In praise of randomness

We have Tuck Leong interning with Richard at the moment continuing his research into the ways in which randomness may be used to help people experience their own content afresh. For his doctorate he’s mainly looked at music (i.e. shuffle listening experiences). By a weird piece of synchronicity (what an apposite concept here) I’d also been thinking about randomness recently:
i) I had a long and interesting talk with Margaret Pearson about the I Ching recently, after we bumped into each other at the Oast House Quaker Meeting in Cambridge. (Which reminds me: I promised her to type out the bits of His Dark Materials where Pullman references the I Ching).
ii) I was reading I was reading Charles Petzold’s coding blog a few weeks ago and came across a post he has on randomness in which Petzold says:
“Wouldn’t it have been interesting for Steve Wozniak or Don Estridge to have also decided that every computer needed a hardware random number generator, and for that feature to have become a standard part of the machines we use today?”
Though sadly he doesn’t go on to speculate on what applications that might enable.
iii) The recent John Cage piece I saw Stephen Gutman perform at Kettle’s Yard reminded me of Cage’s use of randomness, from the performers throwing dice to decide what to do next through to the I Ching computer program that the lecture on anarchy I saw Cage give in Islington relied on.
Tuck has similar inspirations, in fact some of Tuck’s fieldwork-probes sound like wonderful performances of randomness in their own right. So we are having great fun planning what to build and test around photo browsing.


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