You eat like a pig.

Pigs acquire, through learning and evolution, expectations of their environment. Frustration of expectations results in motivation to change these conditions and is therefore adaptive. Initially, frustration should produce problem solving behaviour. If these responses are unsuccessful, other behaviours, reflecting general frustration should be elicited. Our purpose was to study both types of responses to frustration in grower pigs.

So these scientists took 18 pigs, and fasted them for 1, 2 or 3 hours every morning. On Monday and Tuesday the pigs got full feeders BUT on Wednesday and Friday they got 2 types of feeders – lidded with the lid bolted down (L) and un-lidded that was empty (O). Results showed that pigs in pairs showed an increase in sitting and playing and single pigs started to ignore the L-feeders after 2 hours while increasingly looked into the O-feeders.

from “Frustration of goal-directed behaviour in swine”, N.Lewis in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 64, Issue 1, p 19-29


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.

Blink and you’ll miss it.

The two videos above demonstrate Change Blindness – in basic terms when you fail to spot a change in your environment. While the Derren Brown video shows how age and colour are all victums of change blindness, the second video explains much better the conditions that lead up to change blindness.

When we blink, we create our own grey flicker effect. Almost as if we’re naturally designed to miss things. Reminds me of the statement by Joe Hallihan that “we are hardwired to make mistakes“; that our brain cannot simply take in all the information around us, so it filters out the unimportant and focuses on the important. In web design techniques such as the yellow fade and a javascript blink are used to notify people of changes in the online environment. How does the built environment notify us of changes? Normally handwritten notes to notify people of change of address of a building. Notification boards, newspapers

I guess this is more about an experience of error through change

Research Recap #2


View the movie

We want the finest wines available to humanity.


According to AlphaGalileo, the background lighting provided in a room has an influence on how we taste wine. This is the result of a survey conducted by researchers at the Institute of Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, Germany. It was found that the same wine was rated higher when exposed to red or blue ambient light rather than green or white light.

The survey showed, among other things, that the test wine was perceived as being nearly 1.5 times sweeter in red light than in white or green light. Its fruitiness was also most highly rated in red light. Riesling combined with green light was not appreciated. Accordingly, one conclusion of the study is that the color of ambient lighting can influence how wine tastes, even when there is no direct effect on the color of the drink.

This opens up an interesting possibility; you could perhaps make use of only one type of wine to support the different courses of a dinner. Just modify the lighting conditions. The wine steward, or sommelier, will turn into ‘Light DJ’.

via The Examiner

The ‘Doll House’ Effect


Since 1976, Alton De Long, prof. of architecture at University of Tennessee, has been investigating the relations between perception of time and space. He created dolls houses at four different scales: 1/24, 1/12, 1/6, and full scale and asked subjects to imagine themselves as a person in the dollhouse and build a narrative behind what they were doing. He asked the subjects to signal when 30 minutes had passed.

De Long found that with a 1:12 scale, the experience of 30 minutes takes only 2.5 minutes in ‘real time’. Basically the brain speeds up in direct proportion to environmental scale. Beyond this ratio, the brain adjusts and this rule doesn’t correlate.

So in a science fiction movie this would mean that future workers stare at a miniature model of their office and reduce their 8 hour working days to 40 minutes, allowing much more time to go to fly their miniature hovercraft to the mini-pub and get drunk on one miniature pint. Excellent!

The Dance of Life, Edward T. Hall (Anchor Books Editions, 1984) p150

Performative Hacking Google Street View

Screen shot 2010-01-15 at 14.07.20

Two artists, Ben Kinsley and Robin Hewlett have taken flash mobs to the next level. They staged collective performances with the local community just as the google street car was driving through Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh. Viking fights, parades, love doctors and fleeing damsels in distress are now all archived on google maps for all to see. My favourite piece, for sheer bizarreness, is probably the giant chicken. The performance has a conceptual grounding in the current tension and fear about digital surveillance. It links quite nicely with Google’s current situation with China.

I think the artists could have pushed the idea a bit more. Performances could have been a bit more subtle, perhaps disguised as bizarre situations in a real context. The parade, for example, is rather what you would expect. If it was me, I’d like to stage lots of performances of people doing bizarre things they shouldn’t.. here’s the error thing coming back again.. if at the very least to add more variety to the peeing photo’s on google street view. More like this and this.

The piece is being shown at Manipulating Reality until January 17 at CCCS-Strozzina in Florence


5th Germiest tourist attraction



The Gum Wall in Seattle is a monument to human behaviour.

The wall is outside a theatre and this all began in 1993 when patrons would stick gum to the wall while waiting for a performance. Theater company workers said began to scrape the gum routinely, but eventually gave up. Slowly the gum amassed.

The Broken Escalator Phenomenon

We’ve all experienced it. The weird way our brain always assumes an escalator is moving, even when it’s stationary. Well trust it to science to investigate the reasons and psychology behind it:

“We investigated the physiological basis of the ‘broken escalator phenomenon’, namely the sensation that when walking onto an escalator which is stationary one experiences an odd sensation of imbalance, despite full awareness that the escalator is not going to move…The findings represent a motor aftereffect of walking onto a moving platform that occurs despite full knowledge of the changing context. As such, it demonstrates dissociation between the declarative and procedural systems in the CNS. Since gait velocity was raised before foot-sled contact, the findings are at least partly explained by open-loop, predictive behaviour. A cautious strategy of limb stiffness was not responsible for the aftereffect, as revealed by no increase in muscle cocontraction.”

from The broken escalator phenomenon. Aftereffect of walking onto a moving platform.

Personally, I rather like the feeling. However I think my quest to always “ride” a broken escalators has disappointingly educated my brain to understand that an escalator can have two states: moving and stationary.