Sandpit: SerenA - Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: Duncan of Jordanstone College

Abstract

We live in an age of burgeoning information, and increasingly fast information access. 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. There is now so much information being spread so quickly that it is becoming impossible for individuals to be aware of enough of it to enable them to take advantage of it.What is more, because of the information overload, we are having to rely more and more on search tools to find what we want. While existing search tools work quite well, after a bit of practice in using them, they are only able to give us information directly matching keywords in what we ask for. This is clearly useful, but its down side is that we are less likely than before to notice peripheral things, situations or people who are relevant to us, in the kind of serendipity or happy accident that led, for example, to the discovery of penicillin. It's becoming harder to notice such connections, partly because we are more narrowly focused in how we search for new knowledge, and partly because the search systems we use are very literal and not imaginative at all.This project aims to design a Serendipity Arena, called SerenA, which will proactively search information available in users' documents and on the Web to identify relevant knowledge and connections related to their work and their environment. The aim is not merely to search for shared keywords, like existing systems, but to use state-of-the-art technology from automated reasoning and computational creativity to identify things that users did not know they needed to know, using more advanced search based on metaphor and analogy. SerenA will be implemented as a physical presence in the working environment, and via personal technology, such as smartphones. With its users' permission, SerenA will proactively search for people and information in a user's local environment, both physically and virtually, allowing it, for example, to suggest that people who don't know each other might find some value in meeting (perhaps because they share an interest in particular aspects of the academic world), or to suggest a paper omitted by keyword search in a particular e-journal (because it has connections with other things of interest to the user who is searching).SerenA will have its own document-analysis technology, but it will also take advantage of the increasingly rich information available via the Semantic Web. The project will include development of a test-bed of information about music and musicology, as an exemplar of an academic field that can benefit from this enabling technology. Importantly, SerenA will have specially designed and carefully validated user interfaces, to make it intelligible to everyone interested in learning and discovery, of whatever kind.SerenA aims to draw man and machine closer together than ever before, enhancing its users' knowledge and their ability to interact with people likely to be important to them.

Planned Impact

SerenA will provide impact to public sector organisations with research as a core activity (e.g. libraries), museums and galleries on a national and regional level. SerenA will facilitate public engagement with their contents and artefacts and create new links for users that would not otherwise have occurred. Commercial private sector beneficiaries will include businesses whose work is related to information search, visualisation or dissemination, such as professional research organisations. In addition, internet industries will benefit from the development of novel algorithms for proactive serendipity. Industries that develop and anticipate future technologies will benefit from using SerenA by establishing and extending links for those within their organisation to inspire the creation of novel interaction tools, systems and devices. The wider public will benefit as they view and user SerenA in public spaces. There will also be a range of indirect impacts as the algorithms developed in the project may lead to benefit in industries not directly concerned with research practices, such as the advertising industry or government agencies. The users of SerenA will benefit within a reasonably short timescale of the project start (i.e. one-three years) and the impact both of the algorithm development and the implementation of ideas generated by SerenA will endure for the longer term. Staff working on SerenA will develop skills ranging from computational algorithm development, integration of mobile and large screen technologies and networks, and application of evaluation methods in requirements specification and system design. The multidisciplinary team of researchers and investigators will all develop research skills in writing, presentation, preparation of public exhibits and technology integration. It is anticipated that all researchers working on the project will develop transferable skills that could be applied in industry, but that could also form the basis of an academic career. A series of engagement activities are integral to the SerenA project. SerenA will be implemented into two types of environments: Research environments (e.g. Horizon DTC) and Public spaces (e.g. Dundee Contemporary Arts, Sensation, Media City). These implementations will ensure engagement with SerenA during the lifetime of the project. We will also run specific dissemination activities with the public and with wider industry. We will run annual workshops that will showcase SerenA outputs, obtain key stakeholder input into SerenA developments, and obtain feedback from industry as to how best exploit SerenA results. In addition to engagement and dissemination activities, we will conduct specific dedicated activities to ensure that SerenA is publicised and delivered into the public and business community as quickly as possible. We will work with knowledge transfer experts at our own universities, with particular support from the Horizon digital economy hub. We will engage in media relations activities via our university press offices and also through a professional quality project website. All researchers on the project will be given the opportunity for training in public engagement, with those researchers who have a particular aptitude and interest in engaging with the public being provided with additional training. To maximise outreach activities we will work with two of the six Beacons of Public Engagement at UCL and Edinburgh. We have secured collaboration with Dundee Contemporary Arts and MediaCity and will work closely with KTN on Photonics and Plastic Electronics. The SerenA investigation team has extensive experience of liaising with the media, supporting start-ups and running conferences and workshops.

Publications

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Aylett. R (2012) Supporting Serendipitous Discovery in All Hands Digital Futures 2012

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Dantonio L (2012) Coming across academic social media content serendipitously in Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology

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Dantonio L (2012) Coming across academic social media content serendipitously in Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology

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Kefalidou G (2016) Encouraging serendipity in research: Designing technologies to support connection-making in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies

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Kefalidou. G (2013) Is THIS 'Delight'?

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Makri S (2012) Coming across information serendipitously - Part 1 in Journal of Documentation

 
Title Booksight - Mel Woods 
Description Booksight is a library information visualisation, designed to curate the real-time flow of book requests which represent the titles and authors of books in a way that offers the viewer novel connections between words and concepts. Firstly, the visualisation seeks to make visible human digital research, by making manifest anonymous research activity for others. Secondly this may present a new space for browsing books in a physical space. Lastly, live ambient library information may be of interest contextually in the library space or through web based browser, in a similar way to the returns shelf. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Paper 'Booksight - Visualising the Library of Ideas' at EVA Conference 2013 Imperica Prize for best demo at EVA2013 British Computer Society 
 
Description We identified: 1) key elements to support understanding of serendipity, 2) the influential role of context in serendipitous experiences, 3) a framework of understanding how serendipity happens and 4) the positive impacts of serendipity in people's information research 5) spaces, strategies and tools to support people to experience serendipity more often
Exploitation Route x
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.serena.ac.uk
 
Description The Workshop 'Understanding Serendipity - making chance work for you and your organization' 2013 with 18 participants from local and national government and industry, was delivered at Local Government House, Westminster, London. This outward facing innovation activity for fostering serendipity in local authorities has played a vital role in network building, and for pre and funded research projects since. It has also informed the co-creation approach adopted within H2020 Making Sense for WP5 Policy and Action, led by Woods.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description British Library Labs Competition 2013
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation The British Library 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 06/2014
 
Description Library Catalogue Data 
Organisation The British Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution xx
Collaborator Contribution xx
Impact xx
Start Year 2011
 
Title Discover Me Semantically 
Description The software developed by Rob Stewart 'Discover me Semantically' is a web tool enabling authorship and download of RDF, and RDF visualization in Linked Open Data 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact It was subsequently refactored and incorporated in the development of semantic agent system software and used as part of the evaluation for 'SerenA'. 
URL https://github.com/robstewart57/discover-me-semantically.git
 
Title SerenA Semantic Notebook 
Description Android app. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2013 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact xx 
URL http://eecs.qmul.ac.uk/~jamief/archive/serena-android-notebook.tar.gz
 
Description 'Performing Serendipitous Connections' at D-AiR Festival, 15th June 2012. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Mel Woods, Debbie Maxwell led a research workshop session on performing serendipitous connections in practice.


Tested out a method that was later used in another setting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.serena.ac.uk/2012/05/performing-worlds-performing-serendipitous-connections
 
Description 'Seeking Serendipity through Digital Invention' at FutureEverything Summit, March 2013, Manchester, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Mel Woods (University of Dundee) / Dr. Stephann Makri (UCL) ran a workshop which focused on serendipity and its widely-noted influence on innovation in creative and technology design, art and business practice. Our research conducted on the nature of serendipity, has found that there are several actions and attitudes of mind that can increase the likelihood of serendipity. These include varying routines, being observant, making mental space, relaxing boundaries, drawing on previous experiences, looking for patterns and seizing opportunities.

The workshop commenced with a 'making connections' session which allowed participants to verbally introduce themselves whilst making a web of connections. The salon moved on to learn about the actions and attitudes of mind and apply them (as part of a Design Challenge and co-creation session) to the design of novel digital products, systems or services aimed at creating opportunities for serendipity.

The workshop will concluded with a plenary discussion, with presentations which aimed to contribute to the themes of 'Serendpity City', 'Smart Citizen', 'Discovery Engine' and discuss the challenges of designing to create opportunities for serendipity along with exciting future opportunities for doing so.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.serena.ac.uk/2013/03/serendipity-salon-workshop-at-future-everything-21st-march-2013
 
Description 'Seeking serendipity in our work and everyday lives' July, 2012, EastSide Gallery, Birmingham. UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact 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.


The session connected the team with creative professionals and we were able to validate some of our early findings with the group. We subsequently went on to link our work with researchers i general to a focus on creatives, and interviewed different creative professionals for an empirical study in the course of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://extraspecialpeople.org/events/science-talk-seeking-serendipity
 
Description Designing to Facilitate Serendipity presentation at GirlGeeks, Bristol University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Ann Blandford (UCL) outlined the questions, challenges and work the team at UCL and SerenA are taking. The project was then discussed and questions asked by the Girl Geeks audience. Girl Geeks is a growing international network of Women who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Creativity and Computing (professional, academic, business).

Further invitations to present at GirlGeeks elsewhere in the country (Scotland, NW England).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://bristolgirlgeekdinners.com/2011/03/11/next-girl-geek-dinner-wednesday-23rd-march-2011-at-bris...
 
Description ESRC Science Festival and SerenA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Towards the end of the event we hosted a mini session for gathering the audience's experiences and views regarding the use of the SerenA via embarking into a joint discussion and/or through the use of 'serendipity diaries' - a collection of experiential notes taken from the audience throughout the event that will take the form of a type of 'guest book'. These data were collected in the form of a guest book and mini questionnaires.

Particularly, the Castle Museum area was the area that our festival participants focused their navigation. It provided an excellent location to demonstrate and provide a hands-on experience of the SerenA prototype because it offered a great environment full of a wide range of stimuli. It furthermore, accommodated a setting of opportunities for fun and educational activities and for promoting the local heritage.
The event sparked new connections with the Castle stakeholders (contacts that are still maintained and contributing to The University of Nottingham's collaborations (e.g. through EU funding application proposals)). Furthermore, participants that engaged with our event, became attuned with the goals and objectives of the project (and particularly with the notion of serendipity in cultural sites) and became involved in further research opportunities that explore serendipity in culture. Participants also reported that they became more aware of what the Castle Museum had to offer (by for example, getting suggestions to artefacts that they didn't even know that existed) , while the process also helped them to bring back memories and reflections to them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/festival/events-archive/general-2013/making-connections...
 
Description Presenter BBC Radio 4 'Digital Human' Series, Episode 7 'Chance'. Series Aleks Krotovski, Producer Kate Bissett 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This broadcast on BBC Radio 4 sparked a significant amount of interest for research, evidenced through magazine, radio, newspaper requests for interviews.

After the broadcast (and availability online) members of the public began contacting the PI and University, and upload their everyday stories of Serendipity to the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01h8nnt
 
Description Prototype Demonstration: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas at CIRCLE Perimeter symposium. Inspace, Informatics, Edinburgh University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Prototype Demonstration and subsequent discussion of these early ideas with digital art and computer scientists from CIRCLE research network.




Engagement and discussion led to decisions being made about prototype direction and next steps.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/peariameter.htm
 
Description Storystorm - Building an 'Autobiography of Dundee' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop featuring experts from across the UK was held in Dundee Contemporary Arts on Thursday November 28th and is inviting contributions from everyone, from designers and architects to collectors of Dundee `stuff' and those who simply had a story to tell about the city.
Speakers at the event included:
Matt Locke (Channel 4, BBC, Storythings)
Nick Taylor (Dundee Fellow, Bespoke)
Rod Gordon (McManus Gallery, Dundee's Oral History Project)
Gillian Easson (Creative Dundee)
This event was part of Book Week Scotland and was funded by RCUK SerenA

Outcomes of the event were included in the Vision for Dundee City of Culture Bid 2013 and are being carried forward by the city into it's creative and cultural strategy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.communitiesandculture.org/storystorm-building-and-autobiography-of-dundee/
 
Description Understanding Serendipity - making chance work for you and your organisation at Local Government House, London in association with Knowledge Innovation Network (KIN) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This day long workshop was led by PI Mel Woods University of Dundee, Prof Ann Blandford and Dr Stephann Makri UCL, Dr Debbie Maxwell University of Dundee. It was attended by the Police Commission, Norton Rose, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Fujitsu, Houndscroft, Knoco. Workshop activities explored how organisations support serendipity.

Feedback after the talk indicated businesses and organisations acknowledge that supporting serendipity in organisations can lead to new connections and potentially innovation. Participants stated they would actively follow up on strategies to support serendipity in their organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012