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

London Shibuya Crossing

Photo via The Guardian
Photo by Ookseer

London has launched their new crossing at Oxford Circusm based on the Shibuya ‘desire path’ model in Tokyo. It’s a brilliant piece of design thats has actual human behaviour at it’s heart, rather than a preconceived idea or persuasive approach. Basically this means that all those times you walked diagonally across a crossing, you can now do it in an environment specifically designed for this.

Click here for slideshow of Shibuya Crossing

Urban Floorways


Getting Lost by looking down; taking a photo every 100 steps – flickr set

Narrative Paths


Silliness used as a teaching method

Archive Magazine, September 26, 1983 Vol. 20 No. 13

From the beginning of 1971, John Cleese’s silly walks were used, amongst other sketches, in business training movies. The movies were used by the likes of IBM, Gulf Oil and Hilton Hotels amongst others.

“If the audience is laughing at someone doing it wrong, then the next time they start doing it wrong themselves, that starts a little bell ringing in the back of their minds.”
- John Cleese, Archive Magazine, 1983

A grand example of two wrongs making a right, and error and humour being used as a teaching tool.

Fox Walking

The Tracker Magazine, vol. 4, no. 1, 1985

“Our walk is devastating, not natural. Little babies have shoes like cement boots. Our feet are ruined from the first step we take in shoes.”
- Tom Brown, Jr


Designing the Walk

silly walks

A very important inspiration for my thesis project is John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walks. He takes the serious context of the business man in suit, bowler hat and briefcase, and hacks our expectations of how he should behave. In designing a new walk he creates several things:

  1. 1. A performance that alters a passerby’s daily experience and a system of humour.
  2. 2. A system of thought that starts with an error of expectation >> conflict >> surprise >> makes us laugh >> stored in memory >> alters perception. And the next time we look at a business man our memory kicks in and we get a smile from our imagination.