Coincidence, Serendipity and Synchronicity

An item on Radio National’s Book Program introduced me to Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz’s Australian Encounters. It is a “little book of literary trivia about chance meetings, and some influential ones too, between writers, politicians, artists, singers and activists.”

Subjects in the book include Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Donald Bradman and Boris Karloff, Margaret Fulton and Elizabeth David, Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue, Nana Mouskouri and Frank Hardy, Martina Navratilova, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Brian Burke, Henry Kissinger, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Menzies, Helena Rubinstein, and many more according to news of the book’s publication.

I had not seen Shane and Chris’s Encounters when they appeared in The Monthly. Shane notes that:

As the title suggests, these are snapshots depicting a connection, relationship or meeting between famous or notorious Australians or, occasionally, an Australian and a famous foreigner. However unlikely they sometimes appear, all are real – and as accurate as I can make them, based on historical documents or interviews with the people concerned.

This is an example … Bob Hawke and Frank Sinatra.

As I listened to the interview I thought of the words we use about meeting important people in our lives … coincidence, chance, synchronicity, serendipity, happenchance, fortune, fate, destiny. I remembered too discussions long ago about the role serendipity plays in qualitative field research and the classical example of Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown studies.

More recently Allen Foster and Nigel Ford (2003) have observed that serendipity is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.” It first appeared in a letter Horace Walpole sent to Sir Horace Mann on 28 January 1754.  They note that “Serendipity has been considered in the literature to form an integral part of the creative process in the arts and humanities, social sciences and the sciences. In each, however, the experience of serendipity may be different.”

I like Seth Baker’s approach to Happenchance:

Happenchance is for anyone who wants to do things better: creative people, adventurers, travelers, wanderers, and dreamers. Anyone who won’t settle for the status quo, who wants to rise above mediocrity and conformity, and do something exciting, amazing, or engaging.

This site is for people with an open and relaxed attitude towards life.

  • People whose passion and interests take them in new and unexpected directions.
  • People who don’t mind trying new things.
  • People who aren’t afraid of failing.
  • People willing to embrace chance and serendipity.

I believe that by making our own luck, embracing chance, and working hard, we all have the opportunity to make our lives richer, more satisfying, and more fun.

If you have an opportunity to listen to the Book Show interview with Shane Maloney then your journey will start with a story of a chance meeting with a young poet, Leonard Cohen, on a Greek Island, the purchase of a blue raincoat and someone called Marianne. Perhaps the chance encounter with this post will lead you on your own reflections about meeting people who have helped to establish your identity.

Photo Credits

To meet by chance

Serendipity

Unexpected meeting

 

Anne Summers Innovative Ideas Forum 2009: National Library of Australia

annepassport_000

Anne was introduced as the second speaker of the day by Warwick Cathro. She discussed “The implications of web-based social networking for cultural heritage institutions”.

Many of Anne’s papers are held at the NLA (interesting to note in passing that “Anne Summers was selected for preservation by the National Library of Australia”). She noted, however, that her digial record is changing the amount of her files and papers.

Anne explored the implications of web-based social networking for cultural heritage institutions and discussed the generational change that is occurring in the recording of events. She noted the richness of archived collections of papers and illustrated her discussion with her work on Sir John Monash and Sir Keith Murdoch. She pondered the archival and curation processes for digital artifacts of more recent generations.

She discussed how cultural institutions might manage transient technologies.  She used her own on-line digital identities to explore some of these issues.

Her website is a self managed site. it is used for book promotion, posting articles and speeches. Her blog (the blog) is a forum for the discussion of ideas and issues.

Anne has been using Facebook for some eighteen months and described her use of it for social networking. She noted, in particular, the use she made of Facebook for sharing links to newspaper and journal articles and columns. Anne noted too the use she made of Facebook for marketing and promoting events. She used the example of the Pen Poem Relay as a way of promoting causes too.

Anne considered the role newspapers will play in the recoding of events given analyses of trends such as these. She discussed briefly the contribution of the Huffington Post to on-line journalism.

She concluded her talk with a discussion of approaches to scholarly research and commended the serendipty possibilities available to those who left their digital research desks and explored rich archives of material reposited in cultural institutions such as the National Library of Australia.

Library Labs’ posts about Anne Summers’ talk can be found here and here. This is the link to questions put to Anne after her talk.