Academics' responses to encountered information: Context matters

Sheila Pontis, Genovefa Kefalidou, Ann Blandford, Jamie Forth, Stephann Makri, Sarah Sharples, Geraint Wiggins, Mel Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


An increasing number of tools are being developed to help academics interact with information, but little is known about the benefits of those tools for their users. This study evaluated academics' receptiveness to information proposed by a mobile app, the SerenA Notebook: information that is based in their inferred interests but does not relate directly to a prior recognized need. The evaluated app aimed at creating the experience of serendipitous encounters: generating ideas and inspiring thoughts, and potentially triggering follow-up actions, by providing users with suggestions related to their work and leisure interests. We studied how 20 academics interacted with messages sent by the mobile app (3 per day over 10 consecutive days). Collected data sets were analyzed using thematic analysis. We found that contextual factors (location, activity, and focus) strongly influenced their responses to messages. Academics described some unsolicited information as interesting but irrelevant when they could not make immediate use of it. They highlighted filtering information as their major struggle rather than finding information. Some messages that were positively received acted as reminders of activities participants were meant to be doing but were postponing, or were relevant to ongoing activities at the time the information was received.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1883-1903
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • information filtering
  • information use
  • serendipity


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