FRIDAY Fast Five: Serendipity

There's nothing quite like the feeling of serendipity. Like many of you, I recently picked up Vincent O'Malley's The Great War for New Zealand and not long after starting it, I had one of those moments where you feel history fold in and time collapse into itself...

1. I just started working at Auckland Museum which has happily resulted in walking through the Domain every morning and evening. Not long after I began this daily pilgrammage, I noticed a single tree with a wooden fence surrounding it, up on a sloping hill on the West side of the Museum. It drew my eye every time it came into my peripheral vision on my way to work and every morning I have vowed to go and have a look. Of course, I would then promptly forget to do so on the way home. Little did I know that my journey to and from work, that tree and Vincent O'Malley's book would come together in wonderful historical serendipity. Having got stuck into O'Malley's text in the last few days, I have been introduced to Potatau Te Wherowhero, the Ngati Mahuta leader, first Maori King and a seminal figure in early Maori and European interaction in Tamaki Makaurau. Someone we should all know. In his text, O'Malley described a single tree on Pukekawa (now Auckland Domain); a tree surrounded by a wooden fence which marked the site of a cottage built by Te Wherowhero; a place that had born witness to many early discussions around the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.


2. Serendipitous searching and discovery is the idea behind Artsy's The Art Genome Project. If you don't know, Artsy "features the world’s leading galleries, museum collections, foundations, artist estates, art fairs, and benefit auctions, all in one place. Our growing database of 500,000 images of art, architecture, and design by 50,000 artists spans historical, modern, and contemporary works, and includes the largest online database of contemporary art."The Genome Project is the search tool that powers Artsy, "It maps the characteristics (we call them “genes”) that connect artists, artworks, architecture, and design objects across history." 

3. Seb Chan wrote this article about the centrality of serendipitous online searching of museum collections in 2007 and it's still as relevant as ever. It has a great breakdown in the difference between augmented and frictionless serendipity. I also love his analogy between online and irl serendipitous discovery, "Even in highly specialised exhibitions and in fine-grained Dewey Decimal System library bookshelf browsing, visitors inevitably come across objects or publications that are of interest to them but that they were unaware of prior to visiting."  

4. American Museum of Natural History updated Explorer app. AS a writer from PC magazine explains, "What is new about this Explorer app is that it blends the museum tour with[ed] "intentional serendipity." While patrons might enter the museum with some intent—to see dinosaur skeletons, for example—they also explore by way of chance. Perhaps you're walking to the dinosaurs, but, on your way, the butterfly conservatory catches your eye. In the past, serendipitous exploration relied upon one's own attentiveness; with the Explorer app, those tangents are threaded into the navigation process.

That process begins when you launch the app and are prompted to choose from a set of wide-ranging (and not quite parallel) interests, ranging from Dinos & Fossils and Winged Creatures to Coffee Break and Really Big. From those proclivities, the app surfaces exhibitions nearby or en route to a point of interest."

5. Spotify's Serendipity generator launched in 2014 (although I only just found it). I actually found site kind of annoying but the concept is great, "an online map that displays a stream of coordinates when two users played the same song at the same time. Serendipity isn't live, but is reflective of real-time data recorded recently over a one hour period. As each pair of listeners flashes onto the screen, the song they chose starts playing for a few fleeting moments before another song comes on. Serendipity only displays users who clicked Play within one tenth of a second of each other, Spotify says."

Not much to do with serendipity, but coz I feel like life has been work, work, work, work, work, work recently, here's a beautiful track by Charlotte Day Wilson...