Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 151–166 | Cite as

Serendipity as an emerging design principle of the infosphere: challenges and opportunities

  • Urbano ReviglioEmail author
Original Paper


Underestimated for a long time, serendipity is an increasingly recognized design principle of the infosphere. Being influenced by environmental and human factors, the experience of serendipity encompasses fundamental phases of production, distribution and consumption of information. On the one hand, design information architectures for serendipity increases the diversity of information encountered as well as users’ control over information processes. On the other hand, serendipity is a capability. It helps individuals to internalize and adopt strategies that increase the chances of experiencing it. As such, the pursuit for serendipity can help to burst filter bubbles and weaken echo chambers in social media. The article reviews the literature on emerging issues surrounding serendipity in human–computer interactions. By doing so, it firstly presents the study of serendipity and the debate about its role in digital environments. Then, it introduces the main features of a preliminary architecture for serendipity. Finally, it analyzes from an interdisciplinary perspective the values that embraces and sustains. The conclusion is that serendipity can be conceived as an emerging design and ethical principle able to strengthen media pluralism and other emerging human rights in the context of online personalization. Main limitations and potential unintended consequences are also discussed.


Serendipity Design ethics Nudging Personalization Filter bubbles Echo chambers 



This research is funded by the ERASMUS MUNDUS program in Law, Science and Technology (LAST-JD) coordinated by University of Bologna.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Research for this paper did not involve animal or human participants; neither was there a need to request informed consent from anyone.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law, Science and Technology (ERASMUS+)University of BolognaBolognaItaly

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