I write The Observer’s fortnightly column Untangling the Web, an unpicking of the real effects of the communication technology on human social processes from the hype. I’ve tackled everything from love and sex to social change and hate, from health to youth culture to celebrity to comedy. It’s been an inspiring year.
For my next column, I’ve decided to marry my multiple interests and write about serendipity. Here’s my blurb from The Guardian’s technology blog:
Serendipity, the enigmatic process that’s been credited with producing everything from penicillin to the chocolate chip cookie, is the almost-magical convergence of a (happy) accident and the sagacity of knowing what to do with it.
The web has been described by some pundits as “the greatest serendipity engine in the history of culture”, and commercial companies - like Google - are looking to harvest your enormous cloud of data to deliver serendipitous experiences before you even know what to search for.
So who’s right? Is the web a serendipity machine or a tool for cultural homogenisation? Or is it, like so many things, not nearly so black and white?
This fortnight, I tackle a pet topic: what is the web doing for (or against) serendipity. Follow the progress on the Untangling the Web blog for all the links, interviews, photos, videos, articles and academic research on serendipity and the web that will feed this article.
I’ll be cross-posting many of my findings here and on the Untangling the Web tumblog and the 900-word summary (aka “the column”) will be published on 21 August.