Why the internet is boring me… from time to time. A plea for designing serendipity.
I’m more bored and bored by the internet. Let me make something clear in advance: being more bored and bored by the internet doesn’t mean at all that I'm now continuously bored when browsing the web, on the contrary, it just means what it says.
Now, an explanation: Nowadays we have more and more online services connected to one another. Algorithms are becoming increasingly specialized and good in providing the exact content that I as a user am expecting. You might’ve heard about the so-called ‘Filter Bubble’ in Eli Pariser's TED-talk. Well, that’s exactly what I’m getting myself into. Actually, nearly everybody is getting themselves into their own bubble, even though we're usually not conscious of that.
But people who have known the internet from the times that Google didn’t personalize our search results, the time Facebook didn’t filter the contents in our timeline as thoroughly and the time that we could actually use online services without using ‘Connect with [social network]’, know exactly what I’m talking about. And even though in some cases this personalization is a good thing, and logging in by connecting a social network is often actually safer, it’s very sad that we’re not coming up with algorithms that are ‘designed for serendipity’.
Serendipity. As Google defines it: “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: ‘a fortunate stroke of serendipity’.” I remember the time that I had multiple moments of serendipity in a day. It’s serendipity that makes us — as humans — push our boundaries a little bit all the time. By stumbling over new things we're continuously learning about all the beautiful things this world has to offer. But unfortunately the time that that was easy, on the internet, is behind us.
Unless we start designing for serendipity. I have no idea how to do that and I don’t know if it's technically really possible. Perhaps it’s even contradicting itself, but I do know that it is important that we make sure people experience more moments of serendipity on the internet. For the joy of exploration and for the sake of broadening one’s horizon. Please, builders of the interwebs, design for serendipity!