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Article
Publication date: 31 August 2012

Stephann Makri and Ann Blandford

In “Coming across information serendipitously – Part 1: a process model” the authors identified common elements of researchers' experiences of “coming across information…

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Abstract

Purpose

In “Coming across information serendipitously – Part 1: a process model” the authors identified common elements of researchers' experiences of “coming across information serendipitously”. These experiences involve a mix of unexpectedness and insight and lead to a valuable, unanticipated outcome. In this article, the authors aim to show how the elements of unexpectedness, insight and value form a framework for subjectively classifying whether a particular experience might be considered serendipitous and, if so, just how serendipitous.

Design/methodology/approach

The classification framework was constructed by analysing 46 experiences of coming across information serendipitously provided by 28 interdisciplinary researchers during critical incident interviews. “Serendipity stories” were written to summarise each experience and to facilitate their comparison. The common elements of unexpectedness, insight and value were identified in almost all the experiences.

Findings

The presence of different mixes of unexpectedness, insight and value in the interviewees' experiences define a multi‐dimensional conceptual space (which the authors call the “serendipity space”). In this space, different “strengths” of serendipity exist. The classification framework can be used to reason about whether an experience falls within the serendipity space and, if so, how “pure” or “dilute” it is.

Originality/value

The framework provides researchers from various disciplines with a structured means of reasoning about and classifying potentially serendipitous experiences.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 68 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 19 October 2015

Andrea Perna, Andrea Runfola, Simone Guercini and Gian Luca Gregori

The purpose of this paper is to propose evidence on the role of serendipity in business relationship. It concerns the understanding of the unplanned development of the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to propose evidence on the role of serendipity in business relationship. It concerns the understanding of the unplanned development of the relationship and the opportunities that may arise from taking serendipity as a “shaping” factor of relationship beginning.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper recurs to a longitudinal case study in the mechanical industry. In particular the development of the relationship between an Italian manufacturing company as supplier and a Chinese large customer is presented.

Findings

The case study highlights the role played by serendipity in the beginning and development of the business relationship between an Italian manufacturing company and a Chinese customer.

Originality/value

The main theoretical contribution of the paper is to point out how serendipity may affect business relationship development.

Details

IMP Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2059-1403

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Article
Publication date: 31 August 2012

Stephann Makri and Ann Blandford

This research seeks to gain a detailed understanding of how researchers come across information serendipitously, grounded in real‐world examples. This research was…

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Abstract

Purpose

This research seeks to gain a detailed understanding of how researchers come across information serendipitously, grounded in real‐world examples. This research was undertaken to enrich the theoretical understanding of this slippery phenomenon.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi‐structured critical incident interviews were conducted with 28 interdisciplinary researchers. Interviewees were asked to discuss memorable examples of coming across information serendipitously from their research or everyday life. The data collection and analysis process followed many of the core principles of grounded theory methodology.

Findings

The examples provided were varied, but shared common elements (they involved a mix of unexpectedness and insight and led to a valuable, unanticipated outcome). These elements form part of an empirically grounded process model of serendipity. In this model, a new connection is made that involves a mix of unexpectedness and insight and has the potential to lead to a valuable outcome. Projections are made on the potential value of the outcome and actions are taken to exploit the connection, leading to an (unanticipated) valuable outcome.

Originality/value

The model provides researchers across disciplines with a structured means of understanding and describing serendipitous experiences.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 68 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 14 November 2008

Abigail McBirnie

This paper aims to present selected findings of a recent study of serendipity in information seeking, exploring the paradox of control inherent in the concept of “seeking…

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2318

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present selected findings of a recent study of serendipity in information seeking, exploring the paradox of control inherent in the concept of “seeking serendipity”.

Design/methodology/approach

After providing an overview of the research study, the paper locates the research findings in the context of the literature. The discussion explores the research findings in relation to both the paradox of control and the related concept of “seeking serendipity”.

Findings

The definition/description of serendipity is examined, the concept of process‐perception duality is introduced, and links with the literature are explored. The discussion reassesses the paradox of control in light of the research findings, raising the possibility that information literacy educators have a role to play in developing the perception aspect of serendipity.

Practical implications

The paper proposes that, despite the possibly uncomfortable challenges presented by the paradox of control, serendipity deserves more recognition in professional practice. Increased acknowledgement and understanding of serendipity may enable professional practitioners to function more effectively in the unpredictable, dynamic environment that informs the reality of information seeking.

Originality/value

The paper adds to the limited existing empirical research investigating serendipity, increasing both academic and practical understanding of the phenomenon. In particular, the introduction of the concept of process‐perception duality provides a useful grounding for future research.

Details

Aslib Proceedings, vol. 60 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0001-253X

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Article
Publication date: 10 October 2016

Kim Martin and Anabel Quan-Haase

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the changing research practices of historians, and to contrast their experiences of serendipity in physical and digital…

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1261

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the changing research practices of historians, and to contrast their experiences of serendipity in physical and digital information environments.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 20 historians in Southwestern Ontario participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed employing grounded theory. The analytical approach included memoing, the constant comparative method, and three phases of coding.

Findings

Four main themes were identified: agency, the importance of the physical library experience, digital information environments, and novel heuristic forms of serendipity. The authors found that scholars frequently used active verbs to describe their experience with serendipity. This suggests that agency is more involved in the experience than previous conceptualizations of serendipity have suggested, and led us to coin the term “incidental serendipity.” Other key findings include the need for digital tools to incorporate the context surrounding primary sources, and also to provide an organizational context much like what is encountered by patrons in library stacks.

Originality/value

The increased emphasis on digital materials should not come at the expense of the physical information environment, where historians often encounter serendipitous finds. A fine balance and a greater integration between digital and physical resources is needed in order to support scholars’ continued ability to make connections between materials. By showing the active role that historians take in their serendipitous encounters, this paper suggests that historical training is critical for eliciting incidental serendipitous encounters. The authors propose a novel approach, one that examines verbs in serendipity accounts.

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Journal of Documentation, vol. 72 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 4 October 2017

Lennart Björneborn

Serendipity is an interesting phenomenon to study in information science as it plays a fundamental – but perhaps underestimated – role in how we discover, explore, and…

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1728

Abstract

Purpose

Serendipity is an interesting phenomenon to study in information science as it plays a fundamental – but perhaps underestimated – role in how we discover, explore, and learn in all fields of life. The purpose of this paper is to operationalize the concept of serendipity by providing terminological “building blocks” for understanding connections between environmental and personal factors in serendipitous encounters. Understanding these connections is essential when designing affordances in physical and digital environments that can facilitate serendipity.

Design/methodology/approach

In this paper, serendipity is defined as what happens when we, in unplanned ways, encounter resources (information, things, people, etc.) that we find interesting. In the outlined framework, serendipity is understood as an affordance, i.e., a usage potential when environmental and personal factors correspond with each other. The framework introduces three key affordances for facilitating serendipity: diversifiability, traversability, and sensoriability, covering capacities of physical and digital environments to be diversified, traversed, and sensed. The framework is structured around couplings between the three key affordances and three key personal serendipity factors: curiosity, mobility, and sensitivity. Ten sub-affordances for serendipity and ten coupled personal sub-factors are also briefly outlined. Related research is compared with and mapped into the framework aiming at a theoretical validation. The affordance approach to serendipity is discussed, including different degrees and types of serendipity.

Findings

All the terminological “building blocks” in the framework are seen to resonate with the included related research. Serendipity is found to be a commonplace phenomenon in everyday life. It is argued that we cannot “engineer” nor “design” serendipity per se, but can design affordances for serendipity. Serendipity may thus be intended by designers, but must always be unplanned by users. The outlined affordance approach to serendipity points to the importance of our sensory-motor abilities to discover and explore serendipitous affordances.

Research limitations/implications

Implications of the framework for designing physical and digital environments with affordances for serendipity are briefly considered. It is suggested that physical environments may have a primacy regarding affordances of sensoriability for facilitating serendipity, and digital environments a primacy regarding traversability, whereas physical and digital environments may afford similar degrees of diversifiability. In future research, the framework needs further empirical validation in physical and digital environments.

Originality/value

No other research has been found addressing affordances for serendipity and connections between environmental and personal factors in similarly detailed ways. The outlined framework and typology may function as a baseline for further serendipity studies.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 73 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 1 June 2003

Allen Foster and Nigel Ford

Serendipity” has both a classical origin in literature and a more modern manifestation where it is found in the descriptions of the problem solving and knowledge…

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9304

Abstract

Serendipity” has both a classical origin in literature and a more modern manifestation where it is found in the descriptions of the problem solving and knowledge acquisition of humanities and science scholars. Studies of information retrieval and information seeking have also discussed the utility of the notion of serendipity. Some have implied that it may be stimulated, or that certain people may “encounter” serendipitous information more than others. All to some extent accept the classical definition of serendipity as a “fortuitous” accident. The analysis presented here is part of a larger study concerning the information‐seeking behaviour of interdisciplinary scholars. This paper considers the nature of serendipity in information‐seeking contexts, and reinterprets the notion of serendipity as a phenomenon arising from both conditions and strategies – as both a purposive and a non‐purposive component of information seeking and related knowledge acquisition.

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Journal of Documentation, vol. 59 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 7 October 2014

Allen Edward Foster and David Ellis

– The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of serendipity and approaches to its study particularly in relation to information studies.

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1624

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of serendipity and approaches to its study particularly in relation to information studies.

Design/methodology/approach

The origins of the term serendipity are described and its elaboration as an exploratory and explanatory concept in science and the social sciences are outlined. The distinction between serendipity and serendipity pattern is explained and theoretical and empirical studies of both serendipity and the serendipity patterns are explored. The relationship between information encountering is described. Empirical studies of serendipity using Citation Classics and other research approaches in information studies are described.

Findings

The discrepancy between occurrences of serendipity in studies using Citation Classics and reported serendipity in philosophy of science, research anecdotes, information encountering and information seeking by inter-disciplinary researchers is highlighted. A comparison between a process model of serendipity and serendipity as an emergent behavioural characteristic are indicates directions for future research.

Originality/value

The paper provides and original synthesis of the theoretical and empirical literature on serendipity with particular reference to work in information studies and an indication of the methodological difficulties involved in its study.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 70 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 18 February 2020

Sanda Erdelez and Stephann Makri

In order to understand the totality, diversity and richness of human information behavior, increasing research attention has been paid to examining serendipity in the…

Abstract

Purpose

In order to understand the totality, diversity and richness of human information behavior, increasing research attention has been paid to examining serendipity in the context of information acquisition. However, several issues have arisen as this research subfield has tried to find its feet; we have used different, inconsistent terminology to define this phenomenon (e.g. information encountering, accidental information discovery, incidental information acquisition), the scope of the phenomenon has not been clearly defined and its nature was not fully understood or fleshed-out.

Design/methodology/approach

In this paper, information encountering (IE) was proposed as the preferred term for serendipity in the context of information acquisition.

Findings

A reconceptualized definition and scope of IE was presented, a temporal model of IE and a refined model of IE that integrates the IE process with contextual factors and extends previous models of IE to include additional information acquisition activities pre- and postencounter.

Originality/value

By providing a more precise definition, clearer scope and richer theoretical description of the nature of IE, there was hope to make the phenomenon of serendipity in the context of information acquisition more accessible, encouraging future research consistency and thereby promoting deeper, more unified theoretical development.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 76 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

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Article
Publication date: 2 February 2018

Xiaosong Zhou, Xu Sun, Qingfeng Wang and Sarah Sharples

The current understanding of serendipity is based primarily on studies employing westerners as the participants, and it remains uncertain whether or not this understanding…

Abstract

Purpose

The current understanding of serendipity is based primarily on studies employing westerners as the participants, and it remains uncertain whether or not this understanding would be pervasive under different cultures, such as in China. In addition, there is not a sufficient systematic investigation of context during the occurrence of serendipity in current studies. The purpose of this paper is to examine the above issues by conducting a follow-up empirical study with a group of Chinese scholars.

Design/methodology/approach

The social media application “WeChat” was employed as a research tool. A diary-based study was conducted and 16 participants were required to send to the researchers any cases of serendipity they encountered during a period of two weeks, and this was followed by a post-interview.

Findings

Chinese scholars experienced serendipity in line with the three main processes of: encountering unexpectedness, connection-making and recognising the value. An updated context-based serendipity model was constructed, where the role of context during each episode of experiencing serendipity was identified, including the external context (e.g. time, location and status), the social context and the internal context (e.g. precipitating conditions, sagacity/perceptiveness and emotion).

Originality/value

The updated context model provides a further understanding of the role played by context during the different processes of serendipity. The framework for experiencing serendipity has been expanded, and this may be used to classify the categories of serendipity.

Details

Journal of Documentation, vol. 74 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0022-0418

Keywords

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