Monthly Archives: November 2016

Talk: Living Labs – channeling serendipity and the unforeseen into ICT innovation

Sabrina Sauer gave a lunch talk at UvA’s ILPS group on the 7th of October about how innovators can channel serendipity and unforeseen user ideas into ICT innovations using the living lab approach.


Living labs are public-private-civic partnerships that facilitate user-centered ICT development in daily life environments. In living labs, prospective technology users are invited to join R&D processes. As experts of their daily life settings, they are believed to bring new, serendipitous and unforeseen ideas to the table. Yet user inclusion in innovation is regarded with some ambivalence exactly because of the uncertain outcomes. Based on research into user involvement in living labs, this talk offers six suggestions on how to successfully embrace this uncertainty and discusses opportunities of living labs and serendipity in IR.

Paper: Seeking Serendipity: A Living Lab Approach to Understanding Creative Retrieval in Broadcast Media Production

A short paper by Sabrina Sauer and Maarten de Rijke on the role of serendipity in media professionals’ search practices was presented at ACM International Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2016) in Pisa, Italy.


This paper presents a method to map user needs and integrate serendipitous search behaviors in search algorithm development: the living lab approach. This user-centered design approach involves technology users during technology development to catch unexpected insights and successfully innovate. This paper focuses on the preliminary findings of a living lab case study to answer the question how this methodology reveals fine-grained information about users’ serendipitous search behaviors. The case study involves a specific user group, media professionals who work in broadcast television and use audiovisual archives to create audiovisual content, during the development of new search algorithms for a large audiovisual archive. Research insights are based on data gathered during one co-design workshop, and ten in-depth semi-structured interviews with media professionals.

Findings stipulate that these users balance socio-technical constraints and affordances during creative retrieval to (1) find exactly what is sought; and (2) increase the possibility of serendipitous, unforeseen search results. We conclude that modeling these search processes in terms of improvising with constraints and affordances enables an effective articulation and channeling of user-technology interaction insights into new technology development. The paper suggests next steps in the living lab approach to further understand serendipitous search and creative retrieval processes.