[ISEA2011] Panel: Mel Woods (moderator) – Serendipity is Dead…. Long Live Serendipity

Panel Statement

Chair Per­son: Mel Woods
Pre­sen­ters: Geraint Wig­gins, Aleks Kro­to­ski & Clive Gill­man

Many sci­en­tific and artis­tic in­no­va­tions have been at­trib­uted to serendip­ity, the fac­ulty of mak­ing and recog­nis­ing for­tu­nate and un­ex­pected dis­cov­er­ies by ac­ci­dent. The phe­nom­e­non is widely re­garded across dis­ci­plines as a valu­able way of spark­ing re­search ideas and trig­ger­ing new con­nec­tions. How­ever, while there is a wide­spread un­der­stand­ing that serendip­ity is a major con­trib­u­tor to in­no­va­tion, there is dis­agree­ment as to whether dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies pro­mote or sti­fle serendip­ity. The World­wide Web has al­lowed us to make many pos­i­tive changes in our so­ci­ety and en­vi­ron­ment, for ex­am­ple through so­cial net­work­ing and e-pub­lish­ing, but it also pre­sents prob­lems, by its very na­ture. Re­cently serendip­ity, and the role that the world­wide web and so­cial net­works now play in search query for in­for­ma­tion seek­ing, has re­ceived at­ten­tion from li­brary and in­for­ma­tion sci­ence, psy­chol­ogy, and com­puter sci­ence, art and de­sign. This re­newed in­ter­est and di­a­logue across art and sci­ence seeks to un­der­stand, sup­port and fa­cil­i­tate serendip­ity across dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments. The panel will ex­plore the no­tion of serendip­ity, from the un­der­stand­ing of its role in art and sci­ence in dig­i­tal do­mains. The de­bate will ex­plore of the so­cial and in­tel­lec­tual na­ture of serendip­i­tous in­ter­ac­tion, with peo­ple and com­put­ers; new de­vel­op­ments in prod­ucts, tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices such as those that are re­defin­ing lit­er­acy and re­shap­ing how we dis­cover, record and in­no­vate; the use and en­hance­ment of Se­man­tic Web tech­nol­ogy; and the role of new media and dig­i­tal arts in trans­form­ing and pre­sent­ing in­for­ma­tion and ideas.

  • Mel Woods is Pro­gramme Di­rec­tor of Post­grad­u­ate Stud­ies in Art and Media at DJCAD, Uni­ver­sity of Dundee. Her re­search in Art and De­sign has de­vel­oped in­ter­ac­tion and in­ter­faces, which op­er­ate be­tween phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal spaces; these have been ex­hib­ited and pub­lished in­ter­na­tion­ally. She is an ex­po­nent of in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary re­search and par­tic­u­larly the over­lap in art, hu­man­i­ties and com­put­ing. Mel is cur­rently Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor for re­seach pro­ject ‘Ser­enA – Chance En­coun­ters in the Space of Ideas’ which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Serendip­ity and its role in in­for­ma­tion en­counter and dis­cov­ery in phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments. Re­cent works in­clude Sonic Phonic an in­ter­ac­tive pro­to­type to in­ves­ti­gate the im­pact of the dig­i­tal fu­sion of image and sound through the al­pha­bet and a major com­mis­sion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with artist Lei Cox for ‘The Dark Room’. Mel is a found­ing mem­ber of Girl Geeks Scot­land and has worked with NESTA and Cul­tural En­ter­prise Of­fice as a men­tor for en­tre­pre­neurs in the cre­ative in­dus­tries to guide in­no­v­a­tive cre­ative pro­jects to mar­ket. She has led re­search pro­jects funded by RCUK, NESTA, Cul­tural En­ter­prise, Scot­tish Arts Coun­cil, His­toric Scot­land, HiArts and Forestry Com­mis­sion.
  • Aleks Kro­to­ski is an aca­d­e­mic and jour­nal­ist who writes about and stud­ies tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­ac­tiv­ity. Her PhD the­sis in So­cial Psy­chol­ogy (Uni­ver­sity of Sur­rey, 2009) ex­am­ined how in­for­ma­tion spreads around the so­cial net­works of the World Wide Web. She is a Re­search As­so­ci­ate at the Ox­ford In­ter­net In­sti­tute and the Re­searcher-in-Res­i­dence for the British Li­brary’s Grow­ing Knowl­edge ex­hi­bi­tion. She com­pleted the 4-part, prime time BBC 2 se­ries Vir­tual Rev­o­lu­tion in early 2010, about the so­cial his­tory of the World Wide Web. She blogged for the pro­ject out­lin­ing her man­i­festos about the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of the 20 years of the Web. Aleks writes for The Guardian and Ob­server news­pa­pers, and hosts Tech Weekly, their tech­nol­ogy pod­cast. Her writ­ing also ap­pears in Na­ture, BBC Tech­nol­ogy, New States­man, MIT Tech­nol­ogy Re­view and The Tele­graph. Fi­nally, she’s the New Media Sec­tor Cham­pion for UKTI, the gov­ern­ment de­part­ment that pro­motes British busi­nesses around the world.
  • Clive Gill­man is an artist and since 1995 has been the Di­rec­tor of Dundee Con­tem­po­rary Arts, Scot­land’s largest arts and media cen­tre. He has a back­ground work­ing with me­dia-based arts, both as an artist and also through work­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of the cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture in the UK. He has shown works in­ter­na­tion­ally and de­vel­oped a num­ber of in­ter­net-based pub­lic art pro­jects in­clud­ing ‘Met­ro­scopes’, a per­ma­nent pub­lic work in the cen­tre of Liv­er­pool. Clive has held roles in or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­sti­tu­tions such as Lon­don Video Ac­cess, St.Martins School of Art, West Sur­rey Col­lege of Art & De­sign, and was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment and con­cept for the 11m FACT (Foun­da­tion for Art and Cre­ative Tech­nol­ogy) Cen­tre, MITES (the na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion tech­nol­ogy re­source) and New Tools work­shop pro­gramme in Liv­er­pool, UK. Dur­ing this time he also ini­ti­ated a num­ber of re­search and de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives bring­ing to­gether artists and tech­nol­o­gists with sup­port from NESTA, BTEx­act and Arts Coun­cil Eng­land.  Clive has spo­ken and writ­ten widely on top­ics such as new media cul­ture, arts and re­gen­er­a­tion, civic cul­tural pol­icy and media lit­er­acy.
  • Geraint Wig­gins is Pro­fes­sor of Com­pu­ta­tional Cre­ativ­ity at Gold­smiths. He has worked in aca­d­e­mic re­search since 1984, pub­lish­ing in com­pu­ta­tional lin­guis­tics, com­pu­ta­tional logic, music ed­u­ca­tion, com­pu­ta­tional music cog­ni­tion and com­pu­ta­tional cre­ativ­ity, the last two being cur­rent areas of study. He holds PhDs, sep­a­rately, in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and music. He has edited con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings in music cog­ni­tion, and spe­cial is­sues. He is As­so­ci­ate Ed­i­tor (Eng­lish) of Musicæ Sci­entiæ and a con­sult­ing ed­i­tor of Music Per­cep­tion. He has worked on un­der­pin­ning frame­works and method­ol­ogy for the study of cre­ativ­ity in Ar­tif­i­cal In­tel­li­gence. He has led sub­stan­tial re­search pro­jects and col­lab­o­ra­tions for re­search coun­cils in the UK, as well as Arts/Sci­ence Fel­low­ship and An­drew W. Mel­lon Foun­da­tion.