Influencing Flow


Today I tried a little excercise on the lunch queue at Konstfack. I was interested in seeing how queues would form around obstacles, and how people would behave towards instructions.

I placed 3 signs (the ones normally used inside bulidings to alert people to dangers such as slippery floors) in the path the queue usually forms. Two had instructions on them in the form of a direction and one was blank. #3 Sign was placed directly in front of the tray pick-up point directing people in the opposite way, #2 near the menu board where most people stop for a moment to decide what they will order and #1 futher away where the queue normally forms to. I was particularily interested in how people would deal with #3, as it directly obstructed where people picked up their tray.


As it happens, people were a bit confused by the signs. Rightly so perhaps as they made no sense. Most people didn’t pay much attention to #2 until they walked past it and reached #3. They looked to be trying to work out what these signs were trying to tell them. #3 did obstruct people, and there was alot of leaning over the sign and short discussions over why it was there. But no queuer moved the sign. Several individuals, when in groups of 3 or more, snuck in-between the small gap between the sign and the tray counter to get to the tray pick-up.

The exercise didn’t last long however, and I never got to see how #1 would effect the longer queue. All through the experiment the signs were being observed by the dinner staff and finally a dinner lady came along and removed them. When I explained I was doing a project and that it had to do with queues, she refused to talk to me and walked off in the opposite direction.


Interestingly enough, this experiment which focused on seeing how instructors could effect the shape of a queue, ended up revealing more about the dinner staff and it’s system. They obviously did not want something intervening with the system of the queue, as that could potentially make their jobs more difficult. What it brought to light is here you have an art and design school which is about experimenting, yet inside this school is a business being run that needs to earn money and has strict systems it doesn’t want being disrupted.

As this is supposed to be about play and fun as well, I need to think more about how to promt play into a system through error. This exercise lacked that and was very dry. But it’s a starting point.