Steve Battle

Dept. Computer Science and Creative Technologies | University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Ontological design is a way of defining, or constructing, a world of possibilities through design practice. Robotics is often taught in a very rationalistic and didactic fashion, focusing on the kinematics of robot motion. Ontological design is fundamentally enactive, allowing cognition to arise through a dynamic interaction between an individual and their environment. With the ontological design of robots, the focus is on learning robotic design through practice and serendipity. This paper reports on the practice of running hands-on robot workshops for children and adults, the philosophical background to this, and future direction using tangible programming tools. We learn about robots controlled, not through conventional programming, but using simple neural circuits. The inspiration for this is Braitenberg’s Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology (1984), which describes a cybernetic approach to modelling brain function. To realise learning as a fully shared experience, the ‘coding’ of the robot should be experienced as a tangible activity. We explore a sequence of robot designs that can be built using tools for augmented reality and consider the possibilities for ontological learning at each stage.

KEYWORDS: ontological design, robotics, AI, artificial intelligence

Citation Data

Author(s): Steve Battle
Year: 2022
Title: Ontological Design for Robotics
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 147
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 21 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights