Designing for Unexpected Encounters with Digital Products: Case Studies of Serendipity as Felt Experience
Random mechanisms are often employed to enrich the user experience of digital products: We can see this, for example, in the shuffle listening mechanism of music players. Based on the improvisational characteristics of digital materials, this paper presents serendipity as an experiential quality in everyday life. As a process of meaning-making, serendipity refers to the phenomenon of spontaneously understanding unexpected things, including time, space, people, and contents. Following a research-through-design approach while examining emerging issues such as social connectedness, reminiscence, coincidence, and implicit interactions, the concept of serendipity will be unfolded here through a discourse on three mobile applications: Social Radio, Social Clock, and Sound Capsule. These prototypes, examined through long-term usage and qualitative inquiry, allow us to present implications for designing serendipitous interactions and to articulate serendipity as the act of creating meaningful unexpectedness through interactions that emerge in our everyday practices. We argue that regarding serendipity as felt experience in interaction design would encourage designers to design digital artifacts that place interaction in a state of emergence as well as create improvisational encounters. This research intends to locate serendipity at the core of a novel interactive experience and to contribute knowledge that will enrich the body of interaction design research by merging design practice, criticism, and discourse.
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