Swedish ethnologist Erik Ottoson of Uppsala University studies how people browse at flea markets, wander through malls, window shop, and even dumpster-dive, to understand the psychology of "searching." Specifically, Ottoson focuses on "serendipitous searching," what he defines as "open browsing for anything that awakens the person's interest." It would be interesting to compare Ottoson's research on real world searching with serendipitous searching online. From his PhD thesis, titled "Seeking One's Own: On Encounters Between Individuals and Objects":
The people in the study are not just looking for certain things – they are also seeking to come to terms with what they are actually looking for. Ideals of what is beautiful, useful and reasonable materialise in conjunction with the experience of what is available and what is absent or out of reach. It is suggested that this mode of looking for goods is not only about purchase deliberations, but more importantly is a specific way of interacting with the world and making places meaningful. It can be viewed as a way of creating and moderating anticipation, and thereby cultivating affect. Searching for things thus becomes an experiential horizon.Link to thesis abstract, Link to press release
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.