Monday, 3:30pm


Observing Serendipity in Digital Information Environments

Stephann Makri, Jaffor Bhuiya, Jermaine Carthy, Jermaine Owusu-Bonsu
City University London, United Kingdom


We often interact with digital information environments to find useful information. But sometimes useful information finds us unexpectedly, propelling us in new and exciting directions. We might come across information serendipitously when looking for information on something else, or when we are not looking for anything in particular. In previous studies, people have self-reported that they come across information serendipitously. However, there has been limited success in directly observing people doing so. To see if we could have more success, we conducted naturalistic observations of 45 users interacting with different types of digital information environments. Without priming them about serendipity, we asked the users to conduct self-chosen naturalistic information tasks, which varied from broad tasks such as browsing online news to narrow tasks such as finding a particular product to buy. We noted several examples where users either 1) stated they were looking for information on a particular topic or product and unexpectedly found useful/potentially useful information about something else or 2) unexpectedly found useful/potentially useful information when not looking for anything in particular. Our findings suggest that, with a carefully-considered approach, serendipity-related information interaction behaviour can be directly observed. Direct observation allows designers of digital information environments to better understand this behaviour and use this understanding to reason about ways of designing new or improving existing support for serendipity.

Whakapapa: Genealogical Information Seeking in an Indigenous Context

Spencer Charles Lilley
Massey University, New Zealand


This paper describes the information seeking behaviour of Māori secondary school students between 16-18 years of age when they searching for information about their whakapapa (genealogy). Rather than considering this form of information behaviour in the context of leisure time activity, the study positions itself as an important cultural expression of personal and collective identity. Like other studies involving youth, the research demonstrates the importance of inter-personal information seeking, particularly in Māori cultural settings.

Astronauts & Sugar Beets: Young Girls’ Information Seeking in Family Interactions

Sarah C. Barriage, Darcey K. Searles
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, United States of America


This paper presents preliminary results from a study examining young girls’ information seeking in family interactions. Video recordings of everyday interactions of families with girls between the ages of 3 and 6 years were coded for instances of information seeking, which were then analyzed using the methodology of conversation analysis. Results indicate that young girls’ information seeking typically occurs in response to ongoing talk and action, with few instances of information seeking unrelated to the locally immediate context of the family interactions.