Sebastian Olma is an Amsterdam-based author, critic and occasional policy advisor with a critical view on the creative industries. He is Professor of Autonomy at the Centre for Art, Design and Technology at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda and 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. In Amsterdam, Sebastian is involved with initiatives of urban cultural activism and subcultural innovation. His latest book, In Defence of Serendipity: For a Radical Politics of Innovation was published by Repeater Books, London in 2016.
Serendipity is a unique term in the English language describing the process by which one finds something useful, valuable or just generally ‘good’ without actually looking for it. Throughout the history of invention and discovery serendipity has functioned as a principle, leading – or perhaps better, tricking – the curious human mind onto unexpected novelty. And yet, it is only recently that we are becoming truly aware of the crucial role serendipity plays in our attempts to creatively grasp toward the future. Over the last few years, it has become an important reference for our thinking about creativity, work and, of course, the cities we live in.
In this lecture, I would like to propose the Serendipitous City as a paradigm of urban culture that is very different from the Creative City or the Smart City. Approaching the city in terms of serendipity allows us to leave the economic and technological reductionism of the previous paradigms behind in order to focus on the very conditions for a desirable future. What kind of infrastructures, programs or, indeed, cultures do we need to nurture today so that together we can invent and discover the city we want to live in tomorrow?