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IDEALS @ Illinois: Micro-serendipity: Meaningful coincidences in everyday life shared on Twitter

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In this paper we present work on micro-serendipity: investigating everyday contexts, conditions, and attributes of serendipity as shared on Twitter. In contrast to related work, we deliberately omit a preset definition of serendipity to allow for the inclusion of micro-occurrences of what people themselves consider as meaningful coincidences in everyday life. We find that different people have different thresholds for what they consider serendipitous, revealing a serendipity continuum. We propose a distinction between background serendipity (or ‘traditional’ serendipity) and foreground serendipity (or ‘synchronicity’, unexpectedly finding something meaningful related to foreground interests). Our study confirms the presence of three key serendipity elements of unexpectedness, insight and value (Makri & Blandford, 2012), and suggests a fourth element, preoccupation (foreground problem/interest), which covers synchronicity. Finally, we find that a combination of features based on word usage, POS categories, and hashtag usage show promise in automatically identifying tweets about serendipitous occurrences.