One day while browsing music on the Internet Archive, I came across something called the "Cratediggers" collection. The contents weren't too interesting, but the name itself reached out and grabbed me. Cratedigging is such an evocative word; it gives the immediate and vivid mental image of rifling through dusty boxes of uninteresting junk, looking for something remarkable left forgotten in its midst. If we don't find it, it may be lost forever... or even worse, snatched up by the next person passing through.
Turns out it's a word with a history. In the hip-hop community, "cratedigging" is when you make a run to your local record store and pore through their inventory looking for something good to sample. With the rise of YouTube, Beatport etc., cratedigging is becoming an ever-rarer thing, relegated mostly to die-hard vinyl collectors.
Or is it?
It seems a pity to let such a great word go to waste, so let's try generalizing that definition a bit. Here's my shot at it.
Cratedigging: n. Sifting through a large, disorganized collection in search of something unexpected and interesting.
The cool thing about this concept is just how many hobbies it's a part of.
I. Recreational shopping.
II. Beachcombing/treasure hunting.
III. Bargain hunting at a garage sale or thrift store.
IV. Wandering around the stacks at your local library.
V. Browsing ebay or craigslist looking for a cool X for your X collection.
VI. Collecting loot in video games (in particular the Fallout series is basically cratedigging made into a game).
VII. Scouring the Internet for cool pics for your Pinterest.
VIII. Clicking "just one more link" before you go to bed.
While the roots of cratedigging are in the physical world, it's also completely possible to lose yourself digging through a large digital collection. Indeed, part of the appeal may be that it's a possibly endless activity. There's always one more crate to bust open, and you never know when the next big find will come. It's not all that different than gambling, but instead of betting money, you're betting time and effort. Just like gambling it can be addictive.
Maybe we can trace this theme back to some common hunter-gatherer impulse stamped across all humanity.
I don't know. I'd give it more thought, but for some reason, the idea of scouring Wikipedia for nuggets of related information seems a lot more appealing.