In the library sciences, information seeking has long been recognized as a collaborative activity, and recent work has attempted to model group information seeking behavior. Until recently, technological support for group-based information seeking has been limited to collaborative filtering and "social search" applications. In the past two years, however, a new kind of technologically-mediated collaborative search has been demonstrated in systems such as SearchTogether and Cerchiamo. This approach is more closely grounded in the library science interpretation of collaboration: rather than inferring commonality of interest through similarity of queries (social search), the new approach assumes an explicitly-shared information need for a group. This allows the system to focus on mediating the collaboration rather than detecting its presence. In this talk, we describe a model that captures both user behavior and system architecture, describe its relationship to other models of information seeking, and use it to classify existing multi-user search systems. We also describe implications this model has for design and evaluation of new collaborative information seeking systems.
Talk presented at NIST on October 22, 2009.