Meet Mr. Bubble-hopping
Max Hawkins has worked for Google, YouTube and Apple. Now he is finding ways to break out of the bubbles that digital life reinforces. Outside his bubbles he finds new meaning and sources of creativity.
It was not Fika who invented the term “bubble-hopping”. The inspiration came from this creative computer scientist in California, Max Hawkins. We can call him the founding father of bubble-hopping.
Max has created the app Dialup, where you are randomly connected to a stranger in a phone call. You can connect to discuss anti-racism, poetry, climate action, local politics, or, if you are self-employed, get a random boss over the phone. You can discuss dreams in the middle of night with someone else who cannot sleep, or you can get a daily call from a stranger at random time.
- It is amazing how many different types of people that are on the app. People in rural areas connect to people in cities. People in different countries talk to each other. And many people say that it makes their day, Max says.
- Often times you can get stuck into your own reality bubble. Just talking to someone in a completely different situation can be inspiring and change your day.
Here is how it started.
- My life had gotten too much into a track. I felt that all the next steps were really clear. I had gotten on a trajectory. I wanted to expand the set of things I could be doing, so I started going to random places.
Being a software engineer, he started to develop applications that randomly could decide where to go and what to do. He tried to live as randomly as possible. Everything from what he ate and the music he played to the country and city where he lived, was determined by chance.
When you take a random stimulus plus a story about it, then it is a very creative engine.
Back in California, Max has continued this journey, but now he focuses on making it available to a larger number of people. Behind is a bigger mission. By introducing randomness, Max hopes to open up for new possibilities.
- It is very easy to fool yourself into that you are doing something different, but when it is outside your control, you will do things you never thought you need to do. You end up somewhere and realize that it is different than you expected.
Does it mean that all people jump when they hear the idea? Absolutely not. Many resists. Letting randomness decide, instead of choosing yourself, goes very much against what we are taught today.
- Everything about society is saying that you should do things that are tailored for you. Every app has a recommendation that is customizing the app to be exactly what you want. All products want to be custom-tailored to your preferences.
Max story reminds us of the 1970’s cult novel “The Dice Man” by the pseudonym Luke Rhinehart, where a psychiatrist lets the dice decide his life. Max is a bit of a contemporary, digital version of a dice man.
But there is more to it. Max Hawkins’ bubble-hopping is not only about randomness, but also about the search for meaning. An important part is to assign meaning to the place or activity you are assigned to do:
- It is very important to think about it as meaningful. Because if you make things meaningful, you can start making a story about it. When you take a random stimulus plus a story about it, then it is a very creative engine.
One of the most interesting things is to discover how you construct your bubble to isolate you from other people. What your privileges allow you to do, and where you feel uncomfortable and not uncomfortable.
But bubble-hopping also makes us see structures in society. It can teach us about our own bubbles:
- One of the most interesting things is to discover how you construct your bubble to isolate you from other people. What your privileges allow you to do, and where you feel uncomfortable and not uncomfortable. It tells you about the structure of your reality bubble.
There are people that are a little afraid of of leaving the bubble and enter the unknown.
- It can be harmful to have certain conversations, to go certain places. But a lot of time people do not tend to think about these things, do not even reflect on their privileges. And there are a lot of people outside your bubble that you do not even see – and that is worse than feeling uncomfortable sometimes.
While Max Hawkins does not, like we at Fika, work deliberately with bridging differences, it still happens. Randomly. And he keeps living this way. Every week he gets a random GPS-coordinate and directions how to get there. And he always asks: “Why was I sent here?”.
As Max teaches, he tries to connect meaning to the place and then interact with the space. He emphasizes that it is important to keep an open mind and not evaluate what is happening.
- Meeting people is one of the best ways to discover a new set of ideas. I am fascinated about conversations. It is an interactive process that in a short amount of time really make you discover lots of things. It is different from reading something. Conversation is a big part of what I do.
There are differences, but also many similarities between Fika’s take on bubble-hopping and Max Hawkins’ original idea. He emphasizes randomness more, since he believes it is the only way to truly get out of your bubbles, and he sheds light on the importance of assigning meaning.
It inspires us and we are thankful that he wanted to share his thoughts with us.
Emma Stenström firstname.lastname@example.org
Apps aiming at getting your out of your bubbles. Ready for you to try.
Follow Max on Twitter.