In our increasingly targeted and calculated world, where our every move is recorded, analyzed and placed into an algorithm, some might find life a bit predictable at times. Naturally, people are deliberately seeking out unexpected experiences and new services are surfacing to accommodate.
Here are some interesting ways people break for the joys found in the pursuit of serendipity:
- Chatroulette allows for randomly anonymous audio/video and text chats. Unlike our social networks, it’s a highly unpredictable, self-induced chance encounter where we can assume any role we wish. Hello, stranger.
- Mystery Google will surprise you with someone else’s search results and has several easter eggs of the unexpected. Better, it offers an opportunity to learn something completely new and possibly outside your comfort zone. What you discover depends on how often you play and how clever your search term. Feeling Lucky?
- MISSION:Missions is a social networking game where you complete and post mystery missions for others. By taking on a mission you’re inviting unpredictable circumstances; posting missions invites you in on the fun to surprise strangers or deliver unexpected pleasures to friends.
- Ogori cafe, inside the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha of Kashiwa Japan, serves up surprises as patrons get what the person before them ordered, and the next person gets what they ordered, much like Mystery Google. To encourage interaction they include a card that ‘identifies’ the person who treated you, in case you’d like a word with that cheapskate.
There’s even support that these activities are more favorable to our biological design. In fact, neuroscience research has shown that brain activity is increased when exposed to the unexpected. When your brain encounters some surprising stimuli, it increases processing, becoming more focused, aware, and engaged. (Note this form of stimulation differs from the mental bombardment within chaotic environments discussed in a colleague’s post).
One study found that, in comparison to expected pleasures, we react more strongly to unexpected pleasures and even find them more rewarding.
Interestingly enough, we’re not the only ones that function this way. Neurologists have found this reaction of the human brain to be mirrored in economic theory; efficient markets respond to unexpected events and expected events have no effect.
Online and offline, many experiences are built for consistency as opposed to being designed to exploit our natural desire for the unpredictable. As planners of ecosystems, interactions, and experiences we should remember that we are all curious creatures and should aim to develop frameworks that allow audiences to engage in the unexpected.
So if life is a set up, upset the setup. Deviate. Incorporate the unexpected. Dare clients to surprise their fans. They’re asking for it.