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Thinking About Discovery

I’ve been thinking a lot about discovery, specifically how I end up finding out about new ideas, people, movies, music, books, stories, and technology.

The other day I was on Twitter and I read a tweet about discovery being a problem with podcasts: With so many podcasts out there, how do you find something that could be interesting to you?

I think this is more of a general problem: With so much stuff out there, how do you find anything?

Social Media: You can passively sit on social media and find stuff. But for every hit, you have to wade in a sea of negativity and false positives. You can and should curate lists of followers, but I think there are other ways to discover.

Google Search: You can go to Google and start to type a phrase and let suggestions come up. Use the algorithm as a discovery tool. But any search is dependent upon the quality of the inputs. If you don’t know, how do you get educated?

Algorithms & Curation: Algorithmic curation is another possibility. I let Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Spotify, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble email me and suggest new things I might love. Chances are I won’t, but you never know. The percentage is about the same as playing the social media lottery.

Media References: Another possibility that goes beyond programming is consuming media and writing down references that you’ll want to search later. I was watching the Obey Giant documentary on Hulu and when Shepard Fairey was talking about influences, specifically Barbara Kruger and the way her work seemed to inform the art design in John Carpenter’s They Live, I took note. After the film was over, I did some Google searches and learned about Barbara Kruger. You can do this with movies, documentaries, songs, books, anything really.

Bibliographies & Footnotes: References are one of the best features of books, specifically bibliographies and footnotes. In Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit, she talks about a desire to read archaeologically. To start in the present and work back in time. To follow and read the influences of the influencers.

Website Links: One of my favorite features of websites in the late 1990s was the desire to link to other sites that you found fascinating. Every early iteration of my site always featured a LINKS page where I linked to other websites of the things, people, and products I loved. I would surf the web by following the trail of links from site to site. This was magical and a lot of time was spent discovering new ideas.

I’m not favoring one of these over another, they all play a valid role in discovering new work. I think that algorithms will play a role in the future, but the concept of personal curation in the form of a links page is something I would like to see a resurgence in. How can you combine algorithms and curation to form something new? How can you use new technologies and old ideas to transform discovery into an active and exciting process?

These are just a few ways that I’m thinking about discovery. Not just for the sake of capitalism, marketing, and promotion, but for education, edification, and enlightenment.

Photo by Isaac Davis on Unsplash