Taming the terabytes : a human-centered approach to surviving the information deluge
Eduard, Hoenkamp (2012) Taming the terabytes : a human-centered approach to surviving the information deluge. In Strother, Judith B., Ulijn, Jan M., & Fazal, Zohra (Eds.) Information Overload : An International Challenge for Professional Engineers and Technical Communicators. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Hoboken, New Jersey , pp. 147-170.
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A fear of imminent information overload predates the World Wide Web by decades. Yet, that fear has never abated. Worse, as the World Wide Web today takes the lion’s share of the information we deal with, both in amount and in time spent gathering it, the situation has only become more precarious.
This chapter analyses new issues in information overload that have emerged with the advent of the Web, which emphasizes written communication, defined in this context as the exchange of ideas expressed informally, often casually, as in verbal language. The chapter focuses on three ways to mitigate these issues. First, it helps us, the users, to be more specific in what we ask for. Second, it helps us amend our request when we don't get what we think we asked for. And third, since only we, the human users, can judge whether the information received is what we want, it makes retrieval techniques more effective by basing them on how humans structure information.
This chapter reports on extensive experiments we conducted in all three areas. First, to let users be more specific in describing an information need, they were allowed to express themselves in an unrestricted conversational style. This way, they could convey their information need as if they were talking to a fellow human instead of using the two or three words typically supplied to a search engine. Second, users were provided with effective ways to zoom in on the desired information once potentially relevant information became available. Third, a variety of experiments focused on the search engine itself as the mediator between request and delivery of information. All examples that are explained in detail have actually been implemented. The results of our experiments demonstrate how a human-centered approach can reduce information overload in an area that grows in importance with each day that passes. By actually having built these applications, I present an operational, not just aspirational approach.
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