∎ The Serendipity of Streams - Reading Session 202306081350

Last updated Jun 8, 2023 | Originally published Jun 8, 2023

The Serendipity of Streams

A neat article about the structure of (digital) streams of information and their propensity for serendipity and innovation.

A stream is simply a life context formed by all the information flowing towards you via a set of trusted connections — to free people, ideas and resources — from multiple networks.

What makes streams ideal contexts for open-ended innovation through tinkering is that they constantly present unrelated people, ideas and resources in unexpected juxtapositions. This happens because streams emerge as the intersection of multiple networks.

This means each new piece of information in a stream is viewed against a backdrop of overlapping, non-exclusive contexts, and a plurality of unrelated goals. At the same time, your own actions are being viewed by others in multiple unrelated ways.

As a result of such unexpected juxtapositions, you might “solve” problems you didn’t realize existed and do things that nobody realized were worth doing. For example, seeing a particular college friend and a particular coworker in the same stream might suggest a possibility for a high-value introduction: a small act of social bricolage. Because you are seen by many others from different perspectives, you might find people solving problems for you without any effort on your part. A common experience on Twitter, for example, is a Twitter-only friend tweeting an obscure but important news item, which you might otherwise have missed, just for your benefit.

[In a stream, t]he most interesting place to be is usually the very edge, rather than the innermost sanctums.

Not sure I agree with this. The author is binding a bunch of factors into “interesting,” but the truth is that there are different kinds of power here, and whether you want to be in the center or at the edge depends on what you’re trying to do.