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Information-seekers traditionally interact with digital content through keyword-based search interfaces displaying results in list views. Well-defined lookup search tasks are performed brilliantly with these interfaces, enabling users to find relevant information and develop a relative understanding of the underlying information space. However, it is feasible to suggest that ill-defined and abstract search tasks could be better supported with a different interface that could allow the user to explore a library’s content and develop an appropriate mental model of the information space. One such approach is based on the use of visualisation, an approach to data analysis that aims to reduce cognitive burned by capitalising on perceptual capabilities. One common approach to visualising a large collection of documents is based upon a spatialisation which translates high dimensional spaces into 2D planes, where each item’s location reflects its relationships with the rest of the library’s content. This research seeks to establish whether a spatialisation of digital libraries’ content can influence users’ exploratory search behaviour. To do this, a between-group online experiment was conducted to measure respondents’ levels of sensemaking accuracy, exploratory search behaviour and cognitive load while interacting with a novel spatialisation interface, called ExploViz and its non-visual equivalent, called LibSearch. Results show that the respondents exhibited similar levels of exploratory search behaviour irrespective of interface. However, a slightly significant improvement, supporting the project’ hypothesis, was observed while performing the sensemaking task using the ExploViz interface. These results posit interesting questions about how and at what stage exploratory search tasks could be more effectively supported with more visualisation-based interfaces.
Roux, C. (2016) Using spatialisation to support exploratory search behaviour.Masters Dissertation, Technological University Dublin.