The Serendipity Engine

SPEAKER: Dr. Aleks Krotoski

Tuesday 17th of January 2012 - 12pm

VENUE: Hugh Aston 3.02


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, light bulbs 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.

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.

Aleks Krotoski is an academic and journalist who writes about and studies technology and interactivity. Her PhD thesis in Social Psychology examined how information spreads around the social networks of the World Wide Web. She is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute and was the British Library's Researcher-in-Residence 2010-2011.

She completed the Emmy and Bafta award winning 4-part BBC 2 series Virtual Revolution in early 2010, about the social history of the World Wide Web.

Aleks writes the Untangling the Web column and blog for The Guardian and Observer newspapers, and hosts Tech Weekly, their technology podcast. Her writing also appears in Nature, Political Quarterly, BBC Technology, New Statesman, MIT Technology Review and The Telegraph.