PhD defense: Supporting the Complex Dynamics of the Information Seeking Process

On April 18th at 10:00, I will defend my PhD thesis at the Agnietenkapel (University of Amsterdam). You are cordially invited to attend the ceremony.

On the day of the defense, from 15:00-17:00, there is also a free SIKS mini-symposium entitled “Beyond the Simple Search Box? SIKS Mini-Symposium on Process Support in Information Seeking” (info and registration via the link).

Supporting the Complex Dynamics of the Information Seeking Process

PhD thesis coverIn the context of complex tasks, information seeking has been described as a journey. The correct route, and even the final destination of this journey is often unknown in advance. Searchers may discover new paths, but also encounter ample challenges and dead-ends. In the quest for knowledge, obfuscation and illumination may go hand-in-hand, but ultimately lead to new insights.

The complex interplay of feelings, thoughts and actions during tasks involving learning and knowledge construction has been formally documented in various information seeking models. The feelings, thoughts and actions of searchers evolve throughout these stages, and may include moments of optimism, uncertainty, confusion and satisfaction.

However, despite the evidence of information seeking models, the functionality of search engines, nowadays the prime intermediaries between information and user, has converged to a streamlined set. Even though the past years have embodied rapid advances in contextualization and personalization, the Web’s complex information environment is still reduced to a set of ten ‘relevant’ blue links. This may not be beneficial for supporting sustained information-intensive tasks and knowledge construction.

This thesis aims to shed new light on the apparent contradiction of models describing drastic changes in searchers’ feelings, thoughts and actions, and the limited task support offered by current search systems. It focuses on research-based tasks conducted via web archives and online search engines. Through literature reviews, user studies and information retrieval experiments, this thesis aims to rethink the currently dominating search approach, and ultimately arrive at more dynamic support approaches for complex search tasks.

The full PhD thesis is available here.
The defense presentation can be viewed on Slideshare.

PhD supervisors:

Promotors: Prof. dr. R.A. Rogers, Prof. dr. ir. A.P. de Vries
Co-promotor: Dr. ir. J. Kamps

PhD committee members:

Prof. dr. N.J. Belkin
Prof. dr. H.L. Hardman
Dr. A. Helmond
Prof. dr. C.M.J.M. van den Heuvel
Prof. dr. K.J.P.F.M. Jeurgens
Prof. dr. J.S. Mackenzie Owen
Prof. dr. P. Vakkari


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