Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Collective dynamics of small world networks theory

On bumping into undesirable people in London, on a fine Sunday morning

Being on a holiday away from London and thus having an infinite amount of free time on my hands, I decided to revisit a classic, one of my favorite film : 2 Days in Paris, by Julie Delpy. The film, if you haven't seen it, is as funny as it gets -although more enjoyable if you are fluent in both English and French. It it set in Paris, and follows couple Marion and Jack (franco-american couple) for two days.

One thing that caught my attention in the film was Marion's monologue on the 'Collective dynamics of small world networks theory' (cf video above). Although she doesn't believe in it, and although I was dubious at first, I have to admit that times have proven me wrong. It is incredible that in a city as big and diverse as London, you always end up bumping into people you know. Granted, everyone in their twenties hang out in the same spots and your chances of running into your neighbours on a holiday trip increase if you stand under the Big Ben, but why is it that we always have to see those people? 

Bumping into people you love is one thing. Bumping into old hook-ups who never answered your call and people who have wronged you (Or, the opposite, *gasp*!) while you are taking a casual stroll on a lazy Sunday is a terrible offense that should be punishable by law. This may not occur to you very often, but it does to me. I have bumped into people who were in London for only one day, parents of high school friends, teachers, old hook-ups (the number of these appearances are extremely high and I suspect a serious case of stalking), ex-friends, and even animals (There is a black dog that I always bump into around Shoreditch). 

2 Days in Paris

What I am trying to say, though, is that if you pay enough attention, you start noticing that your mind is subconsciously looking for the familiar. You don't accidentally bump into that old lover of yours at the food market. In a crowd that big, some energy pushes you to the familiar. In a room full of strangers, it will make you hear the voice of the one person you know in a louder volume. It will make your eyes search for people you know, acknowledge their locations and your feet will subconsciously take you to them. If you pay enough attention, you notice that encounters are coincidental -but you noticing it comes under your brain's frenetic and unconscious search for the familiar. 

So, next time you are out and about, try and and focus -see how easily your brain tricks you into going back to the familiar. 


  1. Although she doesn't believe in it, and although I was dubious at first, I have to admit that times have proven me wrong.

  2. Shoreditch is pretty easy on that though. You meet hook ups cause people of our ages all go to the same clubs and hang out in Shoreditch, and ex-classmates who are visiting London probably because they want to get to the hip part of town. You're still pretty unlucky to walk into these people at the exact same time haha.
    It gets scary when it starts happening in random places in London (glimpsing tattoos and a shaved head in Chalk Farm? Check) or, like it's explained in the video, at the other side of the world (a classmate at a campground in the woods near San Francisco? Check).

    I'm kind of like this guy now, intrigued and kind of excited to meet someone I know wherever I'm going. And who knows, maybe it's even gonna happen to us: maybe we'll all leave apart after graduation but we may meet in a Chapel in Las Vegas 2 years later (trying to convince each other NOT to get married with that dodgy guy with a funny hat), being the drunks and singles at a wedding five years later, and getting chemo at the same hospital in Australia in 20 years ;)

    1. My bet is on chemo in the same hospital in 20 years. Though I doubt we'll make it to 40 ;)

    2. The weather in London is seducing me to consciously not make it to 21!
      No Piriton was involved in writing the above statement!
      P.S. I'm far from fluent in both French and English, but I totally loved the humour of '2 Days in Paris'!