Posts tagged “norms”

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lock

The Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Pint Lock is a simple enough product – a locking mechanism for a standard pint of ice cream. But along with its functionality comes a measure of social performance that’s worth a brief closer look.

The idea is humorous (one side of the lock has the slogan “I’m terribly sorry, but there’s no ‘u’ in ‘my pint'”) – but in that humor is a gentle reminder to everyone that Ben & Jerry’s is precious stuff, worth protecting.

As far as security goes (the ice cream is in cardboard, after all), I’m reminded of what a research participant told me once. When walking around the perimeter of his fast-food franchise, he said “A lock only stops an honest person.” His point was that any security can be broken with some amount of force, and the role of the lock is to make it clear that you aren’t welcome. Social norms keep most of us from bypassing that lock. So while we might pop open the ice cream and take a spoonful or two of our coworker or roommate or partner’s Chunky Monkey, we’re probably not going to cut through the package and make it obvious. So while this lock won’t stop a ravenous freezer rodent, it will protect your ice cream from most of your regular dessert-craving cohabitants.

It’s great design in that it considers the functionality in its cultural context. If they built this by spec-sheet (as one might with a bike lock, say) they would miss the point entirely.

Thanks, Mom!

Did all those avatar changes impact SCOTUS?

brodyequals
Now that we’ve heard from the Supreme Court, we can look back on all the involvement we had, what with updating our profile pictures on every social media service. This article Scientific American (Will changing your Facebook profile picture do anything for marriage equality?) is a really terrific deconstruction of influence. The explanation here of prescriptive norms vs. descriptive ones is very instructive.

One of the big ways that the people around us exert these influences is through the use of norms, those messages that we send out about what’s acceptable, appropriate, and-well, normal. Descriptive norms simply describe the way that things are, whereas prescriptive norms offer a mandate about how things should be. For example, if I said that most college students go to class wearing jeans and sweatshirts, that would be a descriptive norm. If I said that you should wear jeans and a sweatshirt in order to fit in, that would be prescriptive. Quite possibly the most important takeaway point from all of the research that’s been done on norms is just how powerful descriptive norms can be. When people try to change behavior, they often focus on prescriptive norms, telling people what they should do. We often underestimate just how strongly we respond to what other people actually do.

Greg’s War Story: Culture shock

Anthropologist Greg Cabrera spent 17 months in Afghanistan as an embedded academic with the military, supporting social science research and analysis as part of the Human Terrain System. In his third story here, he encounters a challenge to his own moral standards.

One of the first places I visited in Afghanistan was a security checkpoint along a major route in northern Kandahar. The security was contracted to a private group of Afghans, mainly from the south and east, to provide route security and protect military and civilian supply routes. Their job was to protect the route against insurgents who wanted to disrupt the convoy and see oil tankers burn.

A few days before insurgents did exactly this. They stopped a convoy carrying military supplied with an improvised explosive device, hitting the first truck and killing the driver. Then they attacked the last truck and shot a rocket-propelled grenade which effectively exploded and hit the side of a fuel truck. Civilians fled, the insurgents attacked the checkpoint, and it was utter chaos. These security guards returned fire and called the local police for reinforcements. All that was left at the end were a few burned trucks, dead bodies, and some burned firearms.

Upon arrival, I could see where these men were being shot at, how they fought back, and where they stored their weapons. They worked on this mountain and lived here too. There were approximately 15 to 20 men living in this bunker. All they carried were machine guns, assault rifles, ammunition, and blankets. Of course, they also had food, chai, cooking supplies and utensils. As I inspected their site and positions, they told me about the event and shared their war trophies, burned AK-47s captured from insurgents. It was unusual to observe so many men living in such a tight area together, away from their village and home. This was security, Afghan style, and it felt like a group of armed nomads living under the radar. They were living and working together in a confined space in the middle of what felt like nowhere in particular. I would later find out that these men often worked for 2-3 months at a time before going home for a short period.

When we all sat down for chai, I noticed some of the people who were working at this checkpoint did not look old enough to be here. I thought to myself “Shouldn’t these kids be riding their bikes or playing in the village?” The individual serving chai and placing candies out for our consumption did not have facial hair and had henna painted finger and toe nails. I looked over at my interpreter and asked him on the side what these kids were doing here hanging out with security guards. My interpreter, looking down, smiled, and turned to me saying, “They have fun with them at night.”

The sergeant who I worked with was sitting across from me. When he heard this, his face turned blank. I could tell this made him uneasy. I always wondered what the expression on my face looked like. As the young boy finished serving everyone chai, he moved near an older male who was resting comfortably on a pillow on his side. That’s weird I thought to myself. I had just arrived in country, at this field site, surrounded by strange men who do strange things. I grabbed my cup of chai and drank it down.

Despite the weirdness of the situation, I carried on. I asked lots of questions, took lots of notes, and attempted to be as respectful of their culture as possible even though it bothered me and made me uncomfortable. Who was I to judge? I wondered to myself, what business did we as a nation have in this country? How can its people allow human exploitation to exist like this? I learned later on that Kandahar was a different place than most of Afghanistan. It retained practices unlike the rest of the country. Although this specific instance of culture shock made me uneasy to say the least, I learned to see past it. This was an unconventional war in a strange, neglected land and I was not there to change their culture, only study it.

Well, thank you for joining us

For a little Friday Fun, here’s Mike Birbiglia‘s new short film from This American Life LIVE (if you are in the US, Canada, or Australia, I highly encourage you to find a screening near you for this next Tuesday; truly a wonderful entertainment and storytelling experience).

In this short and gently comedic film, Birbiglia pokes fun at some the norms of interviewing (and being interviewed).

Out and About: Steve at SXSW

I recently spent a while in Austin attending SXSW. Part work, part vacation, it was all fun and all inspiration (see, I’m now posting in rhyme???!!!). Here’s some of my observations and experiences.



Austin’s independence and weirdness are fairly unique and always enjoyable.


While there was a national uproar over an ad agency hiring homeless folks to circulate as wireless hotspots, FedEx hired non-homeless folks (we talked to them and yes, despite the cool outfit, they are not regular FedEx employees) to circulate as human phone chargers. No one raised a peep over this. It’s okay to to turn people into device support as long as they have sufficient income such that we don’t feel awkward?


A typical bewildering promotional scene. I’m unsure specifically what was happening here. Pose with this Grinch (I guess?) and tweet the photo with a hashtag for chance to win something? Anne posed for the picture but we never bothered to determine exactly what it was about. This sort of exchange and promotion was very common.


This was the moment I realized how much my localized norms had shifted. Over the course of a few days, we ate and drank and snacked for free. Wwe got delicious ice cream sandwiches for free; all we had to do was tweet something. We got a free lunch from FedEx, although they asked that we check in Foursquare. Moments before taking this picture we followed the trail of Ben-and-Jerry’s-eating-folks to find out where the cart was, asking of course for some tweet action in exchange. By the time I came upon this popsicle stand. I looked up and down to figure out what I had to do, or if they were just going to give me a frozen treat without any action. We were a little chatty, reading their sign out loud, but no one was initiating a transaction, finally the woman asks us “Do you work for Twitter?” (I guess since we had mentioned tweeting). Finally, the penny drops. “Oh,” she explains, “right now these are $2.50.” It was just a regular frozen-good-for-money cart! No special SXSW promotion or anything! And she’s located herself right across from the Convention Center – ground zero for crazy promotions (the spot where Kobayashi ate 13 grilled cheeses in one minute was just feet away)! Well! I walked away grumbling at the nerve of this person to try and ask for money for their food product!



Making new friends.


What does this mean? Kony went from viral slacktivism to stencil-art in a matter of days. Is this anti-Kony? It seems to be iconifying him with Che-like kitsch. That was fast!



Attention-grabbing scumbaags put realistic paper “clamps” on parked cars. Haw haw! Fooled ya! You didn’t really get clamped, just wanted to tell you about our great service! Ummmm, no, no, no. That moment – be it one second or 90 seconds – of angst and despair upon seeing your car clamped is not okay. You should not do business by upsetting people and then telling them that it was just a joke. I realize that’s the premise for prank television, but this is simply not acceptable for marketers to be doing. You can make me feel good, but you must not make me feel bad.


I’m intrigued by the proliferation of these backdrops in publicly accessible places, so that we too can play at doing a red carpet appearance. The opening party had an actively-posed-with backdrop that was not intended to see any of its traditional star usage. These backdrops were also throughout the Convention Center. Certainly the appeal is understandable (we made good use of a similar opportunity last year in Florence); perhaps this starts to replace the stick-your-head-through-a-painting-of-a-character; now it’s red carpet for the rest of us.


These folks in the yellow skinsuits were promoting SceneTap but found themselves seduced by a street hustler more skilled than themselves, doing some kind of of three-card-Monty meets card trick. And those onlookers wearing “MYSPACE IS DEAD” shirts are actually promoting Myspace,


Fun with The Daisies, or the unexpected pleasure of following a titanic sound down a back street only to find ourselves feet away from a young, skinny, long-haired rock-n-roll band kicking out the jams.

Other highlights

See also:

How did we do X before Y?

As I posted previously, we’re looking for examples of how technology has changed an ordinary task so fundamentally that you can’t believe you once did it differently. As I wrote “Even though I was there and did it, it is beyond my power to comprehend now.” Thanks to everyone who contributed:

Laura Borns: How did I ever figure out how to get places with a folded paper map rather than GPS?

Cyd Harrell: How did I ever maintain relationships without voicemail and text? Remember when you actually had to get somebody on the phone?

Chris Gielow: How did I ever get things done (like the bank and the office) when I had to physically go places to do them?

Grady Karp: How did I ever pick people up at the airport before cell phones?

Lora Oehlberg: How did we meet someone for lunch at a specific time and place? (cellphones have taken care of a lot of last-minute details of “I’m running late” or “I’m on my way” or “I’m on the other side of the street”)?

Lora Oehlberg: How did we find out about music we’d like before friends sending YouTube links, or Pandora (I suppose at a music store, at the radio, or mix tapes)?

Lora Oehlberg (who rocks, if you can’t tell): How did we figure out who was talking to us on the phone before Caller ID? I remember there used to be a polite way of inquiring who was talking, or informing the person on the other end who you were (I’ve forgotten how this exchange goes now). Now we either a) avoid unknown numbers or b) listen to a semi-familiar voice immediately start talking, assuming that we’ll eventually figure out who it is based on what they’re talking about.

Peter Stahl: How did we ever create a flyer or newsletter without word processing or presentation software; when all we had was scissors?

Peter Stahl: How did we ever create a photograph or movie without a phone (like I would have believed “phone” 15 years ago!); we had to use film: purchase, load, expose, unload, take to developers, wait, pick up from developers, pay!

Peter Stahl (who also joins the club of rock stars): How did we make copies before personal printers and scanners? We had to use carbon paper!

@Kimwolf notes that she never has to wait to get home to check her calendar, because it’s always in her pocket.

The smartphone makes a prominent appearance here, of course, but really it’s a nice list from information-related tasks, to social norms, to interacting and collaborating with others, to pure production. This is helpful to put together with our other work streams trying to get at the different thematic areas to explore.

We’ll be running our next crowdsourcing request soon. Meanwhile, feel free to add to this list wherever you are seeing it!

Updated!
Cat Macaulay: How did we distract ourselves from important tasks before social media? Guess that what was the executive toys were for, do they still exist or has the pendulum thingie been replaced by Twitter and Facebook?

Lora again: How did we get into buildings? Or control access to physical spaces over time? I’m at a university where RFIDs in cardkeys are THE way to let people in/out of rooms. Just set students’ cardkey access to the computer lab expire at the end of the semester, no problem.

Jeff McKown: How did they ever change the channel before the remote control? (Wait, I remember now…my dad would make me get up and do it.)

Nicolas Nova: How did I locate text in a document before Apple/Ctrl-F?

Scott Thorpe: I can’t even remember how I sent text-based messages before email. Did I print it out and mail it? Did I fax it? Did I just spend a long time on the phone waving my hands in the air explaining complex ideas?

Linda: How did we plan vacations without the internet? We relied on travel agents? And how did they know what places were worth visiting and what hotels were attractive and convenient?

Ryan DeGorter: How did I ever check the time while mobile? I no longer need to have an annoyance on my wrist 16 hours of the day.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Eating alone: There’s nothing quite like sharing a meal with someone you love – yourself [The Denver Post] – [Fascinating how this person celebrates going against one strong cultural norm – she will happily eat alone at a restaurant in public – then turns right around and limits that new-found freedom by restraining her behavior in that context with a bunch more. Going against the grain is a tenuous act.] The meal itself is company enough for Vicky Uhland. "It's my reward at the end of the day," she says. "I like to have good service, have a nice drink. The atmosphere matters, too. It doesn't necessarily have to be quiet. But it has to be comfortable." Uhland sits at a table, not at the bar. "That's where I draw the line, the bar. A good girl alone at the bar? For some reason it's kind of sleazy." More red flags for Uhland: "I would never do Valentine's Day or any time I would look like a giant loser," she says. "If it was a really trendy restaurant I probably wouldn't go there on a Saturday."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] New book about recurring technological failures [Pasta&Vinegar] – [Nicolas Nova has written a lot of great articles, presentations, and blog posts about failure, technology, society, and design. Now he's got a book. Let's hope an English version appears before too long?] My new book about recurring technological failures has been released two weeks ago. It’s called “Les flops technologiques: comprendre les échecs pour innover” which obviously means that it’s written in French. Based on the analysis of several cases (the intelligent fridge, the visiophone and e-books), the book describes the notion of recurring technological flops, discusses the very notion of failures and their underlying reasons. It also addresses strategies and design tactics to take them into account.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Art of Garfinkling [Splunderousnoog] – [We tend to conceptualize experiments and research as dispassionate or disconnected endeavors, but there's so much that can happen when we as experiments or researchers risk our presumptions and comfort level in order to get deeper understanding. In describing ethnography, I often refer to the researcher as the "apparatus" who is embedded and gathers data through that experience.] Carry out a simple experiment. When you are on the bus or the train, ask a person to give up her seat. Make sure you're young and fit. To make it easier, ask someone who is as fit or fitter than you. It is a hard thing for most to do. There is emotional distress involved. The fear of opprobrium, the need to be liked, to be nice…This sort of experiment is known as a "breaching experiment". It involves violating social norms. A famous, pioneering exponent of breaching experiments was a chap called Harold Garfinkle. So much so that "breaching experiments" are known as "Garfinkling"!
  • [from steve_portigal] Jeter’s 3,000th Hit Will Bring About as Many Marketing Possibilities [NYTimes.com] – [Merchandising a celebration.] Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats…The selling of Jeter’s hit…is quite a list: T-shirts, caps, jerseys, bobbleheads, decals, cellphone skins, wall murals, patches, bats, balls, license plates and necklaces made by licensees…Jeter will share royalties with M.L.B. and the players’ union; Already, he has designated proceeds from the sale of a silicone bracelet to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation. Everything Jeter touches or wears as he pursues his 3,000th hit carries value. So will the bases he steps on. In deciding what to provide for sale, Jeter controls his cleats, wristbands, bats and batting gloves. The Yankees control what they provide to him, like his uniform, warm-up jackets, and caps, as well as the dirt, the bases and the pitching rubber.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Side View Mirror Project – [Love Erik Dahl's deep dive on the ordinary to find ot the extraordinary, as he has spent years taking pictures of side view mirrors. He discovers some great themes and patterns although he acknowledges he didn't know where it was going to go when he started.] Taking these pictures changed the way I drive. I used to be very end-state oriented when I would drive. When I started taking pictures for this project I stopped thinking about where I was going, and started watching mirrors and looking for red lights. As designers, its important to remember that the goal and orientation of the user dramatically impacts their experiences.
  • [from steve_portigal] Two years after buying Pure Digital, Cisco ditches the Flip [Ars Technica] – [I always thought this was about driving a consumer-facing innovation culture into the org. Let's hope that this persists even without the specific line of products.] Cisco is killing off the line of pocketable video cameras in order to refocus the company around home networking and video. The news was a surprise to even Flip critics, leaving everyone wondering why Cisco bothered to buy Pure Digital (the Flip's former parent company) for $590 million just 2 years ago. The marriage never fully made sense, but we accepted it­most assumed that Cisco was making its own attempt to compete in the handheld market by simply gobbling up one of the hottest little gadget startups at the time. Two years later, Cisco's feelings about the acquisition have changed. Cisco announced that it's expanding the Consumer Business Group, but that the Flip business will no longer be part of it. There was no formal explanation given as to why Cisco chose to shut the group down instead of selling it.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Flow [Nieman Storyboard] – [Via @kottke. While many decry the loss of personal connection that our devices lead to; here's a theory that says the opposite, that it creates feelings of greater connectness] I was traveling with friends, and one of them took a call. Suddenly, instead of feeling less connected to the people I was with, I felt more connected, both to them and to their friends on the other end of the line (whom I did not know). My perspective had shifted from seeing the call as an interruption to seeing it as an expansion. And I realized that the story I had been telling myself about who I was had widened to include additional narratives, some not “mine,” but which could be felt, at least potentially and in part, personally. A small piece of the global had become, for the moment, local. And once that has happened, it can happen again. The end of the world as we know it? No — it’s the end of the world as I know it, the end of the world as YOU know it — but the beginning of the world as WE know it.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Acceleration of Addictiveness [Paul Graham] – [Via @waxpancake. He describes how slowing down by taking hikes gives him a mental and creative freedom that his addictions have rendered otherwise inaccessible] Most if not all the things we describe as addictive are. And the scary thing is, the process that created them is accelerating. We wouldn't want to stop it. It's the same process that cures diseases: technological progress. Technological progress means making things do more of what we want. When the thing we want is something we want to want, we consider technological progress good. If some new technique makes solar cells x% more efficient, that seems strictly better. When progress concentrates something we don't want to want—when it transforms opium into heroin—it seems bad. But it's the same process at work. No one doubts this process is accelerating, which means increasing numbers of things we like will be transformed into things we like too much.
  • [from steve_portigal] Exactitudes® – [Thanks @MicheleMarut! Pattern-matching is a fabulous way to develop observational skills] Rotterdam-based photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have worked together since October 1994. Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, they have systematically documented numerous identities over the last 14 years. They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] The Media Equation – The Antenna Uproar – No Hair Shirt for Jobs [NYTimes.com] – [In the case of the missing iPhone signal, traditional publication Consumer Reports had more impact than younger, leading-edge media sources] How did Consumer Reports make Apple blink? In large measure, the article in Consumer Reports was devastating precisely because the magazine (and its Web site) are not part of the hotheaded digital press. Although Gizmodo and other techie blogs had reached the same conclusions earlier, Consumer Reports made a noise that was heard beyond the Valley because it has a widely respected protocol of testing and old-world credibility.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Pop-Up Magazine [website] – [The return of the variety show? Media channel-bending experiment marries a magazine-esque approach to content with the ephemeral nature of live performance.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity [NYTimes.com] – [Mind you, these consequences serve to reinforce the value of the service] With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, the surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers. One major outsourcing firm hired a local psychologist to assess how it was affecting its 500 content moderators. The psychologist developed a screening test so the company could evaluate potential employees, and helped its supervisors identify signals that the work was taking a toll on employees. Ms. Laperal also reached some unsettling conclusions in her interviews with content moderators. She said they were likely to become depressed or angry, have trouble forming relationships and suffer from decreased sexual appetites. Small percentages said they had reacted to unpleasant images by vomiting or crying. “The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS [Behance] – [Alex Varanese's thought-provoking concepts go beyond blogosphere-hipster-silliness to really provoke reflection on design and functionality often taken for granted] What would you do if you could travel back in time? Here's what I'd do after that: grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars. I've explored that idea in this series by re-imagining four common products from 2010 as if they were designed in 1977: an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone and a handheld video game system. I then created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads. I've learned that there is no greater design element than the anachronism. I've learned that the strongest contrast isn't spatial or tonal but historical. I've learned that there's retro, and then there's time travel.
  • [from julienorvaisas] 10:10 Tags Symbolize Committment to Climate Change [10:10global.org/uk] – [The fact that this tag is tangible but also symbolic rather than overt, and versatile enough to be carried on the body as a daily reminder of a commitment to the cause of climate change can help change behavior and improve compliance, as well as subtly telegraph solidarity.] The 10:10 Tag is made from a recycled jumbo jet, and can be worn on the neck, wrist, lapel or leotard to symbolise your 10:10 commitment. Whether you pin it to the lapel of your business suit or thread it through the laces of your skateboard trainers, your 10:10 Tag shows others that not only do you know how to accessorise; you’re also part of the solution to climate change.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Grateful Dead scholar in heaven at UC Santa Cruz [SFGate] – [More big things happening at my Alma Mater] The ultimate job in Dead-dom is in Room 1370 at McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. The door is marked by the steal-your-face logo, and superimposed over it reads the name Nicholas G. Meriwether, Grateful Dead Archivist.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality: using irrational cognitive blindspots to your advantage [Boing Boing] – [We've seen the principles of behavioral economics applied to help us understand and explain consumers irrational choices in a business context, now here's a self-help book helping us apply them to our own everyday lives.] Upside of Irrationality is a mostly successful attempt to transform the scientific critique of the 'rational consumer' principal into practical advice for living a better life. 'Mostly successful' only because some of our habitual irrationality is fundamentally insurmountable — there's almost nothing we can do to mitigate it.
  • [from steve_portigal] Text 2.0 – What if your book really knew where you are gazing at? – [This is essentially one of the concepts we proposed from our Reading Ahead research – where an eyetracker in a digital book manipulates the text dynamically based on your gaze. In our use case, we addressed the interrupt-driven commute reading revealed by our research. If the book saw you looking away, it could mark your spot to enable more efficient resuming]
  • [from steve_portigal] Twitter a hit in Japan as millions ‘mumble’ online [Yahoo! News] – Japanese-language Twitter taps into a greater sense of individuality in Japan, especially among younger people less accepting of the Japanese understatement and conformity. 16.3% of Japanese Internet tweet 16.3% (vs. 9.8% in US). "Japan is enjoying the richest and most varied form of Twitter usage as a communication tool…It's playing out as a rediscovery of the Internet.” It's possible to say so much more in Japanese within Twitter's 140 letters. "Information" requires just 2 letters in Japanese. Another is that people own up to their identities on Twitter. One well-known case is a woman who posted the photo of a park her father sent in e-mail before he died. Twitter was immediately abuzz with people comparing parks…"It's telling that Twitter was translated as 'mumbling' in Japanese," he said. "They love the idea of talking to themselves," he said…"In finding fulfillment in expressing what's on your mind for the moment, Twitter is like haiku," he said. "It is so Japanese."

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

  • Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
  • Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
  • Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.

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