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Science Talk | Seeking Serendipity

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Science Talk | Seeking serendipity in our work and everyday lives
Wednesday 18 July
Eastside Projects

Dr. Stephann Makri from University College London Interaction Centre and Dr. Debbie Maxwell from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee introduce an event that aims to provide you with an understanding of the slippery, subjective phenomenon of serendipity and its importance in your work and everyday life

Serendipity is an important influence on our lives, but we often don’t stop to think about it. It is a phenomenon where unexpected circumstances and an ‘aha’ moment of insight result in a valuable outcome. Perhaps serendipity has played a role in how you met your partner or in your career progression? Or perhaps it plays a more subtle, but more regular influence in your approach to life or your creative practice?

The event will begin with a 40 minute talk introducing the 3 important elements of serendipity (unexpected circumstances, an insightful connection and a valuable outcome), illustrated by examples from Makri and Maxwell’s empirical research in the area and a discussion about what it means to design physical and digital spaces that create opportunities for serendipity to occur.

After the talk, those who want to engage directly with our serendipity research are invited to take part in a hands-on activity where the group will tell each other their own ‘serendipity stories’ (i.e. stories based on our own memorable examples of serendipity) and reflecting on whether and how they involve the important components of unexpectedness, insight and value. This reflection aims to help better understand the role of serendipity in your creative practice and its importance to your everyday life. For the hands on session, all you need to bring with you is a mind that is open to serendipity and thoughts of a memorable example of serendipity in your work or everyday life that you’d like to share. You are also welcome (but by no means obliged) to bring a ‘prop’ to help you tell your ‘serendipity story’ (e.g. an image or physical object associated with it).

Dr. Stephann Makri from University College London Interaction Centre is conducting research as part of a on a £1.87m UK Research Council funded project (SerenA: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas) which aims to gain a detailed understanding of the phenomenon of serendipity and to examine how we can use this understanding to design interactive systems that help users to have experiences that they might perceive to be serendipitous. His work involves understanding the nature and process of serendipity and how this understanding can inform the design of interactive systems.

Debbie Maxwell is currently part of the design team on the RCUK funded SerenA project (SerenA: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas), and is based in Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Debbie is interested in the ways people interact with and reshape technology, and is investigating the ways in which interface design and data visualisation can impact users’ perceptions of quality, relevance and sense of engagement with content. Her research background includes work with rural communities and storytellers, where digital technology is considered, but not viewed as a panacea.