What Making Friends with a Duck Can Teach Us About Urban Design

Milan Metthey spent months trying to hang out with a duck. What he learned might help us design cities that function well for multiple species.


Over at We Make Money Not Art, Regine Debatty introduces us to Milan Metthey, a Design Interactions student at the Royal College of Art, London, who has spent the past couple of months trying to make friends with a duck.

For his first attempt (documented in the video above), Metthey scanned his face into 3D modeling software and melded it with the head of a duck, "in order to get a new hybrid duck with my own facial characteristics." He then put that new and, frankly, quite scary-looking head onto a remote-controlled duck, and sent his avian alter ego out onto the pond to make friends. Unsurprisingly, the other, "real" ducks want nothing to do with him.


Next, Metthey dressed up as a male Mallard duck, and filmed himself shuffling around in yellow leggings with a duck call in his mouth. But when he showed the resulting video to a lady duck, she refused to look him at all. Perhaps this is how ducks flirt, by playing hard to get, but the effect is disheartening.


Finally, Metthey realizes that if his appearance and moves won't win a lady duck's attention, he can always turn to bribes. He stages a one-on-one dinner with a friendly female, during which he snacks on sweetcorn while she gracefully nibbles at similar-looking yellow pellets of duck food. As Metthey explains to Debatty, dinner is definitely the most effective way to make friends with a duck, because "there was a magic element to trigger an interaction: food"

Aside from the inadvertent demonstration of the power of a shared meal to bring diverse groups together, and their whimsical charm, Metthey's experiments do serve an interesting purpose. His research is driven by the question of "how technology can help reduce the gap between species," particularly in the case of an animal—the Mallard duck—that is perceived as wild, and yet lives alongside us in our cities (his next project attempts to "enhance and facilitate cohabitation" with urban foxes).

As cities continue to grow, spreading outward across the landscape and into each other, it's worth thinking about how experiments like Metthey's might help us design urban ecologies that function equally well for all their animal inhabitants—as well as how technology could enhance our increasingly tenuous connection to the natural environment. The experience has certainly changed Metthey's relationship with ducks, as he explains to Debatty:

You inevitably do get closer to the animal when you design for it. Spending so much time with the duck in mind does have a big impact. However I do force myself to keep the relationship I have with them strictly professional. I don't want my feelings interfering with the project. I still eat duck from time to time even though now I take a different look at my plate.


Visit We Make Money Not Art to read Debatty's full interview with Metthey.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.