Serendipity is what we call a happy coincidence. Serendipitous events can be big life events, like being stood up on a blind date and having the waitress turn out to be your future wife, or it could also be very small, like two friends finding out they were doing the same thing at the same time.
It’s this smaller type of serendipity that interactive artist Kyle McDonald (previously known for visualizing your Twitter feed and a hacked 3-D printer that helps you draw your own portrait) explores in his latest visualization. Called, of course, Serendipity, it’s an animated world map that shows when two people are listening to the exact same song at the same moment, all over the world. And amazingly, according to Spotify, it happens at least 10 times per second.
Using data provided in real time by online streaming subscription service Spotify, the Serendipity visualization jumps every three seconds to show two users who have clicked play on the same track within one-tenth of a second of one another. As the map zooms in on the users, Serendipity identifies the track, artist, and plays a brief three-second snippet of the portion of the song the users are currently listening to.
An adjunct professor at NYU’s famed Interactive Telecommunications Program, McDonald was given unprecedented access to Spotify’s real-time user data as part of its new resident media artist program. About the project, McDonald says:
“There are so many ways we’re connected to each other, but sometimes we forget, or we just can’t see it. In person, it’s easy to see the features we share, or when we share stories in online discussions. But we’re also connected in more ephemeral ways, and we can extract these relationships with new tools. Even though listening to music can be a very private experience, I wanted to see how often this experience is shared.”
Sometimes these two people live relatively closely to one another, and sometimes they are a world away. Sometimes they speak the same language, and sometimes they don’t. They might not be the same religion, race, sex, or creed. But they do, for that brief moment, have music in common, which is a rather beautiful thing in its own right.
You can watch the serendipity unfold for yourself here.