She sat just like the others at the table.
But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
a little differently as she picked it up.
She smiled once. It was almost painful.
And when they finished and it was time to stand
and slowly, as chance selected them, they left
and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
I saw her. She was moving far behind
the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon
have to sing before a large assembly;
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
light played as on the surface of a pool.
She followed slowly, taking a long time,
as though there were some obstacle in the way;
and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Some historical collections are aiming to enable serendipitous content discovery, peering beyond the current limitations of search to capture happy accidents.
"How can you find a fresh take on a stale debate?
By this point, you might have exhausted the help that discovery platforms like Google and Facebook can provide. Google will reveal the most-cited works (especially on the more specialized Google Scholar or Google News), and Facebook might yield the ones your friends or subject experts value — but there’s no easy way to break out of the networks that define these platforms. Libraries provide content-based discovery portals, which offer one way out, but they often give you too much to wade through, with clunky interfaces and varying levels of relevance.
As a result, some researchers in the humanities and library worlds are looking for possible paths out of the research bubble for historians and scholars. By looking towards existing browsing and searching habits in both physical and digital environments, they hope to help scholars never miss the information they need — a problem that carries great weight in the news world as well.
The goal, in effect, is to increase the role of serendipitous discovery in online research. Old-school types are nostalgic for the days of walking into the library stacks and seeing what books catch one’s eye; digital tools often have trouble enabling this sort of accidental discovery, where a user finds something valuable that they didn’t even know they wanted.
But serendipitous encounters don’t have to be analog; if anything, digital tools should be able to foster more serendipity, since they can effortlessly reorder categories, effectively rearranging stacks based on the researcher’s avenue of inquiry. But how would one engineer serendipity — and can we even call something serendipitous if it was engineered?”
(I love this. Seriously, what happened to finding something curious and just being really excited about it?)