Informing through User-Centered Exploratory Search and Human-Computer Interaction Strategies

Article excerpt

Introduction

Information Retrieval is a well defined discipline with solid foundations in mathematics and other sciences. The tools utilized for Information Retrieval are created and developed from mathematical equations and scientific methods gracefully employed from analysis, trigonometry, geometry, statistics and probabilities. Mathematics is not the only science which contributes elements to Information Retrieval. Computer Science, Information Science and Library Science also contribute elements to Information Retrieval. The tools utilized for Information Retrieval are typically developed in conjunction with very powerful computers such as clusters and very large databases of corpora. Furthermore, with the proliferation of the Web the scope of Information Retrieval is broadened to address ubiquitous sources of information, mobile computing devices and users, as well as multiple formats of information beyond documents, i.e. biological, musical, visual and various technological formats such as XML.

The basic aim of text retrieval, a more traditional sub-field of Information Retrieval, is to match user queries to documents. In its' purest form Information

Retrieval serves a higher level objective, a more general aim, to assist the searcher in locating the information she seeks.

This general aim can be served by roughly dividing the work into two substantial tasks. The first task is assisting the searcher to express her information need in the most lucid way, clearly understandable for both the human user as well as the machine computer. The second task is to match the searcher's clearly defined query to the most relevant information available. The second task is machine related and typically involves matching and retrieval algorithms resident in the information retrieval system internals.

The first task is user related and typically involves human computer interaction strategies to enhance the information retrieval process. From this first user centered task a new research field has sprung called Exploratory Search (White, Drucker, Marchionini, Hearst, & Schraefel, 2007). The definition of Exploratory Search is elucidated by the IR methods which synthesize human computer interaction strategies to elicit and illuminate user search requests, semantic meanings, preferences, explicit and implicit relevance feedback to enhance information retrieval search quality.

Informing Science is an emerging trans-discipline which transcends a large variety of fields, from computer science, engineering, information systems, library science, social work, technology, communications, design, journalism in all its forms, to education. From a teleological point of view Informing Science researchers gracefully utilize information technology with epistemologies drawn from all the aforementioned fields in order to best inform their clients (Cohen, 1999).

Also from a teleological point of view, one facet of Informing Science, the process of elucidating the best methods of informing inquiring clientele, is served by user-centered exploratory search and human-computer interaction strategies (Petratos, 2007).

Herein a comparative study is presented of three leading IR systems, Google, Yahoo and Live Search. A team of human subjects is selected according to diverse and balanced criteria. The human factors method presented herein serves the IR search quality enhancement by providing a gold standard. A collective of human-computers is syllogistically designed to serve as a cooperating framework for the IR experiments. The tasks that are better suited to humans are assigned to the participants and the tasks that can be automated are assigned to the machines. A series of IR experiments is conducted to investigate whether there is overlap exact as well as partial among the selected IR systems, how it can be quantified, how it is distributed and also how search quality can be enhanced. …