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This could be a similar concept to the phenomenon of certain things, like Gary’s sport, tipping from being really uncool to being really cool. Further work will be needed in this area. Natacha was considered to be uncool again because she had a lot of old technologies such as a simple/old Pay As You Go mobile phone and an old laptop.
She lived in social housing and had very strict parents who severely restricted her ability to socialize and make new friends. Similarly to Sophie, she spent a lot of time in the Library, which was again remarked on as being uncool.
Wayne, the most uncool in the set, recorded 27 cool comments from all the groups and 148 uncool comments. Practically all of the cool comments about Wayne were because he had a lot of the latest technologies such as an IPhone, LCD television, an Xbox and a Laptop. There were no cool comments about Wayne as a person.
Although a few groups considered Wayne cool for having the latest technologies he was also considered to be uncool due to the fact the cool technologies were acquired through illegal methods or that he had all the cool technologies even though his family weren’t working and were claiming all possible social benefits. The fact Wayne’s family lived in social housing and claimed benefits was seen as one of the major reasons he was uncool although this, much like Sophie’s association, was interesting as there was nothing Wayne could personally do to change this aspect of his habitat. His anti-social
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habits were considered to be uncool with comments about him smoking, joyriding and tormenting people on Facebook appearing regularly. His lack of interest in anything and lack of ability in school made him very uncool as did the amount of trouble he was in with the police.
From the rich data analysed for these four personas we can start to draw out some cool and uncool traits. Old technologies appear to be uncool, particularly old mobile phones and Pay As You Go mobile phones. These were universally seen as uncool whether the persona him/herself was considered to be cool or uncool as a whole.
Owning the latest technologies is considered to be cool showing that perhaps older technologies which can potentially be seen as being cool in terms of their retro-ness is not relevant to this group. Social housing and claiming benefits came across as uncool and also reading and Library activities came across as uncool although Natacha being able to read two different languages was considered cool. Being good at something, whether it be sports such as football and gymnastics, or being a language, appears to be cool as long as your whole life does not obsess around it. Trying hard at school and being good academically appears to be cool, which was a little unexpected, and being well liked was also considered cool.
6. New Insights on Cool
These observations lead to two new observations on cool – these are discussed within the framework of cool from (Read et al., 2011). This framework, which was primarily derived from the literature on cool, and was validated in a design study with teenagers in which teenagers mapped out the contents and aspects of their dream bedrooms, identified six characteristics which were rebelliousness (Pountain and Robins, 2000), retro (Nancarrow, Nancarrow and Page, 2002), innovative (O'Donnell and Wardlow, 2000), authentic (Nancarrow, Nancarrow and Page, 2002), rich (O'Donnell and Wardlow, 2000), and anti-social (Pountain and Robins, 2000).
In terms of rebelliousness, which is identified in the literature as being a trait of cool, from the understanding of Wayne, by the teenagers in our study, there appears to be a line beyond which behaviours are not cool. On a 4-point scale from total compliance, through grudging compliance, non-harmful rebelliousness to criminal rebelliousness, cool probably belongs somewhere in the middle and quite possibly, based on the work
In terms of sociality, two themes emerge – one is social activity with peers and the other is social activity with others. It is commonly understood, and hinted at in (Fitton et al, 2012) that teenagers are extremely social with their own peer groups whilst also antisocial with others. In figure 6 we show where cool might sit, which is neither entirely antisocial nor pro social with non peers (which is where some of Wayne’s antisociality lies) but is highly social with peer groups.
Figure 6. The social cool zone
Retro does not apply to old versions of things that currently have newer versions – this may explain why an old phone is uncool. Retro probably needs something either further back, or something that no longer exists. Innovative, as in surprise activities or actions, for example being bi-lingual, may not necessarily be about an item. It can be as unusual or stand out behaviour. The coolness of having the real thing (authenticity) and having the expensive products (so long as they are not gotten by ill means) is supported in this study. Two new characteristics, sympathetic cool and associated cool have been identified and more work is needed on these. The two are potentially
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related as they refer to those aspects of a teenager’s life over which he or she has little control. They also suggest that teenagers, especially in terms of sympathetic cool, are forgiving of associated aspects where these might be considered uncool. Whilst associated aspects of cool cannot be designed into interfaces or products, there might be a case for designing unsavoury associated aspects out of products and services.
This study has shown that using personas to explore teenage habitats and behaviours can work. It demonstrates that teenagers can arrange personas in order of cool and shows that this process, of determining cool, can shed some light as to the boundaries between cool and non cool and has confirmed some of the literature on cool. The findings from the teenage study help identify traits and possessions in other teenagers that are considered to be cool or not cool without bringing into question any prejudices that may have appeared if real teenagers had been used.
The need to refine the characteristics of cool further has been evidenced through the identification of cool traits that did not fit into the six categories, particularly with respect to social cool which has been identified in previous studies and again here but is not yet fully understood.
Further studies plan to have interview studies with teenagers to better understand why these choices are made, and a large study, with more teenagers is being undertaken to explore gender effects and age effects. Work is progressing on taking these understandings and extracting design learnings from the work.
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