Information Encountering

16 April 2009 at 10:24 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

I recently attended an interesting workshop by my colleague Sanda Erdelez from the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies (what used to be called library science, back when we had libraries). Sanda has developed the concept of information encountering, defined as

a memorable experience of an unexpected discovery of useful or interesting information. Information encountering occurs when one is looking for information relating to one topic and finds information relating to another one. However, it also occurs upon bumping into information while carrying on a routine activity.

During the workshop we discussed the parallels between information encountering and Kirzner’s notion of entrepreneurial discovery. Both are different from systematic search, yet more than pure accident. (As Sanda reminded us, “serendipity,” often used today as a synonym for luck, originally meant the discovery of one thing while searching systematically for another.) More generally, we agreed that the entrepreneurship and  information-science literatures can learn from each other. We also discussed Nicholas Carr’s recent Atlantic Monthly piece, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” which argues, in part, that the ability to find specific information quickly makes us less likely to discover useful information accidentally.

Here is more of Sanda’s research. The terms “accidental discovery of information” and “incidental information acquisition” are also used in the information-science literature.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Entrepreneurship.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rhys  |  17 April 2009 at 12:18 pm

    So that’s what it’s called. I did some information encountering the other day, and it led me to one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Actually, it was through an article that I found by searching on Google, so even though I haven’t read “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” I’m pretty sure I disagree with the premise. Just because you can find the information easily doesn’t mean you won’t find something unexpected within that. Besides, it’s not like you always find the exact thing you’re looking for immediately. This is just proof that people need to pay attention to the little details and not overlook seemingly small things. That’s “the power of small.”

  • 2. Shawn Ritenour  |  17 April 2009 at 11:58 pm

    One of my professors in graduate school never sent his assistant to look-up and copy a desired journal article for him. He said he always went himself because he often would find another interesting article in the same issue or volume of the journal that was not what he was looking for, but was on a different topic but interesting none-the-less.

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