Serendipity to be celebrated and explored at events in Dundee


Serendipity to be celebrated and explored at events

A University of Dundee-led project exploring the role of serendipity in research will host a series of events this month looking at the subject in different disciplines and settings.

‘SerenA – Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas’ is a multidisciplinary project investigating the design and implementation of state-of-the-art technology to help users innovate by finding out what they didn’t know they needed to know.

The project is led by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD), part of the University of Dundee. The £1.87million project is funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Fund and partners include Heriot-Watt University, Queen Mary University of London, Lancaster University, University of Nottingham, and University College London.

The programme taking place in Dundee this month with bring artists, designers, technologists and other groups together for a workshop, symposium and other events encouraging participants to think differently and creatively about previously unrelated concepts and ideas.

Many great technological and scientific breakthroughs have come about as a result of fortunate accidental discoveries, with valuable insights being attributed to the phenomenon known as serendipity.

With the increasing use of the internet, we rely on search tools to find what we want amongst the sheer volume of information available. However, for research purposes there is a danger that search results are too narrowly focussed, and researchers are less likely to notice potentially valuable peripheral or tangential things, situations, knowledge or people.

“SerenA aims to draw human and machine closer together than ever before, enhancing its users’ knowledge and their ability to interact with people likely to be important to them,”

explained Principal Investigator Mel Woods from DJCAD.

“The impact of the research will not only be of benefit across disciplines – it will be relevant to everyone interested in learning and discovery, of whatever kind. The findings of SerenA are being used to aid search design and implementation in spaces such as the British Library, and technology, such as smartphones.”

One aspect to be covered in the March events is the role of serendipity in storytelling. A yurt will play host to members of the Blether Tay-Gither group who will lead a series of storytelling sessions on Saturday, 16th March, while the same day will see a Serendipity Storytelling Craft Activity event take place.

The latter event will look at serendipity as the chance finding of fortunate things, a recurrent theme in storytelling. This workshop for families will use storytelling and ideas of unexpectedness and good fortune to design characters and scenarios to create a serendipity story game.

On Monday, 25th March, ‘The Serendipitous Maypole’ will look at how unexpected connections can strengthen the health, creativity and innovation of a local community, which may in turn enhance the natural, social and learning environments.

This workshop will provide an open forum to map and connect physical and social documentation and the group will build and activate a 3D environment that visualises connections and interactions. The workshop will include open discussion of prominent features of the serendipitous environment.

A ‘Serendipity Symposium’ the next day will bring together artists, designers and other practitioners who use chance encounters or the unexpected as a method in their work. Members of the SerenA team will lead a discussion on how to facilitate serendipity in practice and invoke it in artworks.

The team has been gathering stories of serendipity from creative professionals over the course of their research and will talk about their findings.

That evening, Blether Tay-Gither will host another celebration of the role of the unexpected and chance surprise in stories, along with a special retelling of the original serendipity story, The Three Princes of Serendip.

All events take place at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). More information about all the events taking place in March is available from or by contacting Principal Investigator Mel Woods on

You can follow the SerenA project on twitter at









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