CHI+MED’s Sarah Wiseman visited the Dublin Science Gallery earlier in March 2014, to see the Fail Better exhibition that’s on until the end of April. She’s written up her thoughts below and you can also follow her on @oopsohno on Twitter. Thanks Sarah 🙂
Fail Better – Dublin Science Gallery
You probably know by now that we here at CHI+MED are very interested in understanding human error. What causes it, and how do we prevent it? We aren’t the only ones interested in error: this weekend I got the opportunity to visit the Dublin Science Gallery to see their exhibit Fail Better.
Fail Better aims to highlight the importance of failing and learning from it by showcasing an array of stories about failure. A story that I found particularly interesting (not least because of its relation to the CHI+MED project) was that of the NeoNurture. This is an award winning incubator for newborn babies, built to run in areas with poor access to resources. The incubator was created in such a way that it could easily be maintained using car parts, for instance the heating elements came from car headlights. Despite its potential, the incubator never took off, as the medical staff didn’t think it looked medical enough. They would rather have no equipment than something that didn’t look right.
This story of failure is just one of many listed in the exhibit. Others include devices designed to fail, catastrophic errors in scientific projects, and devices that were doomed from the outset (see the centrifugal force childbirth chair, which is as bad as it sounds ). But all have the same message: from failure can come future success; learning from errors in the past can help make our next attempt better.
Those of you who are familiar with some of the CHI+MED work will realise that this has a lot in common with our “error diary” project. Errordiary aims to collect instances of every day error in order to understand what errors we’re making, and help people to talk about error in a more accepting way, a comparable aim to that of the Fail Better exhibit.
This was not the only similarity however, when I got upstairs in the exhibit, I noticed there was a real life error diary wall! Visitors was asked to reminisce about the last time they had failed at something and write it down to be displayed on the gallery wall. As with Errordiary, this made for interesting, funny and sad reading all at once.
I added one of my own recent embarrassing ones.
The exhibit was very engaging: the stories were all very interesting, and the visual displays complemented the case studies. I found the exhibit to be inspiring. It would have been interesting to see what the exhibit could have done in terms of educational materials and helping visitors think about how to process what they’d seen after they’d left the gallery, but this is a minor issue. The aim of the exhibit overall is to encourage discussion about failure, and the carefully chosen case studies definitely do that.
I would recommend a visit to the exhibit if you can, which unfortunately closes at the end of April. If you can’t then do have a read of the stories on the website, and learn to fail better.
CHI+MEDics tweeting about the exhibit. All tweets mentioning #failbetter are printed at the exhibit.