Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The art of being vague

I stumbled on this amazing article some time ago. It argues that the Internet, in fact, curtails serendipity. Sounds crazy, right? Well,

In 1952 a French sociologist called Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe asked a student to keep a journal of her daily movements. When he mapped her paths onto a map of Paris he saw the emergence of a triangle, with vertices at her apartment, her university and the home of her piano teacher. Her movements, he said, illustrated “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives”.

To some degree, the hopes of the internet’s pioneers have been fulfilled. You type “squid” into a search engine, you land on the Wikipedia page about squid, and in no time you are reading about Jules Verne and Pliny. But most of us use the web in the manner of that Parisian student. We have our paths, our bookmarks and our feeds, and we stick closely to them. We no longer “surf” the information superhighway, as it has become too vast to cruise without a map. And as it has evolved, it has become better and better at ensuring we need never stray from our virtual triangles.
There are days when the Internet does produce ennui––I guess, the sensation is pretty much the same as seeing your closet and still feeling devoid of choice. Personally, I experience it when my favorite blogs do not update in days and I'm left with 'nothing' new to read. (Yes, I'm looking at you. *Side eye on those blogs on the bottom left*)

In any case, what I love about the article is this:

Serendipity is the virtue of being vague! When you're all being [as by-product] indecisive as my friends and I always are when faced with the question, "Where do we eat?" there is now an excuse!

    • "Oh, but the delay is me expanding the horizon of possibilities"
    • "We may be getting hungry but I am nourishing my inner flâneur."
    • "Respect my freedom to stray from my virtual triangle."
    • "I am defying my homophilic tendencies."
    • "I am bursting my filter bubble."

Of course, your friends are also free to serendipitously find their fist on your face.

Read, In Search of Serendipity.




2 * :

Deepa said...


What a great read! I also experienced this moving to/living in a new city. After a while, I tend to stick to the same routes and need to schedule time to just wander around (yes, "planned vagueness").
Nai-imagine ko na ang mga nakakajiritang conversation. "Wait lang ha? Pwedeng mag-burst muna ng filter bubble?"

Jason D. said...


More words to add to the corporate BS list! Also, I fear how philanderers would use the 'virtual triangle' as an excuse.

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