Sunday, January 11, 2015

From Coincidensity to Consilience

In my post From Convenience to Consilience - “Technology Alone Is Not Enough"  (October 2011), I praised Steve Jobs for his role in the design of the Pixar campus, whose physical layout was intended to bring different specialists together in serendipitous interactions.

Thanks to @jhagel and @CoCreatr, I have just read a blogpost by @StoweBoyd commenting on a related project at Google to build a new Googleplex. Because this is Google, this is a bottom-up data-driven project: it is based on a predicted metric of coincidensity, which is sometimes defined as the likelihood of serendipity.

With the right technology (for example, electronic monitoring of the corridors and/or tagging of employees), a corporation like Google can easily monitor and control “casual collisions of the work force”.

But as Ilkka Kakko (@Serendipitor) points out, such measures of coincidensity cannot be equated with true serendipity. I wonder whether Google will be able to correlate casual meetings with enhanced knowledge and understanding, and measure the consequent quantity and quality of innovation? And then reconfigure the campus to improve the results? Hm.

However, the principle of designing physical spaces for human activity rather than for visual elegance is a good one, as is the notion of evidence-based design. Form following function.

Stowe Boyd, Building From The Inside Out (February 2013)

Paul Goldberger, Exclusive Preview: Google’s New Built-from-Scratch Googleplex (Vanity Fair, February 2013)

Ilkka Kakko, Are we reducing the magic of serendipity to the logic of coincidence? (April 2013)

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