Technology, personalisation and librarians : research and practice
Nigel Ford, Sheffield
This talk focused on how people have very different information needs and behaviour and also process information in different ways. He suggested using these differences to provide personalised information services. However in order to do this, we need greater understanding of users to provide better services through greater interplay between LIS “researchers” and “practitioners”. This would create effective user models from their different styles of thinking.
The different styles of thinking were local (narrow/convergent) or Global (broad/divergent). Being strong at one means you may find it difficult to do the other. Divergent thinking has often equated with creativity. Creativity represents seeing some new relationship (integrating theme) between previously disconnected phenomena. I could quickly apply this styles of thinking model to myself and another member of staff. I am definitely the “local” one and he’s the “global” one, but combined we make a good team! I can see the local difficulties with his new big global creative ideas…
Nigel also talked about his new project: PATHS – personalised access to cultural heritage spaces. This is a big 3 year project which has just started using www.europeana.eu – a vast digital library. They hope to provide personalised access to 15 million items. Users will navigate throughthe collection via pathways based on different themes. These could be an artist or media, historic periods, places, famours people or other topic. They can be linear or branching and jump off any point. You can edit other people’s paths which are storable and editable and learning objects in own right. Users can be encouraged to develop their own paths or use paths created by others (including ones created by librarians, educator, curator). The idea is users will be able to control the level of divergence/convergence to match their cognitive style. It’s still under development but the system should be able to offer useful “see also” suggestions rather than annoying ones.
It looks to be an interesting project and on a smaller level, I can take away some hints. I could look at personalising information about the library to fit my different user groups (e.g. family history researcher, university student, surveyor, solicitor). Further down the line, I could look at paths through the photography collection where we could make pathways showing different themes through the images.
Ian Rowlands, UCL
I was quite disappointed to realise I wasn’t technically part of the Google generation. You have to be born after 1993 apparently.
Their project looked at information behaviour using information stored on the server about how people used websites and exactly what they actually did. They have discovered that people often mis-report how they used a site however this browsing history is firm evidence. It’s known as “deep log analysis”. In general they predominantly report seeing people skimming across the top level of websites. And often never coming back! Return visits to our website would therefore be interesting to monitor.
Their next question was “is there a fundamental difference between the generations and how they experience information?” It’s important because if so, they would need to adapt for 5 years time when Google generation teenagers become part of the Higher Education world.
This generation are seen as people who don’t read the manual and leap right in. It’s also often suggested that they’re not very good at evaluating information and using new systems. However it was interesting to see that this was exactly what people said 30 years ago about young people then and their use of the very latest electronic resources at that time.
The project looked at deep log analysis of usage of British Library Learning and JISC Intute. They also captured people’s ages and then looked at their information seeking behaviour. The project discovered that age was a very poor predictor of people’s behaviour.
The next study was partnered with the BBC called the Virtual Revolution experiment. It is a study of what people click on a website. The user is given simulated search – where do people land for that first click? Do they have implicit trust in the search algorithm? Is that from reading the list and making an informed choice? Is it about trust in the provider?