The Bohemian Bookshelf: supporting serendipitous discoveries through visualization

Alice Thudt, Uta Hinrichs, Sheelagh Carpendale

Research output: Working paper

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Serendipity, a trigger of exciting discoveries when we least expect it, is currently being discussed as an often neglected but still important factor in information seeking processes, research, and ideation. In this paper we explore serendipity as an information visualization goal. In particular, we introduce the Bohemian Bookshelf visualization that aims to support serendipitous exploration of
digital book collections. The Bohemian Bookshelf consists of five interlinked visualizations, each representing a unique (over)view of the collection. It facilitates serendipitous discoveries by (1) offering multiple access points by providing visualizations of different perspectives on the book collection, (2) enticing curiosity through abstract, metaphorical, and visually distinct representations of the collection, (3) highlighting alternate adjacencies between books, (4) providing multiple pathways for exploring the data collection in a
flexible way, (5) supporting immediate previews of books, and (6) enabling a playful approach to information exploration. Our design goals and their exploration through the Bohemian Bookshelf visualization opens up a discussion on how to promote serendipity through information visualization.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Calgary
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Information visualization
  • Serendipity
  • Visual library interfaces


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