David Finnigan Playing the System

A guest blog from… Coney Associate David Finnigan.

This is David Finnigan. I’m a writer, science-theatre artist and associate of Coney.

I’ve been working with Coney since 2011, first as a producer, then as a collaborator and associate artist.

My background is in making participatory theatre around science topics, particularly sciences such as Game Theory, Network Theory and Complex Systems. As a member of science-theatre ensemble Boho, I produce work in collaboration with research scientists, from institutions such as University College London, the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Australia’s CSIRO.


From Boho’s Best Festival Ever; a game about tracking journeys through a music festival. We call this the String Game – partly it’s about experiencing a system from a particular user’s point of view, and partly it’s about how our initial decisions constrain our later choices. Also, a great game to see how many festival-goers wind up in the river while on the way to their concert…

For the last few years, a lot of my work has centred around concepts from Systems Science.

Why Systems?
Systems Science is a way of looking at the world that focuses on the big picture. It’s not a set of facts, but a perspective – a way of looking at the world that focuses on the connections and relationships between things, rather than just things in isolation.

Systems Thinking is really a toolkit of ideas, or ‘cognitive skills’ that help us get to grips with the complexity of the world around us. These skills include things like: looking at a system from different angles, stepping back to get a bigger view, thinking about unintended consequences of your actions, and recognising how a system’s structure affects its behaviour. Simple in theory, but often difficult to apply in practice.

In 2017, I’ll be coming to the UK to develop a new line of practice for Coney around systems.

Part of this will be focused on systems thinking for young people. We’ll be creating a systems gaming module to take into an educational setting, for both primary and secondary students.

Another part of this practice will be intended for businesses, to help organisations and companies in the private sector grapple with complexity in their environments.

I’ll be in London from April next year, beginning to build this line of work. If you’re curious and you’d like to chat about any of this, please get in touch!

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