Serendipity Arena

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10 Δεκ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 4 μήνες)

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SerenA: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas

Mel Woods

Programme Director for Postgraduate Programmes in Art and Media

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design

University of Dundee



Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas

A £1.87 million UKRC funded project, which
will investigate
, to deliver new
understanding of the role it plays in research
and innovation in the
digital economy





Knowledge and Impact

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together

The future of innovation is ... together


Blue Sky



free thinking

exciting collaborative

creative environment


Library Information archive and

categorisation 1950’s

Global Changes Affecting
the Research Environment

Growth of the UK

Knowledge Economy

Enterpreneurialism & Innovation

Creative Industries

Science, Media and Technology

New Technologies


Mobile and Interoperability

Display Technologies

Natural User Interfaces

Proliferation of Information

Born Digital

Mass Digital

Rights Management

Information and Media Literacy

Changes to Researcher

Want to contact anytime, anywhere

Store, personalise, manipulate, repurpose, share info with peers

New ways of relating to each other and information

Different attitude to Intellectual Property

New Research Methods

Greater Collaboration

Multiple formats, mach

Creative Theory & creative practice

Importance of ephemerma

Students want to learn in different ways to their teachers



, noun;

1. The faculty or phenomenon of making fortunate accidental discoveries.


The word

was formed by English author Horace Walpole (1717
1797) from

), an old name for Sri Lanka, in reference to a Persian tale,
The Three
Princes of Serendip
, whose heroes "discovered, quite unexpectedly, great and wonderful good
in the most unlikely of situations, places and people."


M. E. Graebner

describes serendipitous value in the context of the acquisition of a business as "windfalls that were not anticipated by the
yer prior to the deal": i.e., unexpected advantages or benefits incurred due to positive synergy effects of the
citation neede

Ikujiro Nona
ka (1991,p.94 Nov

issue of HBR) points out that the serendipitous quality of innovation is highly recognized by managers and links the success

Japanese enterprises to their ability to create knowledge
not by processing information but rather by "tapping the tacit and often highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches
individual employees and making those insights available for testing and use by the company as a whole".

[edit] Chemistry

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
LSD) by Albert H
ofmann, who found this pot
ent hallucinogen while trying to find m
edically usefu
l derivatives in ergot, a fungus growing on wheat.

Gelignite by Alfred Nobel, when he accidentally mixed

odium (gun cotton) with nitroglyce

ethylene by H
ans von Pech
mann, who prepared it by accident in 1898 while heat
ing diazom

Low densit
y polyethylen
e by Eric Fawc
ett and Regin
ald Gibson at the

ICI works in Nor
thwich, England. It was the first industrially practical polyethylene

synthesis a
nd was discov
ered (again by accident)

in 1933

Silly Putty by James Wright, on the way to solving another problem: finding a rubber substitute for the United States during
ld War II.

Chemical synthesis of urea, by Friedrich Woehler. He was attemp
ting to pro
duce ammonium c
yanate by mi
xing potassium cyanate and ammonium chloride and got urea, the
organic chemical to be syn
thesised, oft
en called the 'Last N
ail' of the
coffin of
Élan vital Theory

Pittacal, the first sy
tic dyest
uff, by Carl Ludw
ig Reichenbach. The dark blue dye appeared on wo
oden posts paint
ed with creosote to drive a
way dogs who urin
ated on them.

Mauve, t
he first aniline
dye, by William Henry Perkin. At the age o
f 18, he was att
empting to create artificial quinine. An unexpected residue caught his eye, which turn
ed out to
be the first anili
ne dye

pecifically, mauveine, sometim
es calle
d aniline pur

Racemization, by L
ouis Pasteur. While investigating the properties of sodium ammonium tartrate he w
as able
to separate for the first time the two optical iso
of the salt. His
luck was tw
ofold: it is the

only racemate salt
to have this property, and the room
temperature that day was slightly below the

of separation.

Teflon, by Roy J. Plunkett, who was trying to develop a new gas for refrigeration and got a slick substance instead, which wa
s u
sed fi
rst for lubr
ication of machin
e parts

based Superglue (a.k.a. Krazy Glue) was accidentally twice discovered by Dr. Harry Coover, first when he was developing

a clear plastic

for gunsights and later, when he was trying to develop a heat
resistant polymer for jet canopies.

Scotchgard moisture repellant, used to protect fabrics and leather, was discovered

entally in
1953 by Patsy S
herman. One of the compounds she was investigating as a r
ubber materia
l that wouldn't deteriorate when in contact with aircraft fuel spilled
onto a tennis shoe and would not wash out; she then
d the spill as a protectant against spills.

Cellophane, a thin, transpa
rent sheet m
ade of regenerated cellulose, was developed in 1908

by Swi
ss chemist J
acques Br
andenberger, as a material for covering stain
proof tablecloth.

l element he
m. B
ritish c
hemist Wil
liam Ramsa
y isolated
helium while looki
ng for argon but, after separating n

and oxygen
from th
e gas liberated by sulfuric acid, noticed a brig
yellow spe
ctral line that matched the D3 line observed in
the spectrum of

the S

The chemical element Iodine was discovered by Bernard Court
ois in 1811,
when he was trying to remove
residues wi
th strong acid from the bottom of his saltpeter production plant which used seaweed ashes as a pri
me materia

Polycarbonates, a kind of clear hard plastic

The synthetic polymer celluloid was discovered by British ch
emist and metallurgis
t Alexander Parkes in 1856, after observing that a solid residue remained after evaporation of
the so
lvent from photographic
collodion. Cel
luloid can be described as the first
plastic used

making solid objects (the fi
rst ones

being billia
rd bal
ls, substituting for expensive iv

the first synthetic silk, was discovere
d by French c
hemist Hilaire de Chardonnet, a
n assis
tant to Louis Pasteur. H
e spille
d a bottle of co
dion and found later that
he cou
ld draw thin strands from

the evaporated
viscous liquid.

The possibility of synthesizing indigo, a natural dye extrac
from a plant with the same n
ame, was
discovered by a chemist named Sapper w
ho was
heating coal tar when he accidental
ly broke a the
rmometer whose mercury content acted
as a ca
talyst to
produce phth
alic an

which co
uld readily be converted into indigo.

The dye monastral blue
was discovered i
n 1928 in Scotland, when chemist A.G. Dandridge heated a mixture of chemicals at high temperature

in a s
ealed iron container. The iron of the container reacted with the mixture, producing some pigments called
phthalocyanines. By substituting

copper for ir
on he produced an even better pigment calle
d 'mo
, which became the basis fo
r ma
ny new coloring materials for paints, l
acquers and printing

Acesulfame, an artificial sweeten
er, was disco
vered accidentally in 1967 by Karl Cla
us at Hoe
chst AG.

Another sweetener, cyclamate, was discovered by graduate student Michael Sveda, when he smoked a cigarette accidental
ly con
taminated with a c
ound he had recently synthesized.

Aspartame (NutraSweet) was accidentally ingested by G.D. Searle & Comp
any chem
ist James M. Schlatter, who was trying

to develop

a test for an ant


Saccharin was accide
ntally d
iscovered during res
earch on coal tar

Saran (plastic) was discovered when Ralph Wiley had trouble w
ashing beakers

used in development of a dry cleaning pr
oduct. I
t was soon used to make

plastic wrap.

A new blue pigment with almost perfect properties was discovered accidentall
y by

scientists at Oregon State University after heating manganese oxide [7]


cillin by Alexan
der Fleming. He

failed to disinfect cultures of
ia when leaving for his vacations, only to find them contaminated with Penicillium molds, which killed the bacteria. However,


had pr
ly done
e research in
to antibacter

The psych
edelic effects
of LSD by Albert Hof
mann. A chemist, he unintentionally absorbed a small amount of it upon inve
its properties, and had the fir
st acid t
rip in history, while cycling to his home in S
witzerland; t
his is commemorated among LSD
users annually as Bicycle Day.

fluorouracil's therapeutic action on actinic kerat
osis, was

initially investigated for its anti
cancer actions

Minoxidil's action on

baldness; originally it was a
n oral agent for t
reating hypertension. It was observed that bald patients treated
it grew hair


gra (sildenafil citrate), an anti
impotence drug. It was initially studied for
use in hyperten
sion and angina pectoris. Phase I clinical trials under the direction of Ian Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effe
on angina, but that
it could ind
uce marked
penile erectio

A anti
wrinkle action. It was a vitamin A derivative first used for treating acne
. The accidental result

in some older people was a reduction
of wrinkles on
the face

The lib
enhancing effect
of l

a drug used f
or treating Parki
nson's disease. Older patients in a sanatorium had the
ir long
lost interest in sex suddenly revived.

The first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepo
xide (Libri
um) was disc
d accidentally in 1954 by the Austrian scientist Dr Leo Sternbach (1908

2005), who found the substance while cleaning up

his lab.
itation needed

The fir
ychotic drug,
chlorpromazine, was discovered by French pharmacologist Henri Laborit. He wanted to add an anti
histaminic to a pharmacological
n to prevent surgical shock and noticed that patients treated with it were unusually
calm before the operation.

he anti
cer drug cisp
latin was disc
overed by Barnett Rosenberg. He wanted
to explore what h
e thought was an inhibitory effect of an electric field on
the gr
owth of bacteri
a. It was

rather due to an elec

product of the platinum electrode he was

The an
esthetic nit
rous oxide (laughing gas). Initially well known for inducing altered b
ior (hilar
its properties were discovered when B
ritish ch
emist Humphry Davy tested the gas on himself and som
e of his fri
ends, and soon re
alised that nit
rous oxide
considerably dulled the sensation of pain, even if th
e inhaler wa
s still semi

The anesthetic ether.
citation needed


a derivative of mustard gas (a c
hemical w
eapon), use
d for t
he treatment
of some

forms of cancer. In 1943
, physici
ans noted that the white cell counts of US so
rs, accidentally exposed when a cache of mustard gas shells were bombed in Bari,
Italy, decre
and mustard gas was investi
as a therapy for Hodgkin's lympho

The first oral
contraceptive (a.k.a. The Pill) was discovered by Dr. Carl Djerassi accidental production of synthetic progesterone
and its intent
ional modificati
on to allow for
oral intake.
citation needed

Prontosil, an antibiotic of the sulfa gr
oup was
an azo dye. German che
mists at Baye
r had the wrong idea that selective chemical stains of bacteria would show spe
cific antibacte
rial activity. Prontosil ha
d it, but in f
act it was due to ano
ther substance

metabolised from it in the body, sulfanilimide.

e and Biology

Bioelectricity, by Luigi Galvani.
He was dissecti
ng a frog at a table where he had been conducting experiment
s with static
electricity. His assistant touched an exposed sciatic nerve of the frog with a metal scalpel which had picke
d up a

charge, pro
voking a
muscle contraction.

Neural c
ontrol of blood v
essels, by Claude Bernard

Anaphylaxis, by Charles Richet. When he tried to reuse dogs t
hat had previo
usly shown allergic reactions to

sea ane
mone toxin, the reactions develope
d much faste
r and were more severe the s
econd ti

The r
ole of th
e pancreas in glucose metabolism, by Os
kar Minkowski
. Dogs that had their pancreas removed for an unrelated physiological investigatio
n urinat
ed profusely; the urine also attracted flies, signaling its hig
h glucose co

Coronary catheterization was discovered as a method when a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic accidentally injected radioco

o the coronary artery instead of the left ventricle.

The mydriatic
ts of b
elladonna extra
cts, by Friedrich

and Runge

Interferon, an a
ntiviral fa
ctor, was disco
vered accidenta
lly by two Japanese virologists, Yasu
ichi Nagano and Yasu
hiko K
ojima while trying to develop an improved v
accine for


The hormone melatonin was discovered in 1917 when it was shown that extract of bovine pineal g
s ligh

frog skin. In 1958 its chemical structure was defined by Aaron B. L
erner and in the m
70s it was demonstrat
ed that also in humans t
production of melatonin exhibits and influences a circadian rh


and Astronomy

Discovery of the planet Uranus by
William Hers
chel. Herschel was looking for comets, and initially identified Uranus a
s a comet until

he noticed the c
y of its orbit

and its d
istance and sugges
ted t
hat it was a planet
, the f
irst one discovered since

Infrared radiation, again by William Herschel
, whil
e investigating the temperature differences between different colors of visible light by dispersing sunlight into a spectrum
ng a glass prism. He put therm
ometers into
the different visible colors where h
expected a t
emperature increase
, and one as
a control to measure the ambient te
ature in the dark region beyond the red end of the spectrum. T
he thermometer bey
ond the red unexpectedly showed a higher temperature
than the othe
rs, showing that
there was non
on beyond the red end of the visible spectrum.


oelectric effect was discovered accide
ntally by Est
onian physicist Th
omas Seebeck i
n 1821, who fou
nd that a v
oltage developed

between the t
wo ends of a metal bar when it was subm
d to a difference of temperatur

romagnetism, by Hans C
hristian Ør
sted. While
he wa
s setting up his materials for a lecture, he noticed a compass needle deflecting from magnetic no
rth when

the electri
c curre
nt from
the batter
y he was using
was switched on

and off.

Radioactivity, by Henri Bec
While trying to investigate phosphorescent materials using photographic plates, he stumbled upon uranium.

X rays, by Wilhelm Roentgen. Interested in i
nvestigating cathodic ra
y tubes, he noted that some fluorescent papers in his lab w
ere illumina
ted at a distance al
though his appar
atus had an opaque cover

S. N. Bose dis
covered Bose
Einstein statistics whe
n a mathematica
l error surprisingly explained
anomalous data

The first demonstr
ation of

particle duality

during th
e Davisson

Germer experi
ment at Bell Labs after a

leak in the vacuum system

and attem
pts to recover from it unknowingly altered the crystal structure of
the nick
el target

and led to

the accident
confirmation of the d
e Broglie hypot
hesis. Davisson went on to share the 1937 Nobel Priz
e in Ph
ysics for th
e discov

Cosmic Microwave
d Radiation, by Arno A. Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson. What they thought was excess thermal noise in their antenna at Bel
l L
abs was due to the CMBR.

smic gamma
bursts were discovered in the late 1960s by the US Vela satellites, which were built to detect nuclear tests in the Soviet Un

The rings of Uranus were discovered by astronomers James L. Elli
ot, Ed
ward W. Du
nham, and Dougla
s J. Mink on March 10, 1977. They planned t
o use
the occultation of the star SAO 158687 by Uranus to study the planet's atmosphere, but foun
d tha
t the
star disappeared briefly from view five times both before and after it was eclipsed by the plan
et. They deduced t
hat a system of narrow rings was present.[8]

Pluto's moon Charon was discovered by US astronomer James Christy in 1978. He
was going to
discard what he thought was a defective phot

plate of Pluto, when h
is St
ar Scan machine broke down. While it was being repaired he had time to study
the plate again and discovered others in the archives with the same "defect" (a bulge in the planet's image which was actuall
y a

large moon).

temperature superconductivity was discovered serendipitously by physicists Johannes Georg Bednorz and Karl Alexand
er Müller
, ironically when they were searching for a material that
would be a perfect el
ectrical insulator (nonconducting). They won
the 1987

Nobel P
rize in Physics.

tallic hydroge
n was found accidentally in March 1996 by

a grou
p of scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after a 60
year search.


Discovery of t
he principle beh
ind inkjet printers b
y a Canon engineer. A
fter putting his hot soldering iron by accident on his pen, ink was ejected from the pen's point a few moments later.

lcanization of

rubber, by Charles Goodyear. He accidentally left

a piec
e of rubber mixture with sulfur on a hot plate
, and produce
d vulcanized rubbe

Safety glass,

by French scientist Edouard Benedictus. In 1
903 he acciden
tally knocked a glass flask to the floor and observed that the broken


were hel
d toge
ther by a l
iquid plastic th
at had evaporated and formed a thin film insid
e the flask.

flakes and wheat flakes (Wheaties) were

ly discovered by the Kelloggs brothers in 1898, when they left cooked wheat unattended for a day and tri
ed to roll

the mass, obtaining a

flaky material instead
of a sheet.

The microwave oven was invented by Percy Spencer while testing a magnetron for radar sets at Raytheon, he

noticed that a peanu
t candy bar in his pocket had mel
ted when exposed to radar

Pyroceramic (used to ma
ke Cornin
gware, among other things) was invented by S. Donald Stookey, a chemist working for the Corning company, who noticed crystall
tion in an improperly cooled batch of tinted glass.

The Slinky was inv
ented by US Navy engi
neer Richard T. James after he accidentally knocked a tors
ion spring off his wor
k table and observed its unique motion.

thur Fry happened to attend a 3M coll
ege's seminar on a new "low
tack" adhesive

and, wanting t
o anchor his bookmar
ks in his hymnal at c
hurch, went on to invent Post
It Notes.

The chocol
ate chip cook
ie was invented through


late chip

cookies were invented by Ruth Wakefie
ld when she atte
mpted to make chocolate drop cookies. She did not have the re
quired chocolat
e so she broke up a candy bar and placed the

chunks into
the cookie mix. These

chunks late
r morphed
into wh
at is now known

as chocolate chip cookies.

[edit] Serendipitou
s ideas

Some id
eas and concepts that came to scientist
s through accid
ents or even dreams are also considered a kind of serendipi
ty. Some ex
amples (coincidentally all are regarded with suspicion by science h

Isaac Newton's famed apple falling from a tree, leading to his musings about the nature of gravitation.

The German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz dreamed about Ourobou
, a

running arou
nd and

forming a circle, leading to his solut
ion of the cl
osed chemical structure of cyclic compounds, such as benzene.

Archimedes' prototypical cry of Eureka when he realised

that his

body displacing water in the bathtub allowed him to measure the weight:volume (ratio) of any irregular body, such as a gold c
wn etc.

[edit] Examples in exploration

Stories of accidental discovery in exploration abound,

of course, because the aim of exp
loration is to find new things and places. The principle of serendipity applies
here, however, when th
e explorer had one aim in m
ind and found another

unexpectedly. In
addition, discoveries have been made by people simply attempting to reach a know
n destination but wh
o departed from the customary or intended route for a variety of reasons. Some c
lassical cases we
re discoveries of the Americas by explorers with other

The first European to
see the coast of North America was rep
utedly Bjarni Herjólfsson, who was blown off course by a storm in 985 or 986 while trying to reach Greenland.

Christopher Co
lumbus was looking fo
r a n
ew way to India in 1492 and wound up l
anding in The
Americas. Native Americans were therefore called Indians.

Although the first European to see and
step on South

America was Chri
r Columbus
in Northeast Ven
ezuela in 1498, Brazil was also discovered by accident, first by Spani
ard Vi
cente Pinzon in 1499, who was only trying to explore t
he West Indi
previously discovered by him an
d Columbus, and st
umbled upon the Northeast of Brazil, in the region now known as Cabo de Santo Agostinho, in the state of Pernambuco. He also
covered the Amazon

and Oi
apoque rivers.

Pedro Álvares Cabral, a Po
admiral, who was sailing wit
h his fleet

to India via th
e South Afri
can route disc
overed b
y Vasco da Gama, headed southwest to avoid the

calms o
ff the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and so encoun

the coast of Brazil in



, “the faculty of making happy and unexpected
discoveries by accident”, is widely regarded as a valuable way of
sparking new research ideas and triggering new connections.
However, while there is a widespread understanding that
serendipity is essential to innovative research, there is
disagreement as to whether digital technologies promote or stifle
serendipity (cf. Johnson, 2006; McKeen, 2006).


The vision of the SerenA project is to transform the space of ideas, both
digital and physical, by proactively creating serendipitous opportunities for
connection between people, ideas and physical spaces.

We will develop and leverage technologies from several areas, in a design
driven and scientifically
verified user experience, to reignite the delight of
knowledge discovery for academics and the public.

Does recommendation
filter out

Primary Challenges


of SerenA involves addressing a key challenge: Serendipitous
thought and idea generation can
happen at any time and in any place
, and
so can be hard to capture.

Primary Challenges

Although there have been waves of interest in the nature of serendipity and
technological support for it, there has been a surprising divergence in the
basic understanding of the term

and how it can be supported in practice.

Primary Challenges

To address users’ needs, technology capabilities and different contexts of
use, we will develop a
requirements specification

for SerenA, including
functional, data, environmental, user and usability requirements.

Primary Challenges

We will
develop the core algorithms

for serendipity. While the exact
specification for the algorithms must be informed by the theory of
serendipity to be developed at an earlier stage, our basic approach
matching ontologies across disciplinary boundaries

“matching” incorporates a theory of serendipity.

Primary Challenges

The theory embodied in the algorithms will be integrated into SerenA
application which will be evaluated and demonstrated.

Public SerenA
will be a location
specific server, collecting information
from passing SerenA clients. It will incorporate the embedding
mechanisms specialised to particular physical research environments to
be used for evaluation.

Personal SerenA
will be a location
sensitive hand
held application on
the user’s own mobile device (iPhone or Android) able to access the
researcher’s personal repository of electronic materials (own papers,
papers from other authors, records of internet searches, notes and other
working documents). It will create and maintain an episodic memory of
research activities and interactions as the basis for serendipitous
encounters via Public SerenA, and will incorporate explicit user
preferences and permissions about what could and should be released
to Public SerenA.

Primary Challenges

To provide
real world tests

and disseminate the outcomes of the project,
we will embed SerenA in specific
research environments

at Dundee
Contemporary Arts, Dundee, and Media City, Salford.

The environments have been identified for the opportunities they offer to
engage with a diverse range of users and spaces, motivation and
commitment. This public iteration of SerenA will be known as 'public
SerenA' and as such will be the public interface for the physical outcomes
of the project.


Worpackages and

Applications &