Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

WWW Image Searching Delivers High Precision and No Misinformation: Reality or Ideal?

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

WWW Image Searching Delivers High Precision and No Misinformation: Reality or Ideal?

Article excerpt


Information Access through the Internet

Advances in information science and technology have made available:

* a huge amount of information on the Internet, as well as

* search engines to discover relevant information that are user friendly and perform faster and better than ever.

This makes WWW searching the first method to find information for a growing number of users. A review of the state of the art is given by Manning, Raghavan, & Schutze, 2008.

On the other hand, many users are still frustrated by:

* scarcity of information that is available through the WWW, in the case of many specific information needs and

* low precision of WWW search results.

This author experiences this also more formally in years of guiding and teaching students in universities and scientific workshops.

Searching for Images on the WWW

WWW image search systems are of course mainly suitable to find relevant images on the WWW. It may be somewhat confusing that these systems do not search for images in some magical or real way, but that they are in fact text search engines that do not show texts with links as results but text search engines that yield thumbnail images with links to the original document on the WWW.

Moreover, image searching can also be used to find relevant documents by first selecting relevant images and by subsequent linking to the complete document. An advantage in comparison with more common text search engines is that in many cases images can be screened and selected faster than texts; we can summarize this as 'seeing is faster than reading'.

For the past few years, the big companies that offer the most popular WWW search engines are Google, Microsoft (MSN, Live, Bing ...) and Yahoo! All these offer also more dedicated image search engines (JISC, 2008).

Misinformation besides Information on the WWW

Content on the Internet is a mixture of:

* sound, valuable, neutral, scientific information that is offered in many cases by educational and non-profit organizations,

* information that is biased, often by commercial interests,

* useless documents without informative value,

* even "disinformation" or "misinformation".

The presence of lower quality information makes it difficult and challenging for retrieval systems to provide high quality search results and for the user to find relevant information. This is important and has been investigated mainly in medicine (see the review by Eysenbach, Powell, Kuss, & Sa, 2002, and the more recent investigation by Ostry, Young, & Hughes, 2007).

The author of this paper focuses on a different subject domain, namely art and more specifically classical African sculptural art. In recent years while screening all kinds of documents related to African art, such as WWW pages, logos, brochures and even articles and books, I have observed that many show objects as "African art", whereas people familiar with this field see on the photos objects of an embarrassingly low quality, objects that are based on or copied from real, old, classical, high quality, authentic African art. The authors are often students, but also others who may be well placed to create a logo or write a book, but who have clearly not much expertise in the area of African art. More specifically, I have observed in more than one such case the photos had simply been copied from the WWW, probably because this is convenient, fast and easy.

All this indicates that:

* finding appropriate images is still not straightforward

* besides information, also misinformation is distributed through the WWW

* information users can be misinformed by the content of WWW pages

* misinformed users become new sources of more misinformation.

The word "misinformation" is perhaps an exaggeration in this context, but it is clear that the problem is here and will probably not be eliminated completely. …

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