Inspired by Heinz von Foerster’s notions of observing systems as a merging of second-order and first-order understanding, we explore the multiple senses of observing frames. We draw organically from ethnographic observations of visitors in a regional science center to reconceptualize processes of meaning construction in designed learning environments more generally. Von Foerster’s ethical and aesthetic imperatives are used to develop an understanding of science learning as an emergent co-improvisation between designers, researchers, interactors and visitors. Links are drawn with Luhmann’s paradoxy of observing systems, while implications for design processes are considered.
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