The Man in the Cadillac

I just found something that I hope is going to be really cool. It’s called listserve, and it’s a grand experiment in connecting people together through technology. Every day, one person gets the opportunity to speak with over 1 million strangers. Talk about collective experience.

This idea of collective experience is one that has been on my brain when franticness has been supplanted by idle wondering. How often do we get to enjoy a true collective experience? The other day while I was on a bus full of strangers we paused at a stop light and while we were waiting, we saw a terrible car accident being cleaned up. One of the cars had in fact flipped over, and there was all kinds of debris littering the intersection.

The entire bus went silent for about a minute.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time. Sure accidents do, but not in this way, where ~ 50 folks all witness it at the same time, and are roughly experiencing something similar.

Then again, over the weekend, we were out walking and out of nowhere there was a ruckus coming from the intersection at First and High. There, in an old Cadillac – the kind that is old enough to be ugly, but not old enough to be cool – was a man in a blue hoody who was being arrested. A small commotion stirred in the several hundred folks out walking – it was gallery hop – and we all watched as the police officer got out of his car and pulled out his gun and steadied it on the man in the Cadillac. As the policeman was moving closer to the man in the Cadillac, another cruiser, a paddy-wagon, and the police helicopter all converged within moments of one another. Lights, sirens, and the blades of the helicopter filled the atmosphere. As. We. All. Watched.

Together, with a few hundred people – many of whom were taking photos on their smartphones – we had a collective experience that none of us had anticipated. Perhaps this moment will be lost on most of the people who experienced it firsthand, but, maybe not. There were guns drawn, the potential for calamity. It had all the ingredients to make for front-page local news, but instead went down as a routine traffic stop, with only the slightest amount of drama.

I don’t really know where this post is going, but to say that I’m simply fascinated – and I mean fascinated – by collective experiences. Think about watching an athletic event. So many people, all from different backgrounds and walks of life, together, by satellite or geography, experiencing the same thing; or at least a facsimile of the the same thing – but that should be another post. This is something that’s truly incredible about humanity.

To wrap this up with some semblance of coherence, lets just say that I think that collective experiences are something of value for humans. These experiences happen all the time, regardless of whether or not we take notice. Technology enables something of a collective experience – more on that in another post – and it checks most of the boxes for such experiences. Listserve is a cool example of an intentional collective experience with a million+ people you don’t know.

Currently Listening: Flying Lotus

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