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

Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud., Volume 89, 2016, Pages 1-23.

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Human Computer InteractionOzresearch questionsSerendipitymobile diary applicationMore(11+)
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While previous models of serendipity and research show that serendipity manifests via active information seeking, passive connection-making, synchronicity, sagacity and coincidence or via unexpectedness, connection-making, evaluation and reflection, our current study extends thes...

Abstract:

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 dep...More

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Introduction
  • Understanding the way that people think and make associations among their own interests, resources and other people is important not only for encouraging communication and collaboration but for identifying key elements that contribute to making unexpected connections – something that can be termed ‘serendipity’.
  • Sagacity – that is the ability to make valuable connections among ‘unconnected’ information – has been documented as being an important element of serendipity (Kop, 2012).
  • Serendipity has been researched in numerous contexts including counselling psychology (Krumboltz, 1998), information seeking (Foster and Ford, 2003), ubiquitous computing (Newman et al, 2002), entrepreneurship (Dew, 2009) and medicine (Klein, 2008; Ban, 2006).
  • This is an open access article under the CC BY license
Highlights
  • Understanding the way that people think and make associations among their own interests, resources and other people is important not only for encouraging communication and collaboration but also for identifying key elements that contribute to making unexpected connections – something that can be termed ‘serendipity’
  • While previous models of serendipity and research show that serendipity manifests via active information seeking, passive connection-making (McBirnie, 2008), synchronicity, sagacity and coincidence (Liestman, 1992) or via unexpectedness (Sun et al, 2011), connection-making, evaluation and reflection (Makri and Blandford, 2012), our current study extends these notions by unpacking several steps and aspects of serendipity models in the literature such as the steps of ‘noticing and examining’ and ‘connection-making’
  • Our results provide support to the notion that having a system that provides suggestions to users can provide an environment for experiencing serendipity as we had cases reported of participants’ making-connections that wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise (RQ6)
  • While existing research in recommender systems have been attempting to employ contextual factors in recommender systems (e.g. Adomavicius et al, 2005), our research suggests that the level of relevance/irrelevance of a suggestion appears to play an important role in connectionmaking (RQ4, RQ5, RQ6)
  • We found that the way text suggestions were phrased did not seem to influence the way or promptness that people responded to the suggestions (RQ3)
  • In this paper we unpacked processes that trigger and promote immediate and delayed connection-making on-the-go by adopting a novel WoZ approach and offering a synergized technological framework consisting of text messaging and mobile diary for responding to the suggestions
Methods
  • The authors recruited 16 university students and staff from the University of Nottingham (5 males and 11 females), aged between 18 and 44 years.
  • 5 participants were University staff and 11 were university students.
  • From the University staff participants, 2 were working in administration roles and 4 in research roles.
  • The rest of the participants were University students.
  • For detailed demographics including
Results
  • Quantitative data – coding of participants’ diary entries.
  • Each participant received 30 text suggestions in total over the five consecutive days, giving a total of 480 text messages sent.
  • The response to each message was classified as positive, negative or neutral by analysing the written comments in the diary and verbal comments in poststudy interviews.
  • During the last stage of the post-study interviews participants were prompted to comment on each of their suggestions based on whether they found them positive, neutral or negative.
  • There were 109 (23%) negative responses, 293 (61%) positive responses and 78 (16%) neutral responses
Conclusion
  • In this paper the authors unpacked processes that trigger and promote immediate and delayed connection-making on-the-go by adopting a novel WoZ approach and offering a synergized technological framework consisting of text messaging and mobile diary for responding to the suggestions.
  • Some future steps in the research include the further unpacking of phrasing of suggestions in connection-making by e.g. sending fewer text suggestions per day
  • Another future study would be to perform a longitudinal study that lasts for longer period of time – this will provide more opportunities to explore further issues of context and interactions with other people as a process of connection-making.
  • Unpacking users’ perceptions would be a research step extending this study by exploring further the way that people classify, re-classify and value the suggestions over time.the presented work here has demonstrated that simple and familiar ways of communication alongside with a coupled tailored/loosely-tailored suggestions mechanism can synergise in facilitating both connectionmaking and positive user interactions
Summary
  • Introduction:

    Understanding the way that people think and make associations among their own interests, resources and other people is important not only for encouraging communication and collaboration but for identifying key elements that contribute to making unexpected connections – something that can be termed ‘serendipity’.
  • Sagacity – that is the ability to make valuable connections among ‘unconnected’ information – has been documented as being an important element of serendipity (Kop, 2012).
  • Serendipity has been researched in numerous contexts including counselling psychology (Krumboltz, 1998), information seeking (Foster and Ford, 2003), ubiquitous computing (Newman et al, 2002), entrepreneurship (Dew, 2009) and medicine (Klein, 2008; Ban, 2006).
  • This is an open access article under the CC BY license
  • Objectives:

    The aforementioned limitation may present a viable facsimilie of ‘real world’ ‘in-the-wild’ situation that this study aims to unpack.
  • Methods:

    The authors recruited 16 university students and staff from the University of Nottingham (5 males and 11 females), aged between 18 and 44 years.
  • 5 participants were University staff and 11 were university students.
  • From the University staff participants, 2 were working in administration roles and 4 in research roles.
  • The rest of the participants were University students.
  • For detailed demographics including
  • Results:

    Quantitative data – coding of participants’ diary entries.
  • Each participant received 30 text suggestions in total over the five consecutive days, giving a total of 480 text messages sent.
  • The response to each message was classified as positive, negative or neutral by analysing the written comments in the diary and verbal comments in poststudy interviews.
  • During the last stage of the post-study interviews participants were prompted to comment on each of their suggestions based on whether they found them positive, neutral or negative.
  • There were 109 (23%) negative responses, 293 (61%) positive responses and 78 (16%) neutral responses
  • Conclusion:

    In this paper the authors unpacked processes that trigger and promote immediate and delayed connection-making on-the-go by adopting a novel WoZ approach and offering a synergized technological framework consisting of text messaging and mobile diary for responding to the suggestions.
  • Some future steps in the research include the further unpacking of phrasing of suggestions in connection-making by e.g. sending fewer text suggestions per day
  • Another future study would be to perform a longitudinal study that lasts for longer period of time – this will provide more opportunities to explore further issues of context and interactions with other people as a process of connection-making.
  • Unpacking users’ perceptions would be a research step extending this study by exploring further the way that people classify, re-classify and value the suggestions over time.the presented work here has demonstrated that simple and familiar ways of communication alongside with a coupled tailored/loosely-tailored suggestions mechanism can synergise in facilitating both connectionmaking and positive user interactions
Tables
  • Table1: Participants demographics
  • Table2: Users’ response by suggestion relevance, type and time
  • Table3: Identified themes mapped onto the Rubber Domino model
Download tables as Excel
Funding
  • This work was supported by the Horizon Digital Economy Research (RCUK grant EP/G065802/1) and EPSRC (EP/H042741/1)
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