Life is not really so difficult if you just follow the instructions.

On the Occasion of Serendip's 10th Anniversary:
A Conversation in Search of a Sentence


A dialogue arising out of Writing Descartes...

Building Two-Way Bridges:
A Conversation about Gender and Science

"A sentence is as good as a session."

Susan Levine, psychotherapist, Beauty: A Symposium

One summer afternoon, Ann Dixon and Anne Dalke were talking about "what Serendip is about." Dixon, a co-founder of the website, said that she "used to think it was about science." During the past few years, as she's seen its coverage expand to include both art and literature, she's found herself looking for a new "sentence" to describe its aim and scope.

Serendip's original "welcome" statement explained that

Serendip is a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete. Originating in interactions among neurobiologists, computer scientists, business people, and educators, Serendip is both an expanding forum and a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education, in social organization... and in how one makes sense of life.

Dixon's additions to this "mission statement" included her conviction that the "center" of Serendip is its playground, and her current understanding that the site, as a whole, is "about incompleteness."

In response to Dixon's observations, Dalke offered a connection between a) and b): because life and our understanding of it is always incomplete, the best way to "go about it" is

to create in our classrooms and on-line spaces of structured play where, if deliberative self-censure happens less frequently, we might arrive at some unexpected places, worth examining....where the process and productivity of ongoing and ever-revisable conversation...becomes an open and constantly edited record both of the conversations we are having with one another and those we are conducting with ourselves, within our own many of us a profound sense-and a record--of ourselves as thinking, re-thinking, ever-revisable beings. The Grace of Revision, the Profit of "Unconscious Cerebration," or What Happened When Teaching the Canon Became Child's Play.

(Characteristically,) Dalke also offered, along with the essay on "revision," above, pages (and pages) of shared exploration of what Serendip is "about," in the form of five dialogues: with Emily Madsen, Anneliese Butler and Elizabeth Catanese (Bryn Mawr students who have participated in Serendip's forums), Paul Burgmayer (a high school math teacher who was certified in Bryn Mawr's Education Program), and Wil Franklin (a Bryn Mawr Biology Lab Instructor).

She pulled in, too, reflections generated this summer in the Working Group on Information:

to a human story-teller, information is something that changes in a story the degree of uncertainty about something....There is no "information" unless there is such a change (information is not an intrinsic property of anything; it is fundamentally relational).

"Squeezing" down all this "expansion," Dalke offered a (trial) sentence:

Conceived with an awareness that life is not a closed system, Serendip is a website that explores the pleasures and productivity of incompleteness, by facilitating connections among ever-expanding numbers of contributors.

See on-line forum for continuing conversation and to leave your own thoughts.

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