Is The Digital Age Stamping Out Serendipity?

WE’VE gained so much in the digital age. We get more entertainment choices, and finding what we’re looking for is certainly fast. Best of all, much of it is free.

But we’ve lost something as well: the fortunate discovery of something we never knew we wanted to find. In other words, the digital age is stamping out serendipity.

via Ping - The Digital Age Is Stamping Out Serendipity - by Damon Darlin in NYTimes.com.

Sometimes I read something that's so far out of my experience that I have a hard time processing it. This article is one of those times. I can't decide if I'm misunderstanding the point of the article or if it's really not a problem. The author of the article, Damon Darlin, is saying that the internet and ipods and in some weird way, Twitter, are taking the "randomness" out of finding new stuff. Balderdash, I say. :)

First, he says for some reason finding stuff on a friend's bookshelf or album collection is "serendipitous" but finding new music on a blog or Twitter is "group-think". Somehow if people online say something is cool it's been "filtered and vetted" but finding the same thing via a friend isn't. I don't get it.

Not only does his argument not make sense, he's looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope. It doesn't matter where you found something new because it's new to you. No matter if you find something through a friend or via a review linked on Twitter or on a Top 10 list, it's new to you. It's still serendipitous if you like it.

Every year when the Top X Of The Year music, book, and movie lists come out I go through some of them and see if there's anything interesting looking. I usually download whatever looks halfway good in the Pitchfork top albums list, then delete anything I don't like and buy what I do like from Amazon's MP3 store. I've found an unbelievable amount of great music this way. (Seriously, try it.) I don't pay attention to radio or music blogs or magazines so this is my way of finding new stuff. Is this worse than finding an album though a friend? I can't see how it is. But it's still filtered in the strongest way, being a Top 10 list or whatever. When I first saw The Knife as the #1 album on the Pitchfork list a few years ago I thought it was them being willfully weird until I listened to the album a few times, then a few more times, then a few dozen more times until it became one I still listen to regularly. I found my favorite band, The Hold Steady, completely randomly when somebody on a podcast recommended I listen to some teenage girl's music podcast long ago and Your Little Hoodrat Friend was one of the songs she played. I was hooked from the first 30 seconds of that song and if that's not serendipitous I don't know what is.

I really can't even see what the heck Mr. Darlin is talking about, even if you cut out the mostly pointless but seemingly required paragraphs about Twitter. The internet / digital age has brought so much serendipity to my life this just seems like he must be talking about something else. But like I said, I don't really care (and I don't think it matters) where something new came from as long as it's new.

(During this post I mentioned 2 bands you really should try. There's some serendipity for you. And if you listen to them, you're welcome. :))