To label technology products as cool, the users must consider a product attractive, original and edgy, suggest researchers.
That coolness can turn tepid if the product appears to be losing its edginess, they also found.
S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications, Penn State, and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, said that everyone said that they know what 'cool' is, but they wanted to get at the core of what 'cool' actually is, because there's a different connotation to what cool actually means in the tech world.
The researchers found that a cool technology trend may move like a wave. First, people in groups-subcultures-outside the mainstream begin to use a device. Once a device gains coolness in the subculture, the product becomes adopted by the mainstream.
However, any change to the product's subculture appeal, attractiveness or originality will affect the product's overall coolness, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. If a product becomes more widely adopted by the mainstream, for example, it becomes less cool.
The researchers asked 315 college students to give their opinions on 14 different products based on the elements of coolness taken from current literature. Previously, researchers believed that coolness was largely related to a device's design and originality.
A follow-up study with 835 participants from the US and South Korea narrowed the list to four elements of coolness-subculture appeal, attractiveness, usefulness and originality-that arose from the first study. In a third study of 317 participants, the researchers found that usefulness was integrated with the other factors and did not stand on its own as a distinguishing trait of coolness.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.