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The Serendipity Engine

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Abstract

The Serendipity Engine is a physical manifestation of theoretical and technological interventions that can be used to enhance serendipity on the World Wide Web. It is a working machine that uses bike parts, flower pots, cake, pulleys, lightbulbs and other concrete objects to articulate the processes that could be translated into digital “solutions” that will re-engineer the potential dystopian social trajectories of current (social) software trends. It has been theorised, devised, designed, developed and welded together by Dr Aleks Krotoski and Dr Katrina Jungnickel.

Each of the components of The Serendipity Engine highlights problems observed by digital theorists, designers and technologists with the way the Web currently works – linguistic barriers, echo chambers – by proposing one vision of how the technology can be re-tooled to increase serendipitous encounters. The aim of the machine is to inspire insight into the social and cultural effects of the decisions that developers make – often for commercial reasons and at the (explicit or implicit) requests of consumers – through simple, lateral demonstration.

About the Speaker

Dr 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. Read up on her academic and research activities and interests here.

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 here, outlining her manifestos about the social, political, economic and psychological impact of the 20 years of the Web.

Aleks writes for the Guardian and the 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.

Her web site is here

This talk is part of the Arcadia Project Seminars series.

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