When I submitted my project proposal for my class this quarter, I was afraid of two things: 1) that the proposal would not get approved, and 2) that if approved, since the professor was in charge of assigning projects to the groups, my group wouldn’t get to work on my project. 2/3 of the proposals were not approved, and some groups did in fact end up with projects not proposed by any of their members. But my group ended up with Refrigerator Fairy, so I guess I got lucky there.
But when we started interviewing people and discussing among ourselves, it became clear that the Refrigerator Fairy concept was fundamentally flawed.
The idea of Cirno (or another famous character) being a mascot that would guide and reward you was not received well by the people we interviewed or by the other members of the group. They likened it to the talking paper clip that appeared in older versions of Microsoft Office – an annoyance that people turned off at first opportunity.
Admittedly, I, and possibly half of my blog’s readers, would let the Microsoft Office assistant stay if it had Cirno’s likeness and gave us a new comic to read whenever we completed a document. But this hinges greatly on us liking Cirno, and none of the people in our study even knew who Cirno was, much less why she was so awesome. Supporting enough characters to appeal to a wide section of users was not viable, and the very idea of altering your behavior in order to be rewarded by a fictional character is foreign and even distasteful to people who aren’t comic-reading, dating-sim-playing fanboys like us.
Also, the name “Refrigerator Fairy” did not go over well at all. One of my groupmates said he wouldn’t buy our product if it had “fairy” in the name, and one of the people we interviewed said he preferred a character that represented him rather than some premade character.
The other important thing we realized from our interviews was that people cook for other people. One of my group members referred to his wife as a “slave of the kitchen”, who didn’t want to cook but had to, in order to feed her children. One of our interviewees cooked regularly but was spontaneous in her choice of food. She only brought out the big guns – searching for creative recipes, planning ahead, and spending longer than usual in the kitchen – for the times she was having guests.
Another of our interviewees complained how much harder it was to cook now that he and his wife had gotten divorced – cooking for one person meant that you had to eat the same thing several days in a row. Also, buying enough ingredients to, say, make an apple pie only for yourself, usually meant buying more raw materials than you needed and not knowing how to use them up. He also said that he wanted to talk to people about ingredients and recipes, and usually those people were nowhere to be found.
Yet another interviewee came from a family of professional cooks – her mother and brother were both chefs, and she cooked to show that she was “worthy to be a member of the family”. She regularly asked her mother and brother for advice when cooking, and would try new and exciting things in order to impress them.
Perhaps the most impressive is what happened after the interviews: myself and a member of our group decided to try out cooking for ourselves, inspired by watching our interviewees shop and cook. I tried to figure out a use for some spice and fried rice seasoning packets my roommate left in my house when she moved out over a year ago. And my classmate tried to make his own grilled sandwich instead of buying one at the store.
It’s commonly known that cooking brings people together, but what is not immediately obvious is that when you bring people together, cooking happens. And that’s why Refrigerator Fairy evolved into a community networking application.
Introducing Kitchen Alliance. Now with fewer Toho references.