In a recent Flickr discussion, I started to articulate some ideas about how networks like Flickr increase the frequency of coincidences in our lives. Dose blogged the thread, and started a nice little discussion just about that topic. And I think Eric is onto the same concept here.
What happens when we start to archive everything around us, and upload it to a network in which things get tagged and linked together on the basis of real or perceived meaning? Coincidences happen.
A coincidence is a random experience that seems too meaningful to have occurred by chance. They are by and large enjoyable, though sometimes they can be creepy. Some people are even inclined to ascribe a spiritual or metaphysical meaning to them. Regardless of how you feel about them, they’re interesting because they say something about how our minds organize the world.
I see in Flickr an example of a new phenomenon, which we’re going to see in many different forms over the next few years. (Graffiti Archaeology takes advantage of this phenomenon in a rudimentary way, but others will no doubt find more interesting ways to use it!) We are surrounded by many connections that we’re normally not aware of. But now that we have these new tools for gathering, sharing, and labeling massive amounts of information, we can suddenly see these connections. Coincidences are an emergent property of the system.
I think what may happen over time is that people will become more inured to this type of experience. An expected coincidence doesn’t have the impact of an unexpected one. Right now I’m experiencing a rash of surprising coincidences, but next year, will the same kinds of things affect me as much? In that sense, can you think of “coincidence experience rate” as an indicator of change in network connectivity?