Designing for fluid information exploration

Dissertation of the month: Khalil Klouche’s research is in the field of human-computer interaction, focusing on search engines and how interactive techniques can open up new ways to offer search results.
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What is your research about?

Current search engines, like Google Search, our de facto tool for accessing information online, is extremely effective for addressing simple search tasks, like getting a definition, addressing a question, or finding again something we have already encountered.

However, the way in which such tool addresses our queries – ten blue links we have come to trust without second thoughts – fails to provide us with a comprehensive overview of the information of interest, in favor of the one answer that has been deemed the most relevant by an opaque algorithm. As a result, our perception of any given topic is at risk of being artificially distorted.

In my research I explore the transferability of properties of physical exploration to information exploration, through the design of interactive techniques that utilize the latest developments in information organization, i.e. entities and semantic relationships derived from online content.

I summarize that goal as making information explorable, and define explorability as the quality of physical space that enables humans to become acquainted with it through movement and exploration. I demarcate three properties of explorability – direction, orientation and continuity – which I use as design drivers in the development of various prototypes and user experiments.

What is important in it?

To the contrary of physical space, which is largely consistent from one place to another, our information comes siloed in a variety of sources and environments that do not communicate easily. I am referring to information contained in our social networks, our emails, web pages and applications, but also the information that we encounter during a live conversation with someone.

Turning these incompatible environments into a single consistent space is the goal, summarized in my research ‘the continuity principle’. To that end, I propose to repurpose “intelligent” techniques usually aimed at implicitly recommending information of interest to users, for identifying information encountered in various tasks and environments, allowing for fluid transitions between various applications.

How can it be utilized?

The goal of my research is not to develop a Google competitor but a demarcation of an alternative paradigm for information exploration, leading to design principles that would be applicable to a variety of future information tools, and techniques that would be embedded in a variety of future systems.

These could create a new set of user expectations regarding how to interact with information: choosing a direction instead of formulating queries, meaningful overviews instead of narrow looks, and coherent search spaces allowing growing familiarity, sense-making, and collaboration instead of quick disposable search sessions.

My research process consists of an extensive design exploration, and proposes a variety of interaction techniques that have shown to support information exploration, and together demarcate an alternative paradigm for future information practices.

Khalil Klouche defended his dissertation Explorable Information Spaces – Designing Entity Afordances for Fluid Information Explorationin Aalto University 5 December, 2019.

More information:

Khalil Klouche, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, [email protected]

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