AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Browsing for Trout: Experments on Purpose & Context

Brian O'Connor

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Browsing has been recognized as important to scholars at least since the INTREX Conference of the 1960s. Rice, McCreadie, and Chang assert it is among “fundamental and pervasive human and social activities.” Browsing represents a significant or complete shift of the locus of representation from some external agency (e.g. cataloger) to the information seeker. Browsing is not a matter of dumb luck; it is, in varying ways and degrees, purposeful.

However,experiments have been difficult to design because of the very nature of the activities and the problems they typically address. We wished to devise some experiments that would stimulate thinking about more robust experiments. In order to focus on behavior rather than any specific environment, we devised some experiments that took us outdoors, away from books and computers.

On the face of it, the work presented here might seem downright silly. However, we reasoned that if we performed two experiments at the outer bounds of reason, we might be able to begin to narrow in on useful and informative studies of browsing behavior. Two concepts guided our thinking: browsing is purposeful immersion in a state between stasis and chaos; browsing cannot act upon nothing, an environment empty of any likely targets.

Boundary Case Hypotheses:

Fly-casting for trout on a golf course will yield at least one fish per four sessions. Looking for golf balls on a golf course will yield at least one ball per four sessions.

Four episodes of fly-casting and four episodes of golf ball seeking yielded no trout and 41 golf balls.

Serious discussion follows.

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