Information Retrieval Systems: A Human Centered Approach

By Petratos, Panagiotis | Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Information Retrieval Systems: A Human Centered Approach


Petratos, Panagiotis, Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management


Introduction

Top Universities offer a high quality, in depth education to Engineers and Computer Scientists, regarding the intricate technical details of electronics, microprocessors, computing systems design and algorithms development. These graduates subsequently practice design methodologies that are overly focused on every technical specification of the machine. Often, they are so much engrossed in the technical details that the human parameter is often neglected, or, worse, simply forgotten.

It is no secret that a good system design is frequently elusive, despite the amount of resources invested in a project. The examples of well-known, high-tech corporations caught by surprise, when the unanticipated market failure of their products occurs, despite the very good technical specifications of their machines, are numerous.

For instance, the author is currently using an ultra portable notebook computer, designed and manufactured by a well known, high-tech corporation. This particular notebook computer is often rated among the best by independent testing laboratories for mobile application performance and battery life.

However, the manufacturer mysteriously incorporated a left-handed mouse for everyone, regardless of the user's handedness.

Thus, the mouse input connection is positioned on the left side of the computer and the optical DVD drive is positioned on the right side of the computer. It would seem to an unsuspecting observer that the designer intentionally arranged the computer that way. Unfortunately, there is no right-handed version of this computer.

It often seems, despite the fact that these admirable machines are designed for human users, their convenience, ease of use and simple practicality are typically the last thoughts in the minds of the designers. Naturally, computing information systems are no exception.

IR systems, in particular, are the focus of this article. They are equally susceptible to ease of use issues, as well as, to modern overabundance of information issues, which are discussed next in the motivation section.

Motivation

What is the Problem?

Current conditions

In this section the motivation for this research is explained. The exploration of the current developments and advances of information technology and a glimpse into the immediate future directions of computing research and development reveal the conditions, which influence and affect IR systems.

A study by Lyman and Varian reports that 800 MB of information were produced in 2003 for every living human being on earth (Lyman & Varian, 2003). More recently another study reports that the available electronic information online on the World Wide Web exceeds 11.5 billion pages (Gulli & Signorini, 2005). According to other recent estimates over 90% of information produced is digital (Varian, 2005). These are very significant figures which clearly show the ever-flourishing overabundance of information which is continuously invigorated by technology.

These conditions lead the observer to the definitions of the exact problems facing IR system designers for the present and in the future. Naturally, the problems can also be seen, by inquisitive minds, as opportunities for further research. The two primary research areas that require the attention and endeavor of IR researchers are the ease of use, often stemming from ineffective human computer interaction, and the modern overabundance of information (Petratos, 2006).

New inventions augment the problem

The most prominent and most influential new inventions, which also won the Millennium Technology Prize, are the World Wide Web and the bright blue, green and white light emission diodes, as well as the invention of the blue laser (MPF, 2006).

These new inventions have the potential to significantly increase the available electronic information, in optical storage media, in fiber-optic telecommunications, as well as online. …

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