Engineering Serendipity: Terra Incognita And Other Strange Encounters With Global News

D'Ignazio, C. "Engineering Serendipity: Terra Incognita And Other Strange Encounters With Global News"


There is a significant body of research that shows that people tend to congregate with others like them and favor information that confirms their existing views. With declining global news coverage and the rise of personalized news feeds and social media, there is concern that our forms of information consumption do not support encountering sufficient information about other cultures and places to make us effective citizens of the world. This thesis reviews these arguments and proposes a design intervention called "Terra Incognita: 1000 Cities of the World" to help address the geographic dimension of information diversity. Terra Incognita brings together aspects of serendipitous information discovery, personal informatics and "nudge" applications to provide users with multiple daily opportunities to explore faraway cities by reading global news recommendations. This study shows that while Terra Incognita did not shift user behavior in aggregate towards reading about more diverse places, it did make them curious about new places, prompted them to reflect and broadened their horizons. The final chapter offers guidance for designers who might aspire to create applications at the intersection of personal behavior change and news media.

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