Friday Feedback Favourites

Each Friday, I share a collection of stories, research, or other news and notes related to the role of feedback in complex systems that catch my attention during the previous week. Most of these I share on twitter when I first read about them; if you have a twitter account, feel free to follow me. If you’re not on twitter, I hope that you enjoy this selection of my favourites; links are provided so you can explore each one fully.

Here are this week’s favourites:

  • Do you ride a bike in Vancouver? Check out this site: Vancouver Bike Watch  – making Vancouver streets safer for non-motorists. An interactive map of the city tags locations of recent thefts, collisions, bike shops and more. Even better, you’re encouraged to contribute by submitting a report either through the website, email, or twitter. Follow on twitter at @vanbikewatch
  • How should we should frame health messages to best promote health? This is another example of well-intentioned feedback that leads to the opposite of the desired effect: Do “No Smoking” signs encourage smoking? (from the Daily Mail). The study, conducted by Brian Earp of Oxford University found that exposure to photos containing no-smoking signs led to an increase in the desire to smoke. The results suggest that health messages should focus on what to do, instead of what not to do. (Study presented at the 2011 British Psychological Society Annual Conference: “Non-Conscious Perception of No-Smoking Signs Induces Automatic Reach for Cigarettes: An Ironic Behavioral Effect of Negation Priming”.)
  • How often do you wash your hands? Research suggests that hand washing compliance among health care workers in Intensive Care Units is only 25% and is a risk factor for hospital acquired infections among patients. Doctors, nurses, and other care workers know very well the need for frequent hygiene, but strategies that promote hand-washing struggle to improve the situation. A new technology that creates new feedback loops may help. Hospital personnel wear alcohol detectors that sense each time hands are cleaned using alcohol-based cleansers. This handwashing behaviour tracked so individuals can improve their own behaviour.  Additionally, if a health care practitioner enters a pre-set perimeter around a patient, another sensor will detect if the caregiver washed their hands recently.  If there is no evidence of recent hand washing activity, the sensor emits a reminder sound.

Image from Flickr by ell brown.

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