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Typology of Searches4 min read

A recent Twitter conversation inspired me with @edbatista to think more about searches and journeys.

I started to come up with a typology of searches:

  1. I-Spy: An I-Spy search is one where someone else sees or has hidden something, and you search for it. It is a game where the location and the item are known to others, but the search will discover it for yourself.
  2. Car Keys: A car key search is when you know precisely what you are looking for and may generally know where it is, but you are searching as you can’t exactly find it.
  3. 4-leaf-clover: A four-leaf clover search is one where you know exactly what you are looking for, but the odds of finding it are low. In the case of a four-leaf clover, it is around 1 in 5 thousand. This means that if you look long enough, you will likely find one, but it is also not guaranteed.
  4. Right Chord: A search for the right chord is when you are looking for something, and you will know it when you find it, but you may not even be able to describe it in advance. Artists, authors, and musicians may have this as a crucial part of inspiration when looking for something unique that the book, artwork, or piece of music can be built upon or will complete.
  5. Beauty search: This is a search where while ostensibly, this is something you are looking for in the outside world, seeing beauty in other things is about how you see those things. This means that this search is as much internal as external.

In general, there are searches where you know what you are looking for in advance: I-spy, car keys, and the four-leaf clover. I will call these specific. And those where you will only know what you are looking for when you find it, such as the right chord or the beauty search. I will call these unspecific. Two variations on the beauty search add an intrapersonal component: a search for love (one connection) and a community search (multiple connections).

For journeys, there is a typology that I would borrow from Tim Ingold related to journeys:

To sum up so far: I have established a contrast between two modalities of travel, namely wayfaring and transport. Like the line that goes out for a walk, the path of the wayfarer wends hither and thither, and may even pause here and there before moving on. But it has no beginning or end. While on the trail the wayfarer is always somewhere, yet every ‘somewhere’ is on the way to somewhere else. The inhabited world is a reticulate meshwork of such trails, which is continually being woven as life goes on along them. Transport, by contrast, is tied to specific locations. Every move serves the purpose of relocating persons and their effects, and is oriented to a specific destination. The traveller who departs from one location and arrives at another is, in between, nowhere at all. Taken together, the lines of transport form a network of point-to-point connections.

Ingold, T. (2016). Lines A Brief History. Routledge

Are they the same? To test this, I made a 2×2 grid with these concepts, which didn’t make sense. Many try to treat unspecific goals like transport or going to a point, but that is impossible. Similarly, a wayfaring approach to a specific place also becomes an unspecific search as the specific goal no longer matters, and the search along the way becomes deeper.

To get back to my conversation with Ed Batista, the question I was left with is, can you search for something destined to be emergent, or is that a journey?

The unspecific forms of searches and the wayfaring journey allow for emergence. They cannot be forced. They are not seeking an end goal, they are searching for something that can’t be known until it is present, and even that is not a stopping place. Ed claims that to lose this would be nihilism. My perspective is that you will always have hope as long as the journey continues. I think we are closer in meaning than I initially suspected.

To end with another thought from Life of Lines:

Indeed the line, like life, has no end. As in life, what matters is not the final destination, but all the interesting things that occur along the way. For wherever you are, there is somewhere further you can go.

Ingold, T. (2016). Lines A Brief History. Routledge

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