Serendipity And The Virtual World

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Sometimes in life, things happen that can only be explained as being magic. Or, at least that’s how it feels.

Call it fate, destiny, a happy accident or a fortunate surprise, it’s serendipitous: the perfect thing you didn’t know you needed.

Serendipity is the magic sparkle dust that twinkles over our lives, every once in a very long while, and makes a nonsensical world seem to make just a bit more sense.

Or, as John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Centre for the Edge explains it, “unexpected encounters that surprise and delight.”

Sometimes we hear collective rumblings of concern that in our digital lives we’re losing serendipity.

After all, how can we ever stumble across that “unexpected encounter” with a stranger if our eyes are always locked to our phones?

When our attention is always divided across devices, do we miss out on a certain serendipitous magic that comes from being in the moment?

But maybe the opposite is true.

John Hagel has written extensively on serendipity, and the possibility that not only does technology not diminish serendipity… it may in fact foster it.

Hagel proposes that in large part (and thanks to the Internet), serendipity can now be shaped, facilitated and enhanced.

In his interview for Avatar Secrets John says: “My sense is, one of the biggest opportunities around the integration of these two worlds [the virtual world and the real world] is what I call serendipity – and enhancing it. The opportunity to connect with people that you may not have even known existed, but were just down the corridor from you in ways that you just wouldn’t do, or it would be much rarer, without the benefit of the augmentation of the virtual world and the reality of all the information that’s available there.”

Think of how we meet people and make friends. We form bonds and collectives based on the people who are near us, our neighbours and colleagues.

With the Internet, location no longer becomes the primary factor in who we meet and how we meet them.

Thanks to the networked world, we can now form those bonds and collectives based on shared interests. With the ability to literally search out like minds, those serendipitous chance encounters with like minds might seem to be dramatically increased.

Think of how we find information, or even inspiration, the information we didn’t know we needed. Surfing the web gives us seemingly endless opportunities to find treasure troves of valuable information… when we’re looking for something else.

When we stop thinking of our digital pastimes as mindless distractions and start thinking of the online world – including virtual worlds like World of Warcraft – as a tool for enhancing serendipity, it has the potential to enhance our opportunities to connect, meet, and be inspired. And in that way, become a portal from the ordinary to the extraordinary.