March 31, 2006

Supporting exploratory search

That's the title of the special section in the most recent Communications of the ACM (v49i4). From the Introduction by Ryen W. White, Bill Kules, Steven M. Drucker and m.c. schraefel:

Defining what constitutes an exploratory search is challenging. Indeed, almost all searches are in some way exploratory. As many of the examples in this section illustrate, an exploratory search may be characterized by the presence of some search technology and information objects that are inherently meaningful to users (for example, their images, email messages, and music files). Although there may be circumstances where exploratory strategies are used continually to allow people to discover new associations and kinds of knowledge, they are often motivated by a complex information problem, and a poor understanding of terminology and information space structure.

In some respects, exploratory search can be seen as a specialization of information exploration—a broader class of activities where new information is sought in a defined conceptual area; exploratory data analysis is another example of an information exploration activity. In exploratory search, users generally combine querying and browsing strategies to foster learning and investigation. Although the exploration of information to reduce uncertainty is addressed in many fields, we focus on three areas: information retrieval (how information is found), information studies (how needs are described and information is used), and information visualization (how information is presented). The articles do not discuss fields such as knowledge management and cognitive psychology. Although both fields contain relevant research, they are beyond the scope of this editorial project.

Some highlights of the section:
And one other article from the issue I would like to highlight:

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