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Focus on: Lori McCay-Peet

June 18, 2013

Highlighting research by members of the Canadian library and information management community.

PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University

Photo of Lori McCay-Peet

What is your research topic?

The topic of my research is the phenomenon of serendipity, a potential catalyst for innovation and creativity. I am interested in how serendipity unfolds and what facilitates and hinders it. I define serendipity as an unexpected experience prompted by a person’s valuable interaction with ideas, information, objects, or phenomena. I am particularly interested in how websites and technologies such as recommender systems and social media tools can support work-related serendipity and what part individual differences play in the experience.

What interested you in that topic?

One of the main things that interested me in serendipity was the challenge of researching such a fuzzy yet important topic. Before starting my PhD, I had done some work as a research assistant on chance encounters with information in digital libraries. I got a taste of how difficult serendipity was to both define and study. But the advice given to me was to find a topic for my PhD that could sustain my interest for at least 4 years. Because of the complexity of the topic — reaching into so many areas such as psychology, education, management, information science, and computer science –- I thought serendipity could fit the bill. And I am happy to say that it has.

What impact would you like to see your research have on LIS practitioners?

We still have a lot to learn about serendipity and what helps and hinders it. But I hope that my research will provide LIS practitioners with a source for ideas for design elements that could be used to augment both physical and online information spaces to make them more conducive to serendipity. I am also developing a tool, a scalar questionnaire, that will help practitioners evaluate how well specific digital environments, such as their library’s public website or their organization’s intranet, facilitate serendipity.

What emerging topics do you foresee in the future of LIS research?

Digital media is not new to LIS research, but I think we will be seeing an increasing amount of research on new media, ubiquitous computing, and gaming across many settings.

What advice would you give to LIS students or practitioners hoping to engage in research?

Beyond taking a variety of research methods courses, I would recommend that students look for research assistant opportunities. Practitioners may look for opportunities to assist colleagues with their research. These initial forays into research are great opportunities to learn about research first hand and they may also help students and practitioners develop or narrow down their own research ideas.

Read more about Lori’s research on her page.

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