Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Seemingly Unrelated Things...

I find it funny that throughout this entire "artificial companionship" project that the real hurdle is simply determining what you product is... It seems so simple, when you are asking youself over and over "What is it?" In class we touched on legacy, and how people are (sometimes very indirectly) affected by the idea that they will live on beyond their phycial life... (remember Judy burying her cats?)... We love the idea of our efforts producing real things; these things reflect who we are and have the ability to preserve it was well. I know we already went over all of this but just bear with me. In Donals Norman's book Emotional Design, he talks about how people tend not to get a great amount of satisfaction or pride out of doing things that are too easy. Norman conveys this point through a true story concerning the Betty Crocker Company in the early '50s. Most of us have made a cake from cake mix before... you take the mix, and water and an egg and bake. The interesting thing is, it wasn't always like that. It used to be even easier because it was just mix and water.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

...The product failed, even though tast tests confirmed that people liked the result. Why? An after-fact-effort was made to find the reasons. As reseachers Bonnie Goebert and Herma Rosenthal put it: "The cake mix was a little too simple. The comsumer felt no sense of accomplishmentm no involvement with the product. It made her feel useless, especially if somewhere her aproned mom was still whipping up cakes from scratch."
Yes, it was too easy to make the cake. Betty Crocker solved the problem by requiring the cook to add an egg to the mix, thereby putting pride back into the activity. Clearly, adding an egg to a prepared cake mix is not at all equivilent to baking a cake "from scratch" by using individual ingredients. Nonetheless adding the egg gave the act of baking as sense of accomplishment, whereas just mixing water into the cake mix seemed too little, too artificial. Goebert and Rosenthal summarized the situation: "The real problem has nothing to do with the products intrinsic value, but instead represented the emotional connection that links the product to its user." Yes, it's all about emotion, pride, about the feeling of accomplishment, even in making a cake from prepared mix.

The principle that Norman mentions or pride and accomplishment (I believe) directly relates to the feeling of self worth that can sometimes dwindle in an older person. The interesting and valuable thing in this excerpt is the fact that sometimes it doesn't take a lot to feel a sense of accomplishement on a small scale.


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