Why I'm an information scientist
- I believe that information is one of the most powerful phenomena.
The ability to access and utilize information can help to
overcome obstacles and solve problems. I want to make information
more readily available to all people.
There are many ways of providing access to
- Through better information systems, including information
retrieval systems. Thus, IR is one of my main research areas.
- By providing the means of accessing information. Computer &
information literacy training is therefore a big part of my curriculum
interests at UNC. I also worked to bring about better information
access via Prairienet (a
community computing system) and iBiblio.
- By actually creating information availability -- authoring Web
pages and articles and providing unrestricted access. I also work
with Project Gutenberg to provide
free electronic books (over 100 new [generally pre-1923] books per
Major themes in my research
- A long-term goal for information systems, including information
retrieval systems, is exosomatic memory. Exosomatic memory is
externally held memory, through use of some sort of (computer)
system. In order to function as exosomatic memory, IR systems must
be so good so that retrieving information is like remembering.
- Long-standing interest in information visualization, especially
navigable information systems. Visualization can help understanding
of data, especially large data sets. I believe there are good
opportunities for visualization to improve IR performance.
- Information security and privacy is an underlying theme. IR
is about control over information -- if we had perfect IR systems (aka,
exosomatic memory), we would presumably also be able to determine which
information we have is INappropriate for making available. Consistently
with David Brin's proposal of a "transparent society," I believe that
there are two very important problems with our approach to information
security (apart from the problem that not enough people care or understand
- Many things are kept secret that should not be. The cost of
secrecy is high, and often serves no purpose. (See Robert Steele's
writings, such as his White
and Testimony to
the President on eliminating excessive secrecy.
- Greater access to all types of data is good. Things that we
might consider secret, such as our health and financial information,
would be boring and mundane if everyone's data were equally available.
The papers for today (from my Vita
Study of a 3D Visualization for Information Retrieval Tasks. Can
people use a new 3D point-cloud system to navigate search engine results?
Maybe. System familiarity and the interface usability are important
Space and Information Space. In heading towards exosomatic
memory, this paper examines a statistical method for measuring
cognitive space (people's perceptions) and approximating those
measurements through analysis of artifacts (creating information
space). This seemed to work!
Strong Cognitive Stance. What happens if we treat information as
the outcome of interaction with "data" (aka, "stimuli") in the
environment, rather than treating the information as something
contained in the stimuli? Answer: We change our approach to information
systems, to desiring systems that bring about the desired
information in users.