Posts tagged “baby”

Priya’s War Story: Taking empathy to a whole new level

Design Researcher Priya Sohoni has a very personal experience in the field and reflects on the challenge in order to find deeper insight about her users.

I’ve never been too comfortable with hospital environments–the smells, sounds, sense of urgency–it makes me nervous. Yet, as an ethnographer should, I’ve attempted to conquer my queasiness and conduct research in medical facilities several times.

In October 2010, I was conducting research in a hospital in the SF Bay Area. I was almost 8 months pregnant with my first child. I was given a choice between spending a day in the ICU, emergency, or the maternity department. I picked maternity – I was excited to be among so many about-to-pop mothers and so many who had just delivered. I thought to myself that for the first time I wasn’t feeling so queasy, I could hear babies in nurseries, we shadowed some nurses as they took the babies for their first immunizations, observed visitors greeting happy families with flowers, balloons, gifts…it seemed so odd that this was a part of a “hospital” environment.

On one of the shadowing sessions, I sat in on a nurse shift change. The nurses went around the table sharing information about the newborns and their mothers and taking careful notes of the patients’ needs and requests. On one of the nurse’s share-outs, she turned to the nursing manager and said: “Baby girl in room 203, born vaginally at 8:02am, had trouble breathing, survived for 53 seconds and then died. Should I register her as a live birth or a still birth?” I felt as if someone had stabbed me in my stomach. So much pain that I clenched my tummy, sat down on the floor and broke into tears. I was expecting a baby girl too, in just over a month. Why was the nurse so unemotional around a baby’s death? The nursing manager noticed me sitting in the corner, brought me a glass of water and apologized that I had to sit through that. She suggested I take some rest in the nurses’ break room. But I wiped my tears away and stuck around.

In a few more minutes, the shift change was over and the nurses dispersed. The nurse from 203 then walked over to another room to check in on another Mother and her baby. I continued shadowing her. She entered the room with a big smile on her face, congratulated the parents and commented on what a beautiful baby they had. She changed the baby, swaddled her, gave the mom her meds and assured her that she could call for help whenever she felt like it. It then struck me that the nurse was concerned about her patients. Deeply concerned. She too had felt the pain that the family in room 203 had gone through. But she had made a commitment to hundreds of other patients, a commitment to take care of them and make them feel better. She could not have done that if she had carried the sorrow with her, out of room 203.

As ethnographers, we get trained to empathize with our respondents. To speak their language, to make them comfortable, to be one of them. I had just witnessed a remarkable new level of empathy that the nurse had. Where I had failed, she carried out each one of her roles with respect and propriety.

I went home that day with a new appreciation for the nursing profession.

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.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lovenest: Help Keep Your Baby’s Head Round – The parent-of-baby market seems unique in its (often peer-reinforced) drive to identify new needs and corresponding solutions. This leads to a lot of stuff being produced, some as expensive replacements for existing satisfactory (if generic) solutions, but much of it seemingly innovative. I suppose the work of a parent now includes the emotionally fraught process of trying to sort out the difference.
  • Icon-o-Cast by Lunar : Best products & experiences for new moms & their babies – This is a really great discussion about how parents-to-be seek out product information, what products are offering and not offering, the challenges around integration with other products and with the existing home environment. Good insight and tons of opportunity for designers, brands, and retailers.

Lovenest: Help Keep Your Baby’s Head Round


From a visit to a baby superstore in Vancouver, an education about a problem (plagiocephaly – an asymmetrical distortion of the skull) and a solution (the Lovenest).

The parent-of-baby market seems unique in its (often peer-reinforced) drive to identify new needs and corresponding solutions. This leads to a lot of stuff being produced, some as expensive replacements for existing satisfactory (if generic) solutions, but much of it seemingly innovative. I suppose the work of a parent now includes the emotionally fraught process of trying to sort out the difference.

See more of my Vancouver pictures here.

Kawaii Superheroes

We saw these kawaii decals for sale in Tokyo. According to the in-store display, they are intended for mobile phones and iPods, but could go on anything.

I was amazed to see the familiar and consistent visual brands of Marvel superheroes so dramatically localized, reflecting the Japanese kawaii (“cute”) aesthetic by infantilizing Wolverine, Spiderman, and the Hulk.

Portigal gets The Get: First Interview with Talia (Portigal-)Todd

Last weekend we had a baby naming ceremony for my brand-new niece, Talia. As part of the ceremony, there were readings and speeches from family and friends. Here’s what I read, using a tiny bib and hat on one hand to represent the other party in the dialogue. Apologies for some of the in-jokes that won’t read here.


In preparation for today’s event, which is of course all about Talia, I thought it would be great to get the perspective of the person we’re all here to welcome and honor, Talia herself. I got in touch with her earlier in the week and did an informal interview. It ran a little long, so I’ve cut it down and will be reading an edited version.

SP: Talia, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.

TPT: Poo.

SP: I’m sorry?

TPT: Oh, sorry about that. I just thought I’d start there.

SP: Um, good. Great. Listen, I wanted to ask you —-

TPT: (interrupts) Poo.

SP: Yes, I think we’ve covered that. So to move along, what do you make of things so far?

TPT: Totally freakin’ awesome. I’m pleased as punch to be here. I’ve booked myself a pretty sweet gig, as far as I can tell.

SP: In what way?

TPT: Well, non-stop hamburgers and pizza.

SP: What?

TPT: Yeah, hamburgers and pizza. I love ’em.

SP: I’m pretty surprised. I didn’t think you’d be eating solid food by now.

TPT: Hamburgers are solid?

SP: Yep. And pizza too.

TPT: -..hmmm-.well someone told me those were hamburgers I was eating, and I just figured pizza as well.

SP: I think someone was messing with you-

TPT: I guess so. Huh. Well, when it comes to messing with an infant, let’s just say that two can play at that game.

SP: Before we go back to the whole poo thing again, let’s move along. What’s going on at home right now?

TPT: It’s a lot of fun. I am totally hitting it off with Lenny.

SP: Really? I’m a little surprised to hear that!

TPT: Oh, no, he’s totally cool. He plays guitar, and he has a wicked sense of humor. Loves to sweep and clean.

SP: I don’t think that’s Lenny you’re talking about.

TPT: Really? Who’s Lenny, then?

SP: About your size. Dark fur. Pokey claws.

TPT: Next question.

SP: Sorry.

TPT: Well, who was it I was talking about? Is that Brucey?

SP: He probably wants you to call him “Dad.”

TPT: Dad, eh? Whatever it takes.

SP: I think they’d also accept Daddy or Da-da.

TPT: Get outa here? That’s better than Brucey? Whatever it takes.

SP: What about you? What do you think about Talia?

TPT: What do I think about who?

SP: What do you think about your name, Talia.

TPT: Oh, right. I’m still not used to it. I always think people are talking about Talia Shire.

SP: Talia Shire?

TPT: Yeah, you know “Aaaaa-drian” and all that.

SP: I wouldn’t even mention that if I were you.

TPT: Ah. Word to the wise. Will do.

SP: What else is going on at home?

TPT: Did I mention my Mommy?

SP: No, you didn’t.

TPT: Oh, sorry. I’m still filling out my short-term memory. I mean, it’s pretty much ALL short-term memory at this point, so it’s a little full, if you know what I’m saying.

SP: I think I do.

TPT: Okay, then.

SP: You were saying?

TPT: What?

SP: Your mommy?

TPT: Oh, right, right. Well, the woman is a marvel. Blankets whenever I want them. She and the other one are always cooking. Mostly for their friends, but still, I’m hoping for the odd scrap now and again. And let me tell you, she can SHOP like nobody’s business. I mean, I haven’t seen a lot of shopping so far, but my impressions of her are very solid.

SP: Actually, she helped me pick out the shirt I’m wearing right now.

TPT: Does it have bunnies on it?

SP: No, it doesn’t.

TPT: Trust me, go for the bunnies. You can’t go wrong.

SP: Okay, good advice. So what else is on your mind?

TPT: Have you read this thing in the news about the head of the CBC?

SP: I don’t get a ton of Canadian news where I live, but I did hear a little bit about it.

TPT: Totally cracks me up. He got fired for saying how great it was to poo. I want that job!

SP: It looks like we’re running out of time here, so thanks so much.

TPT: Did I say poo?

SP: I think you did.

The cradle will rock

I’m quoted in today’s Boston Globe

Like a lot of design-conscious urbanites with modern tastes, Alberta Chu and Murray Robinson have put a lot of creative energy into decorating their home, a fashionable loft in the South End with 20-foot ceilings, spare white walls, and a spectacular wall of windows.

It’s furnished with vintage chairs by Harry Bertoia. An Italian sofa by Massimo Morozzi. A giant minimalist print by Richard Serra. Even their dish rack has a big-name designer: Marc Newson, the Australian superstar.

So when their daughter Kaia was born two years ago, the thought of disrupting their carefully considered contemporary landscape with fussy, frilly baby furniture wasn’t exactly appealing.

Not all designers, however, agree this trend toward upscale, adult-centric children’s furniture is a good idea. “There is this idea out there that we have to protect our children from the chaos of an ugly world. Well, we’d better not let them go out of the house . . . because that garish aesthetic influence they are trying to insulate them from is ubiquitous,” said Steve Portigal, founder of Portigal Consulting, a California firm specializing in research, design, and business strategy.

Baby and toddler education technology – is it bunk?

The New York Times does a great cover story about all the technology products that make strong and unsubstantiated claims about how much smarter they’ll make your baby.

New media products for babies, toddlers and preschoolers began flooding the market in the late 1990’s, starting with video series like “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby.” But now, the young children’s market has exploded into a host of new and more elaborate electronics for pre-schoolers, including video game consoles like the V.Smile and handheld game systems like the Leapster, all marketed as educational.

Despite the commercial success, though, a report released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “A Teacher in the Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers and Pre-schoolers,” indicates there is little understanding of how the new media affect young children – and almost no research to support the idea that they are educational.

“The market is expanding rapidly, with all kinds of brand-new product lines for little kids,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Foundation. “But the research hasn’t advanced much. There really isn’t any outcomes-based research on these kinds of products and their effects on young children, and there doesn’t seem to be any theoretical basis for saying that kids under 2 can learn from media.

In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no screen time at all for babies under 2, out of concern that the increasing use of media might displace human interaction and impede the crucially important brain growth and development of a baby’s first two years. But it is a recommendation that parents routinely ignore. According to Kaiser, babies 6 months to 3 years old spend, on average, an hour a day watching TV and 47 minutes a day on other screen media, like videos, computers and video games.

Others have less restrained marketing: The “Brainy Baby – Left Brain” package has a cover featuring a cartoon baby with a thought balloon saying, “2 + 2 = 4” and promises that it will inspire logical thinking and “teach your child about language and logic, patterns and sequencing, analyzing details and more.”

“There’s nothing that shows it helps, but there’s nothing that shows it’s does harm, either,” said Marcia Grimsley, senior producer of “Brainy Baby” videos.

Incredulous italics mine, of course.

start contributing to the therapy fund right now

Nicolas Cage has named his newborn son Kal-El, which is also the birth name of the Man of Steel, Superman. Kal-el Coppola Cage was born on Monday, and both baby and mother, Cage’s wife, Alice Kim Cage, are said to be doing well.
Cage, a huge comic-book fan once sold his entire collection for $1.6 million, hence the chosen name for his child. Cage even adopted his name from the Marvel comic-book character Luke Cage (his realy name is Coppola, his Uncle being the famous helmer Francis Ford).
Cage will next be seen in the big-budget comic book adaptation of GHOST RIDER.

That $1.6 should just about cover the therapy bills for that poor kid.


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