Spheres of Influence
Figure 1 Photograph of laptop screen with Microsoft Bubbles screensaver.
Photo courtesy of author
Imagine a room full of transparent globes similar to the bubbles in the screensaver above but composed of Intel’s flexible interface surface described by Swartz (2012). Next, imagine approaching a clear bubble shaped interface labeled with a subject, for instance, biology. The user selects a term for an organism displayed on the globe and a display appears providing biologic taxonomy in pictures, see Figure 2, along with audio and/or video as selected by the user describing and explaining what is on view. Audio is provided in a variety of languages via the user’s handset – a personal smart phone or a handset provided by the library.
The various spherical interfaces reveal and depict connections beyond the hierarchies in a basic taxonomy. Imagine a series of colored light streams between globes that literally light up connections between the spheres. A nearby sphere lights up to reveal and explain connections to and of native habitats in a map display connected by light to another, depicting plant taxonomies for the same habitats. The user rotates the sphere depicting her selected organism to find other organisms in situ and nearby. Still another bubble depicts climate information related to the organism selected and its habitat. The user moves through the room past globes holding related information as she collects what is pertinent to her search in her handheld and sends it to her main computer or the cloud. She can return to earlier positions in her search that she has flagged with a command from her handset. As she turns to leave, another student enters and speaks a request, “French impressionists”, the process repeats as related to art. Imagine this is our library.
Part art, part library science, part computer science, part social media, Web 2.0 and beyond: a new type of search and user interface is proposed, one that brings an element of fun to research which will, hopefully, captivate interest and draw users, even the reluctant user (Chatman, all) . This idea developed over a period of time beginning with the visual depiction of Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit on display in Discovery Park at the University of North Texas in 2011. The Bubbles screensaver from Microsoft prompted an idea for a globe interface; see Figure 1, which had no way of being developed until a new flexible display was invented as reported by Swartz (2012). Steadman (2013) reports on an interactive map and database that can be adapted for and incorporated in this project. Steadman (2013) states the project is known as BISON, Biodiversity Serving Our Nation, as a database displaying as a map that depicts “100 million species…in the US (United States)”. According to Steadman (2013), researchers can use the map to demarcate an area and find species within the area, including habitat specific as well as parasitic or invading species. Steadman (2013) states BISON is one node of a global endeavor to map biodiversity known as Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
The proposed interface:
- · Displays clickable links as in the above paragraph with links pointing to and from a multitude of connections.
- · Affords choice to the user
- o display on a new globe in a new map
- o to overlay on the current globe
- o to display in text format
- o option to display explanations of connections.
- o Ellis’ chaining, both forward and backward, capabilities
- o audio for the non-reader
- o multi-lingual
- · Allows user tagging
- · Allows user contribution
The research behind this proposal comes from Marchionini’s (1995) “building up the pearl” (p. 78) metaphor and Ellis (1989) “chaining,” including “Cited by” (p. 1) exemplified by Google Scholar (n.d.), as well as Bates’ (1989) “berrypicking,” and all of Chatman’s research into resistance and information ignoring and research built upon Chatman. The hope is that development of this interface would bring an element of fun to search that would draw users who previously have ignored information and that the interface would provide information visually and via audio in various languages in order to overcome barriers of illiteracy and language.
A user study reveals the information poor face access barriers due to unreliable sources and their own fears of formal institutions (Thomas 2013). The library’s number one asset is the desire to provide access to all information necessary for informed decision making, even if that means sharing the opposition’s viewpoint.
What can librarians do to remove these barriers?
Bawden and Robinson (2009) kinesthetic and/or tactile learners addressed by movement of searcher and globes
References need more: search term in Home page search portal = case studies on user behavior
Bates, Marcia J. 1989. The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online Review 13, no. 5: 407-424. http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/bates/berrypicking.html
Bawden, D. and Robinson. L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191.
Chatman, E. A. (1996). The impoverished life-world of outsiders. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 47(3). 193-206.
Chatman, E. A. (2000). Chapter 1: Framing social life in theory and research. In Taylor Graham’s (ed.) The New Review of Information Behaviour Research. Cambridge, UK: Taylor Graham Publishing.
Ellis, D. (1989, September). A behavioural approach to information retrieval system design. Journal of Documentation. 45(3). 171-211.
Google Scholar (n.d.). Search tips: Getting better answers. Google Scholar Blog. http://www.google.com/intl/en/scholar/help.html
Marchionini, G. (1995). Chapter 5: Analytical search strategies. In Information seeking in electronic environments. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 76-99.
Places and Spaces: Mapping Science. http://scimaps.org/
Steadman, I. (2013, April 20). Interactive map plots locations of more than 100 million species: It’s the most comprehensive map of US biodiversity ever made. ArsTechnica.com
Swartz, J. (2012, April 5). Flexible display bends what’s possible for computers. USA Today.com http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-04-05/flexible-displays-computing-screens/54064128/1
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