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Wrap mind around new randonauting

Smartphone in hand, I trudge a path through a small, shallow swamp. I’m following the coordinates to an unusual, obscure and random location.

The coordinates were provided by Randonautica, an app that encourages users to go on adventures.

If you’re familiar with the global treasure hunting game geocaching, Randonautica has a similar feel, albeit with a sort of spiritual element and no tangible X-marks-the-spot treasure.

Generating a truly random location seems an easy enough computational task for any well-designed smartphone app. But Randonautica is different. It’s not as simple as entering coordinates in a GPS and following turn-by-turn directions.

My location was identified using two sources: something called “quantum entropy” and my “intention.”

In essence, an entropy is the measure of the randomness of a system (hence the name Randonautica, or “random” navigation). My intention, however, well that’s less scientific. More on that in a moment.

How I got to this shallow swamp might have been completely random, but I had some input on the kind of destination I wanted.

First, I gave the app location permissions. This gave Randonautica the ability to pinpoint my starting location. My location is the center point for each search. Once set, I set the kind of location I wanted to visit: an attractor, a void or an anomaly.

Attractors are dense clusters of random points, whereas voids are the opposite (thin clusters). I chose to search for an anomaly because they’re considered the strongest points among attractors and voids.

OK, that’s not fair. I chose anomaly because I had no clue what I was doing.

I was trying to be random, just like the coordinates. I didn’t even read the definitions between location types before my journey began.

Maybe that’s why I ended up in a swamp.

My intention — or the reason for my adventure — was “freedom.”

Other Randonauts will post pictures of their adventures to Instagram and Twitter, often with one-word reasons for why they were seeking a new location. “Peace.” “Fun.” “Magical.”

The idea is that our intentions influence Randonautica’s quantum random number generator.

“Users choose to venture to these locations to see what they find,” the team who designed the app posted to their website at randonautica.com. “They often discover that what they see lines up with their intention, which is what they were thinking about when they generated the point.”

Ultimately, it really didn’t matter whether or not I believed my intentions could somehow influence the number generator. It was more about the adventure.

Like Randonautica’s website describes, it was about exploring blind-spots and “places nearby that are outside of your conscious awareness.”

Today’s adventure wasn’t worthy of a social media post. After all, I ended up in a swampy area a few miles north of my home.

I don’t know if my intention lined up with that particular location. Maybe it did. My intention was to be free from the confines of my home, to explore a new area. It’s what I needed most that day — an escape — something a lot of people are craving during these strange, social-distancing days.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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