About ‘Information encountering re-encountered’, for May 22, 2020

Sanda Erdelez
Stephann Makri

Authors Sanda Erdelez and Stephann Makri are information scientists, and are both well-known serendipity researchers. Sanda Erdelez is the Director and a Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, at Simmons University in Boston, USA. Stephann Makri is a Senior Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at City University, London, UK.

This session will be chaired by Samantha Copeland.

Information encountering re-encountered: A conceptual re-examination of serendipity in the context of information acquisition



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.


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


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.


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.

Twitter Discussion from may 22

Questions for Twitter:

Questions will be posted a week in advance of

  1. You point out in your article that many dictionary and popular understandings of serendipity miss the sagacity aspect – how does your revised account take sagacity into consideration?
  2. Given the difficulties with consolidating definitions, understandings and approaches to serendipity in just one field, can we hope to ever bring all the disciplinary ways of understanding the phenomenon together?
  3. How are people a kind of information we encounter? In your broader definition of information, people, objects, places as well as media can count as information… how is it that we encounter people in the same way we encounter information?
  4. You emphasise micro-serendipity, which can happen during our everyday going-about-life activities, not just those directed or intended toward information acquisition…so, any time and any place? Is that what makes information encountering special, or can we encounter information at any time and in any place anyway, intentionally or not? (and then, are there limits to what counts as information acquisition?)
  5. When it comes to acquisition, what happens when it is something just ‘interesting’ and not useful, does this affect the ‘capturing’ step? That is, do we ever ‘capture’ things when we don’t know yet why they are interesting to us?

The twitter discussion will be posted here, after the journal club event.

Citation & links:

Erdelez, S. and Makri, S. (2020), “Information encountering re-encountered: A conceptual re-examination of serendipity in the context of information acquisition”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-08-2019-0151

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