START Conference Manager    

ASIST 2012 Annual Meeting 
Baltimore, MD, October 26-30, 2012

Coming Across Academic Social Media Content Serendipitously
Laura Dantonio, Stephann Makri and Ann Blandford

Monday, 3:30pm


The aim of this research was to find out whether people come across academic social media content serendipitously and, if so, to gain a detailed understanding of the nature of their experiences. To achieve this aim, we conducted semi-structured Critical Incident interviews with 15 postgraduate students from various disciplines. We found that the interviewees did unintentionally come across academic social media content - often when undertaking unfocused browsing during a break from other academic work. Time investment was identified as an important over-arching theme: investing time in creating and sharing social media content can lead to the creation of opportunities for serendipity for both the person creating/sharing the content and others. The interviews also highlighted a time investment trade-off - where more time spent using social media was perceived to provide greater opportunity for serendipity but, as serendipity can never be guaranteed, it was also perceived to increase the chance that none of the information encountered would contribute to the interviewees' academic research (and therefore would be 'wasted' time). We make a number of suggestions for the design of social media tools that create opportunities for serendipity based on our findings.