”)

The specific ideas, while fun to generate, aren’t really the point as much as the need for companies to think a little more broadly about optimizing the links between their promises, expectation management, and overall experience.

See also: The Experience Before The Out-of-the-box Experience

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Interview with hamster hotel proprietor – Short audio is worth a listen as the interview veers necessarily into "What *is* normal?" territory
  • French hamster hotel lets guests live like rodents – Visitors to the hotel in Nantes can feast on hamster grain, get a workout by running in a giant wheel and sleep in hay stacks in the suite called the "Hamster Villa".

    It is the latest venture from owners Frederic Tabary and Yann Falquerho, who run a company which rents out unusual venues to adventure-seekers. Both architects, the men designed the room in an 18th century building to resemble the inside of a hamster's cage.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Drowning in Data in Kathmandu – Exchange between me and Dave Robertson about how to process the overwhelming amount of experiential and visual stimulation that comes from spending time someplace very foreign.
  • Obituary: Ray Browne / Scholar who pioneered the study of popular culture – Ray Browne, an Ohio university professor who was credited with coining the phrase "popular culture" and pioneering the study of things such as bumper stickers and cartoons, has died. He was 87.

    He developed the first academic department devoted to studying what he called the "people's culture" at Bowling Green in 1973.

    "Culture is everything from the food we've always eaten to the clothes we've always worn," he said in a 2003 interview.

  • Disney offers refunds for Baby Einstein DVDs – Canadian and U.S. parents who feel duped by claims that Baby Einstein videos were brain boosters for their infants and toddlers can now get a refund for old merchandise from the Walt Disney Company.

    The company agreed after a lengthy campaign by a coalition of educators and parents, who complained Disney's marketing materials implied their videos for babies under 2 years of age were beneficial for cognitive development.

    The move to compensate some customers comes after Disney's Baby Einstein stopped using some claims following a complaint lodged with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

    The group alleged deceptive marketing.

    "Disney took the word 'educational' off of its website and its marketing, but we felt that parents deserved more," child psychologist Susan Linn, co-founder of the organization, said yesterday.

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