Professor Michael Twidale and doctoral candidate Aiko Takazawa spoke on May 14 at the Workshop on Social and Collaborative Information Seeking hosted by the Center for Discrete Mathematics & Theoretical Computer Science at Rutgers University. The workshop brought together multidisciplinary scholars, including innovators in social and collaborative information seeking, with the goal of defining research challenges in the field.
Twidale presented a talk titled, “Searching for Help: How Learning Technologies Involves Collaborative Search.”
Abstract: As computational and informational resources become ever more abundant, we see changes in the way people learn how to use them, adopt, adapt, appropriate, tinker, tailor, combine. and modify them. Examples include software developers who search as they code, and data scientists going online to get ideas for how best to clean, combine, and manipulate datasets. However, such activities are not restricted to the computational elites. Across all levels, tech learning is often both a search and also a social activity, synchronous and asynchronous, colocated and remote, with colleagues and strangers.
Doing this kind of searching as part of technology learning and problem solving accentuates particular difficulties in the search process. Various strategies and tactics can dramatically improve efficiency, and equally a lack of certain skills the possession of certain misconceptions can degrade people's ability to learn and cope, and even lead them to self-define as “not techie.” This raises important implications for design, policy, and education.
Takazawa delivered a presentation titled, “Searching to Help: Collaborative Information Seeking in a Disaster Relief Context.”
From the abstract: Seven Japanese women living in Finland became leaders of a self-organized humanitarian aid group in response to the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami disaster in Japan. The way this group managed to send bulks of baby formula from Finland to Japan is a fascinating case to study for holistic understanding of how people collaboratively search, use, and seek information in the use of available technologies. Since this group emerged in a natural setting mediated by social media without being guided through an established affiliation among participants or managed by an outside source, its emerging process of becoming and being a group provides deep insights into the substantive context for intertwined, various kinds of both individual and collaborative information activities. I claim that such messiness in the present case represents the reality of ordinary people living in this present ICT-mediated environment, although what the group ended up doing transcended the ordinary. From a broad perspective, this case demonstrates the potential for expanding existing concepts relevant to social and collaborative information seeking research by looking at its gradually constructed information needs, resulting from browsing in social context, serendipitous searching, and collaborative learning.