Encouraging serendipity in research: Designing technologies to support connection-making

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Mobile applications have the ability to present information to users that is influenced by their surroundings, activities and interests. Such applications have the potential to influence the likelihood of individuals experiencing 'serendipity', through a combination of information, context, insight and activity. This study reports the deployment of a system that sends push text suggestions to users throughout the day, where the content of those messages is informed by users' experience and interests. We investigated the responses to and interactions with messages that varied in format and relevance, and which were received at different times throughout the day. Sixteen participants were asked to use a mobile diary application to record their experiences and thoughts regarding information that was received over a period of five consecutive days. Results suggest that participants' perception of the received suggestions was influenced by the relevance of the suggestion to their interests, but that there were also positive attitudes towards seemingly irrelevant information. Qualitative data indicates that participants, if in an appropriate time and place, are willing to accept and act upon push suggestions as long as the number of suggestions that they receive is not overwhelming. This study contributes towards an understanding of how mobile users make connections with new information, furthering our understanding of how serendipitous connections and insightful thinking could be accommodated using technology.




Kefalidou, G., & Sharples, S. (2016). Encouraging serendipity in research: Designing technologies to support connection-making. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 89, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2016.01.003

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