21 September 2020 — 7 February 2021

Stigmergy: Learning from Ants

Master students at the Design Academy Eindhoven present their research into the theme ‘stigmergy’. How can designers utilize this complex concept?

The concept stigmergy originates in the study of biology. Many kinds of insects make use of it: through simple signals, ants and bees manage to create surprisingly complex structures. You also see it on the web, for example in open source software. Complicated systems like the Firefox web browser and the Linus operating system have been created without any central direction and without direct communication between its creators. Academic study into the principle of stigmergy is still in its infancy. It is often hard to comprehend how plain and simple elements without any central coordination can achieve a complex result. This apparent contradiction is exactly what makes it an interesting subject for designers.

Students in the Master programs Social Design, Contextual Design, Information Design and The Critical Inquiry Lab at Design Academy Eindhoven have focused on the subject of stigmergy for a trimester. Twelve of them studied how this self-organizing system can be utilized as a design tool. They present the outcomes of their research Design Museum Den Bosch. The experiments they conducted introduce visitors to the use of stigmergy in design.

The presentation is on show from September 26 until October 18 in the Collab space on the second floor of the museum.

Image: the project On Hold by Seung Hwan Ji, Peteris Zilbers, Philipp Doringer and Isa Bonino