Nuisance Machines by Andrew Friend



Nuisance Machines by British design student Andrew Friend are devices that provoke a reaction from users by dripping dye on their clothes (below), interrupting their conversations or slapping them on their heels as they walk along a corridor (above).


The machines are all designed to be installed in the workplace, where they react to business data. Friend, who is a Design Interactions student at the Royal College of Art in London, hope the machines will trigger new social networks between people affected by them.


Photos are by Hitomi Kai Yoda. Here's some info from Friend:


Nuisance Machines

The nuisance machines are a series of speculative devices, aimed at forming interaction through the creation of surreptitious social networks.  The machines do not comply with traditional parameters of product design in so much as they are not intended to provide a solution to any specific problems, rather they propose questions and promote awareness regarding our physical surroundings, the integration of technology in this environment, and the position of the ‘designer’ in the formatting of experience.

The nuisance machines aim to trigger the formation of the incidental group, groups formed through the action or reaction of people to an unexpected instance or experience, characterized by the fact that its members may not have originally set out to become a part of the group, rather that they ‘fell’ into it, seemingly through proximity or chance.

The nuisance machines operate as speculative agents, triggering this incidence, scripting ‘coincidence’ (in the psyche of the protagonist), and ultimately formatting new, unintended social networks or groups. The machines explore three methods of group formation; the speculative, through the use of the Stainer, the physical; through the Staller, and non-physical; through the Whisperer.


The Stainer

The Stainer operates as a surreptitious marking tool. The machine is camouflaged so as not to draw unnecessary attention to itself, the Stainer disguised as a light fitting, integrated into the ceilings of its surrounds. The device is networked, releasing dye onto unsuspecting ‘victims’ below.  This marking may initially go unnoticed, though upon realization people who have been marked may be grouped by a shared speculation, or confusion as to what is going on around them, and why they may have been ‘chosen’ or picked out. In the office context the machine is placed in the ceilings, here in the transitory spaces between workstations; perhaps placed here by anxious managers, eager to reinforce the corporate structure, or conversely, those attempting to subvert or undermine this order.

Here the Stainer is fed data regarding company profits.  Every time that a significant amount of money is lost the machine becomes active.  The Stainer then waits…  Tripped by a motion sensor in the ceiling fitting the Stainer will release dye onto the next person to pass by.  Initially the passers by are grouped thorough a shared speculation, however as people’s awareness of the machine increases the Stainer may become more of a disruptive communication element, in this context marking poor performance, perhaps creating a scapegoat or indicator within the office.


The Whisperer

The Whisperer inhabits the space below tables, disguised as an auxiliary table leg.  During periods of silence in its surroundings the machine will quietly start to stream data, in this instance from informal online message boards such a Twitter feeds or Facebook profile updates of the surrounding employees, into it’s environment aurally.  The machine juxtaposes spacialities, blending the very formal physical space with  much more informal, fluid online spaces, in doing so exploring the boundary between physical and digital domains.

When first encountered the Whisperer may become a source of shared confusion, or even operate sub-consciously as a generator of gossip as personal data is unknowingly shared.  Over time the relationship with the machine may develop , and as people start to realize it’s presence their attitudes towards the machines may in turn shift, is the machine treated as an irritation?, or perhaps revered as a link comforting link to the world outside of it’s situation.


The Staller

The Staller operates at a physical level, acting as both aggressor and facilitator the machine physically engages with passers by, leading to potential interaction through simple simultaneous shared experience.  The  Staller operates at floor level, integrated into the carpets of its situation.  The machine occupies narrow transitory spaces such as corridors, doorways or stairs.  The machine functions in two parts, in the given context one side is monitoring the market value of the host company, whilst the other, that of rival companies.  When the sides are negatively imbalance the machine is activated.  The Staller is triggered when two people pass by either side concurrently, causing the staller to snap out and clap the protagonist around the heels.  By physically engaging with multiple people the machine leads to unexpected encounters as protagonists are unwittingly pushed toward, and perhaps into one another.

The three machines are all functioning at a discursive level, not aiming to answer, but rather to stimulate debate discussion, and thought, proposing questions.  Using a design language and methodology allows people to engage with and imagine the idea. The machines collectively begin to question the integration of technology into our surroundings and the potential for the surreptitious formation of new un-intentional social networks, bringing to the fore questions concerning who may be controlling these networks, is it the anxious manager, the individual, corporation, government, or even totalitarian ‘designer’?  To what ends are these groups operating, and how much of the landscape we are operating within is already surreptiously mediated for us?

Posted on Friday October 9th 2009 at 2:24 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Over explained, but cool!! I think that the lifespan of these devices would very short!!

  • “If mechanical machines behaved like computers.”

  • Luis Dias

    Ridiculous beyond belief.

  • I really wanna study that course. Some interesting works coming from it.

  • So quirky, I’d want to set them up all over our office and watch as chaos ensues, with cat fights breaking out every few minutes.

  • Dennis

    Well… it’s about time these devices were invented! I don’t know how we’ve survived without them until now… Someone: please hire Andrew and keep him busy. Soon.

  • Gollumpus

    Questions/discussion would center around:

    1.) Can I get this “stain” out of my clothes?

    2.) Where did that strange noise come from? It completely blew my train of thought…

    3.) Who put those damn things on the floor? It caused me to check my step and I stubbed my toe.

    And from the manager of the office: “How is this benefiting staff productivity? I got one guy at the dry cleaners, another guy can’t concentrate because of strange noises and a third member has gone home with a sore toe.”


  • Superbe comme invention!

  • Nakul

    Ha ha….very neat…very interesting…

  • MichaelV

    The machines collectively begin to question the integration of technology into our surroundings and the potential for….shut the fuck up

  • sk

    quirky and hilarious. fun project. i like it

  • JJF

    This is not design, this is art.

    Gollumpus brings valid questions to the table, why make products/experiences that interfere and annoy?

  • AAB

    Interesting but I can see me smashing the s*** out of these little buggers with a good ol’ hammer.

  • We already employ nuisance devices at our place of work.

    A pet parrot serves as both “stainer” and “whisperer”, and our “stallers” are strategically positioned rosemary, lavender and rose-scented geranium.

    Admittedly the parrot can be more annoying than any machine imaginable, as he doesn’t come with a volume knob or an off switch.

  • ankit

    I do sincerely believe there are more important issues at hand

  • yrag

    EXCELLENT! That JUST what we need— more annoyances in our life.

    What prepared him to be this type of design student, torturing small animals when he was a kid?

  • GTi

    Useless fun. Now, 16,000 children are die every day from hunger. Any creative solutions anyone?

  • Ridleyohana

    I really see these as a part of a research project to observe group behavior following specific direction to a machine. But I can’t see a real boss putting them in the work place because of the potential for bad outcome: a) someone tripped, fell, broke an ankle; b) work action (strike) because employee believe they are being abused; after “hearing voices” someone comes to work with a gun or commits suicide. Any work place with more than 20 people will have at least one person who will over react.

  • LOW

    If that thing stained my shirt… I’d go berserk… and turn into a non-socially-acceptable human being…

  • wtf