Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Exploring ‘information foraging’

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Information foraging theory has been central to my thesis effort here at CIID. Here’s a nice explanation about it from the wikipedia page:

Information foraging” is a theory that applies the ideas from optimal foraging theory to understand how human users search for information. The theory is based on the assumption that, when searching for information, humans use “built-in” foraging mechanisms that evolved to help our animal ancestors find food.

Informavores” constantly make decisions on what kind of information to look for, whether to stay at the current site to try to find additional information or whether they should move on to another site, which path or link to follow to the next information site, and when to finally stop the search. Although human cognition is not a result of evolutionary pressure to improve Web use, survival-related traits to respond quickly on partial information and reduce energy expenditures force them to optimise their searching behaviour and, simultaneously, to minimize the thinking required.


Information Scent

The most important concept in the information foraging theory is “information scent“. As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding prey in current area and guide them to other promising patches, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to get similar answers. Human users estimate how much useful information they are likely to get on a given path, and after seeking information compare the actual outcome with their predictions. When the information scent stops getting stronger (i.e., when users no longer expect to find useful additional information), the users move to a different information source.

Information Snacking
Some tendencies in the behaviour of web users are easily understood from the information foraging theory standpoint. On the Web, each site is a patch and information is the prey. Leaving a site is easy, but finding good sites has not always been as easy. Advanced search engines have changed this fact by reliably providing relevant links, altering the foraging strategies of the users. When users expect that sites with lots of information are easy to find, they have less incentive to stay in one place. The growing availability of broadband connections may have a similar effect: always-on connections encourage “information snacking,” short online visits to get specific answers.

Sketching to understand complexity of foraging links, and the resultant scalability the system would need to handle.

Sketching to understand complexity of foraging links, and the resultant scalability the system would need to handle.

 

A mindmap of one foraging session on the web.

A mindmap of one foraging session on the web.

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Written by Ashwin Rajan

March 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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