The idea of error-friendliness takes in the ideas of production of errors, tolerance of errors, and the «friendly» cooperation between these two aspects for the exploration of new opportunities.
- Christine von Weizsäcker

So this is brilliant. The notion that a system needs errors in order to evolve. It’s a balance between the amount of errors, and the power of a system to deal with these errors that allows that system to be flexible in exploring other options, and thus makes that system better set to evolve. Sort of brings in my original notion of resilience – the ability to adjust to severe change – in relation to error. It very much backs up my thesis hypothesis that experiencing errors can help teach a person to become more flexible and resilient.

I don’t want to get too broad, as my goal now is to narrow down, but this does bring up the topic of evolution and the role that error plays in the process. There’s a great case from the New Scientist on the relevance of biological error in evolution. A genetic mutation protected the Fore, a cannibalistic tribe from Papa New Guinea, against kuru – a brain disease passed on by eating human brains.

Making me want to get the word zombie somewhere in my thesis title.

Defining error


So having some good debates at the moment around my thesis – seems like my prototypes are turning up the heat on the topic of what is an error?.

Actually this a very good question and something I need to define. So far these mini-projects have been ways to investigate different definitions of error. So what have I defined as error?

  1. The unexpected.
  2. Wandering off track.
  3. Misbehaving.
  4. Wrong and Right.

There’s a big focus on play in my thesis, so I wanted to create playful interventions that explored these definitions and place them in the urban environment to test how people respond. Each prototype could not evaluate if the error could change a persons behaviour over time, as they were a one-off thing. I guess the projects more asked is this an error?. I now need to narrow down my definition of error in order to answer my overarching thesis question: Can an experience of error excite positive change and learning? Can an experience of error favour fustration and provoke play?

So to redefine – for something to be an error it must:

  1. be unintentional.
  2. break a defined code.

The experience of error in these projects has been on two levels

  1. The errors I, the designer, experience in my process, design and hypothesis.
  2. The experience that an error has occurred for others.

Somethings missing! A third, vital level – The experience by someone else that they have committed an error.

This is the most difficult to design. For I can only design the conditions for an error to occur, and not force an error, for then it is intentional and thus not an error. Or alternatively I can find an error that people already commit, and see how I can use that error in a playful way to design with the error rather than against it. (The latter I favour as an approach.)

Then of course I need to test this experience over time to see if it changes the behaviour of the person and/or brings about a learning experience. Maybe I’ll need various tests – a control experience, then various other experiences where the variables are slightly changed to see which one is more effective.

Why we walk in circles when lost

“Small random errors in the various sensory signals that provide information about walking direction add up over time, making what a person perceives to be straight ahead drift away from the true straight ahead direction.”

from The Times Online
See also Science News

Jack Schulze

“Some people (they are wrong) say design is about solving problems. Obviously designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists.

Design is about cultural invention.

There are some people who want to reduce the domain of design to listable, knowable stuff, so it’s easy to talk about. Design is a glamorous, glittering world and this means they can engage without having to actually risk themselves on the outcome of their work. This is damaging. It turns design into something terrified of invention.

Design is about risk. We all fear authentic public response to our work, but we have to be brave enough to overcome.”

Perfect. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
From Six Questions from Kicker: Jack Schulze

Explaining the Process


Tried to explain my process to Jaeuk yesterday. A prize to anyone who can understand the diagram.

Into, Through, For

  1. Research into design = historical & aesthetical study of design
  2. Research through design = project based research
  3. Research for design = systems that display results of research and prove it’s worth

2. Approach I’m taking
3. Approach I will try and take for degree show


Create interventions that spark incidental play in the urban realm; interventions will are not separate elements, but that are built into existing furniture and architectural elements in the city in order to prompt playful behaviour.


“A measure of resilience is the magnitude of disturbance that can be experienced without the system flipping into another state or stability domain.”
- Holling, C. S. and Gunderson, L. H. (Eds.) (2002) Panarchy. Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Island Press. Washington. p50

Hot Play

Play+Risk=Hot Play
Through playful exploration, we put ourselves at more risk from our environment, and learn more about ourselves and our surroundings.

Error of Affordance

An error of affordance (Don Norman’s Glass Door) can lead to a piece of art that stimulates conversation. An error of affordance that can lead to new knowledge, when rewarded through play.