Shneiderman's Social Discovery: The NFAIS 2011 Miles Conrad Lecture

By Hawkins, Donald T. | Information Today, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Shneiderman's Social Discovery: The NFAIS 2011 Miles Conrad Lecture


Hawkins, Donald T., Information Today


Ask Ben Shneiderman about social media, and chances are he'll have something to say about the subject.

For nearly 4 decades, Shneiderman has been a pioneer in the world of information science, leading the way in innovation as the founding director of the HCIL (Human-Computer Interaction Lab) and member of the UMIACS (University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies). The combination of the depth and breadth of his research and development over the years speaks for itself and is the reason for selecting him as the NFAIS 2011 Miles Conrad Lecturer award recipient.

You can credit him with pioneering the highlighted textural link in 1983 (well before the web), for starters. Shneiderman also paved the way for work in information visualization, which was used in the Spotfire system in pharmaceutical drug discovery, business analytics, process improvements, and similar tasks. He is also the author of several books, including Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (MIT Press, 2002), which won the IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering the Public Understanding of the Profession in 2003. His most recent book is Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World (Elsevier, 2010).

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Shneiderman's Miles Conrad Lecture, titled "Social Discovery in an Information Abundant World," focused on social media. He pointed out that the first generation of the web provided users with access to an enormous amount of information on almost any subject. But there has been a shift from content to community. People are now using links in social networks to get information, which is a huge change in behavior.

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A study by Search Engine Watch shows that referrals from social media to websites are far exceeding those from Google in many cases. Even Facebook's aggregate usage now exceeds that of Google. Social discovery has become a new media lifestyle, and activities such as tagging, voting, or generating tree maps are a significant part of it. Shneiderman pointed out that apps are now playing a bigger role in the action, and a number of app search engines such as Chomp have emerged, providing advanced searching capabilities for the iPhone and Android markets.

The rise of Q&A services is proof of just how popular social media is becoming. …

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