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The power of serendipity

Lists. Plans. Programmes. Schedules.

Festival organisers spend a lot of time helping audiences find what they want. Helping make sure that viewers can tick off their list of ‘must see’s’, find their way to stuff that reflects their interests.

Which is great. Aiding the audience experience. But the best festival experiences are about expecting the unexpected. About the power of serendipity to lead us to places we never expected. To discover interesting things we never expected to find. Often that’s what makes a festival a festival. Going with a plan and being distracted by something interesting along the way.

Serendipity can take many forms. A planned event starts late or runs over so you pick a sudden alterative. You go with a friend who wants to experience different things. You make new friends at the festival, who are talking about things you’ve never even heard of. You hear so much hype about one thing, among the festival crowd, that you’ll want to just throw your list out the window and go see this popular thing instead. You get a bit drunk and forget all about your list!

The magic of festivals is that in the end, for a variety of reasons, you see things you didn’t at all intend to see. Some good some bad. Some things you’ll forget and some things that stay with you. Happy accidents and crazy experiences. Because you have to go off-list to start having a good time.

So how can digital tools help aid serendipity as well as aid structured planning?

When we designed the BoomBeam platform we wanted to make it as easy to create chance encounters as it is to plan a selected itinerary.

The voting system is designed to get people thinking about other stuff they might want to see as much as the film they’ve seen. Giving people recommendations when a film is fresh in their mind is a powerful way of getting them wondering “what’s next”.

And its easy to create connections on the platform so encountering one piece of content can lead to unexpected places. We’ve designed the tagging system that drives these connections to allow both direct connections and more random or esoteric connections. The user experience on the platform can develop through exactly the same mix of curation and chance encounter that audiences might experience in the festival itself. Planned serendipity.

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