The sun is hot against your skin, but the breeze that brushes by and the susurration of leaves puts a smile on your face as you lay back and listen to the sound of running water against rock. You hear a bird call in the distance, and you wonder: what species of birds are in the area? Where does the river in front of you start? Where would be a good place to eat that sandwich you brought? Who else has been here and wondered the same thing?
The world around us is full of information, but we might not necessarily have the knowledge necessary to parse it or understand everything that’s happening – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about it. Sometimes, though, the knowledge we do have about something we’re interested in is so sparse that we wouldn’t even know where to start. Trying to search “what is that bird that screeches loudly” might be fruitful, but wouldn’t it be so much easier to give the exact sound you heard to an ornithologist?
While it is possible to jot down a note about a cool thing you see in the wild, it can be hard sometimes to even know what to jot down. It should be easy to both articulate the question you want to ask and get answers to your questions. People aren’t experts on everything, but for every subject, there exists an expert. By taking advantage of the information that other people have, we can always be learning about what we want to learn about.
“Curiosity involves an indissoluble mixture of cognition and motivation.” When there is a perceived gap in our understanding of something, we feel a cognitive deprivation and a motivation to fill that gap. Now imagine the learning we can accomplish when the resources necessary to fill that gap are readily available!
The project we envision centers around location-based information and curiosity satisfaction. Every location will have preset trivia (i.e. wikipedia information), which might include architectural styles, wildlife species, or nearby events. The heart of the project, however, comes from the people who contribute to it. When you notice something you’re interested in, you can attach a question to the location for others to answer later. If there’s a fun fact you know about a particular thing in the area, you can attach that information to the location for others to look at later. It doesn’t necessarily have to be information, either! Perhaps a scenic view inspires you to write a poem, and you would like to share your experience with others who stumble upon that same view. Or perhaps the birdsong in a specific location inspires you to draw a quick doodle.
The project will gradually learn what types of things you are interested in learning about, and begin suggesting similar things for you to check out. It will be a learning experience that is personally driven. ■
This was originally Lester Lee’s proposal.
1: The Psychology of Curiosity - George Loewenstein