di Sciascio Maria Cecilia, Sabol Vedran, Veas Eduardo Enrique
Supporting Exploratory Search with a Visual User-Driven Approach
Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems, ACM, 2017
Whenever users engage in gathering and organizing new information, searching and browsing activities emerge at the core of the exploration process. As the process unfolds and new knowledge is acquired, interest drifts occur inevitably and need to be accounted for. Despite the advances in retrieval and recommender algorithms, real-world interfaces have remained largely unchanged: results are delivered in a relevance-ranked list. However, it quickly becomes cumbersome to reorganize resources along new interests, as any new search brings new results. We introduce an interactive user-driven tool that aims at supporting users in understanding, refining, and reorganizing documents on the fly as information needs evolve. Decisions regarding visual and interactive design aspects are tightly grounded on a conceptual model for exploratory search. In other words, the different views in the user interface address stages of awareness, exploration, and explanation unfolding along the discovery process, supported by a set of text-mining methods. A formal evaluation showed that gathering items relevant to a particular topic of interest with our tool incurs in a lower cognitive load compared to a traditional ranked list. A second study reports on usage patterns and usability of the various interaction techniques within a free, unsupervised setting.