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.