Flying saucers, flow and serendipity shape the web

Recently, my work has moved again towards "concept" and "facilitation", into the realm of the unknown, the things to be discovered. Especially around online collaboration, platforms to facilitate that, and internet strategies and architectures to support such processes: Web of Change, WijZijnMedia, NABUUR, Internationale Samenwerking 2.0 (in Dutch for now). It’s all about new community-organising strategies and tactics, and I love it: a potent mix of "where do we go from here" and "what will we have built by the end of today". Pragmatic idealism: punk+utopia with web 2.0+mobile as catalyst, or perhaps: "do it yourself serendipity". But also: how to let flying saucers get you there. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s talk at TED and Matt Leacock’s Google Tech Talk guide me.

"The travels and adventures of Serendipity" is a book, given to me by a dear one, about sociological semantics and the history of the term "serendipity". And although my short life seems full of serendipity, I haven’t paid proper respect yet to both the book and the gift and the idea, by reading it. I’m more of a "watching" person, absorbing presentations, documentaries and films over reading a book. Maybe soon, but until then, here are two (connected) examples to show what I understand by "serendipity".

First, I watched Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talk at TED about his chance encounter to get into the psychology of flow through flying saucers. His TED question "What makes a life worth living?" touches deeply on the kind of talks we have at Web of Change, the kind of work that made Obama’s campaign so successful, and NABUUR’s concept so addictive: once you feel connected, you can take on the world, and once you’re in flow, you change reality:

Then I watched Matt Leacock’s Google Tech Talk on how he used the principles of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to guide his design of a cooperative game: Pandemic. As players, to win you basically need to beat the system ("the algorithm" as he puts it — any similarity to Google and the "Society of the Query" conference in Amsterdam this week is purely serendipituous, not coindicental). The link between Pandemic and current society obviously is left as an exercise to the reader, and I encourage you to watch till the end: the Q&A with Matt had some insightful moments for me.

Around an hour and a half watching time to put ideal theories into practice, pretty close to where I work right now. Matt’s takeaways common to game design and user experience design are worthwhile.


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