Spheres of Influence: Connection Station rough draft

Spheres of Influence

Update Nov 2014:  What if this were a hologram?



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


by Rivard, Suzanne and Lapoint, Liette

Information technology implementers’ responses to user resistance: nature and effects

MIS Quarterly, ISSN 0276-7783, 09/2012, Volume 36, Issue 3, p. 897



Are MIS research instruments stable? An exploratory reconsideration of the computer playfulness scale


by Serenko, Alexander and Turel, Ofir

Information & Management, ISSN 0378-7206, 2007, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp. 657 – 665




*The impact of Web quality and playfulness on user acceptance of online retailing


by Ahn, Tony; Ryu, Seewon; Han, Ingoo

Information & Management, ISSN 0378-7206, 2007, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp. 263 – 275


What is user engagement? A conceptual framework for defining user engagement with technology

by O’Brien, Heather L and Toms, Elaine G

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, ISSN 1532-2882, 04/2008, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp. 938 – 955


An exploration of affect factors and their role in user technology acceptance: Mediation and causalityby Sun, Heshan and Zhang, Ping

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, ISSN 1532-2882, 06/2008, Volume 59, Issue 8, pp. 1252 – 1263


 Related articles are suggested by Zymanta.  I may or may not agree with their content.


3 thoughts on “Spheres of Influence: Connection Station rough draft

  1. Robert Frost
    The Road Not Taken
    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;
    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,
    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.
    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.


  2. Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Craig Baker has already been working on something similar. See Rasmus, D. W. (2013, October). Visualizing Knowledge. KM World: Content, Document, and Knowledge Management. 8-9, 29.


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