The Serendipity Factor: Evaluating the Affordances of Digital Environments (SEADE)

External website Proposal in ACM proceedings


For more than a decade, research has sought to understand serendipity and how it may be manifested in digital environments such as information visualizations systems and social media. The motivation to support serendipity and outline design specifications comes from its association with positive user experiences and outcomes that can have varying levels of impact ranging from the personal to the global. The serendipity research community has made significant headway in the past several years on defining and mapping the process of serendipity and developing tools designed to afford it. Creative and robust heuristics and methods of evaluation, however, are required to help move the research forward, to ensure that new or enhanced features, functions, or tools are providing affordances as intended. Without sound approaches, we are blind as to what facilitates serendipity and proposed heuristics to aid practitioners are speculative. For SEADE (pronounced ‘seed’), a one-day workshop will examine approaches aimed at the evaluation of the ‘serendipitousness’ and the design of various digital environments. Since 2006, in its earlier iterations as IIiX and HCIR, CHIIR has served as a venue for the discussion of user-centred information interaction in context. CHIIR provides an ideal venue for bringing together researchers from diverse information and computer science communities and beyond working on the problem of providing support for serendipity in digital environments.


Lori McCay-Peet is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her research focuses on people’s perceptions and uses of digital information environments such as social media and digital libraries, particularly in the context of knowledge work. As part of her PhD dissertation, she developed two serendipity self-report scales, one to measure perceptions of serendipity and the other to measure how well a digital information environment facilitates serendipitous experiences [9]. She has served on a number of organizing committees including GRAND (Graphics, Animation, and New Media Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence) Café 2013 in Halifax, SCORE (Serendipity, Chance, and the Opportunistic Discovery of Information Research) 2012 in Montreal, and the International Workshop on Encouraging Serendipity in Interactive Systems at INTERACT 2011 in Lisbon.

Elaine Toms is Professor of Information Science, University of Sheffield, UK. Her research interests include improving search systems to support real-life work tasks (rather than bags of words), new approaches to evaluating search systems, understanding serendipity and how systems can deliver on serendipity, and the relationship between human curiosity and browsing. She has previously served on the organising and programme committees of many conferences and has organised multiple workshops including SCORE (Serendipity, Chance, and the Opportunistic Discovery of Information Research) in Montreal, and the International Workshop on Encouraging Serendipity in Interactive Systems at INTERACT 2011, Lisbon.

Anabel Quan-Haase is Associate Professor of Information and Media Studies and Sociology at the University of Western Ontario. Her research interests include digital scholarship, networked work, serendipity in work practices, serendipity in social media, and the design of discovery systems that promote serendipity. She is the author of "Technology and Society: Social Networks, Inequality and Power" (Oxford University Press, 2015) and co-editor of the Handbook of Social Media Research Methods (Sage, 2016). She is the past president of the Canadian Association for Information Science and current Council Member of the Communication, Information Technology, and Media Sociology section of the American Sociological Association. She has organized several conferences including the Canadian Association for Information Science Annual Meeting and has served on numerous programme committees.