My year without Search The   unconscious   changes that efficient search engines are having on our  consciousness
A  conversation about a future project…
It all began with my father … …  and his Alzheimer’s
Anxiety about  forgetting , about  concentrating , about  sustained reading
Then I  read  something that reduced my  anxiety …
 
“ I now have almost totally  lost  the ability to read and  absorb  a longish article on the web or in print.” Nicholas Ca...
Anecdotes?
So began my idea for a research project…
conceptual underpinnings
http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com/pictures/echo-narcissus-1903/ Narcissus Myth as interpreted by Marshall McLuhan
“ Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become  fascinated  by any  extension  of themselves in any mate...
“ To behold,  use  or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is  necessarily  to embrace it.” Marshall ...
Marshall McLuhan, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,”  Understanding Media  (1964) that puts us in the Narcissus ro...
We are thus too  numb  to recognize that As such, we tend to be unconscious of the  real  effects of technology on the ind...
“ if men learn this [writing], it will  implant forgetfulness  in their souls;  Plato, “Phaedrus,”  The Collected Dialogue...
In pre-literate societies poetry was a tribal encyclopedia
The transition to writing was  accompanied  by changes in the nature of human thought. the abstract concepts of literacy T...
“ More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness.”
We’re shocked … NOT
Of course, no one is that  shocked  any more by the idea that literacy has a profound effect on our thinking.
Cognitive neuroscience shows that as a reader develops, there are continuous  physical  changes in a variety of brain area...
my next step
web usability the ease with which people can use the web in order to achieve a particular goal.
 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdolishny/2760207306 Usability  is  important
Usability experts have observed that over past 5-6 years the  nature  of web usage  has dramatically  changed.
<ul><ul><ul><li>Most web usage has switched from  Surfing  to  Information Foraging </li></ul></ul></ul>
Information foragers are seeking very specific prey
Because search engines make it easy to find patches, foragers will spend little time looking for prey. rely on  search eng...
“ learning to use the Internet is a process of  transitioning  from casual ‘looking’ to more focused searching for an answ...
WHY is this important?
The velocity of web usage … …  is now quite surprising…
long do you spend viewing your average web page? HOW
are displayed for less than 25%  of all web pages four  seconds! Weinreich et al, “ Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three...
are shorter than 52%  of all visits ten  seconds! Only about  11%  are visited for more than 2 minutes. Weinreich et al, “...
Weinreich et al, “ Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of Web Navigation ”, IW3C2 2006
WHY is this happening?
SCANNING
The vast majority of web pages are scanned and not read by most users
The focus on usability this decade has succeeded in achieving broad acceptance of  conventions in the design of web sites
Weinreich et al, “ Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Usage ”,  ACM Transactions on the Web  (February 2008)
Eye-tracking studies
Nielsen Group, “F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html (April 17, 2...
“ F is for fast .  That's how users read your precious content. In a  few seconds , their eyes move at amazing speeds acro...
Nielsen Group, “Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/newsletters.html (June 12, 2...
Humans are hard-wired to excel at  fast  scanning Reading is unnatural, but scanning is not.
Nielsen Group, “First 2 Words: A Signal for the Scanning Eye,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/nanocontent.html (April 6, 20...
 
WHAT does Google have to do with this?
Google search and result pages account for almost a  quarter  of all pages Weinreich et al, “ Not Quite the Average: An Em...
It is the perfect tool for facilitating fast convenient answer-seeking web behavior.
It is the necessary partner scanning  behavior for the rapid of information foragers.
It facilitates the quick scanning and foraging  behavior of contemporary web usage.
HOW does Google work?
The exact algorithm is a trade  secret . It ranks pages according to the quantity of “ link-backs” from other sites.
There is no need to know Boolean logic or other esoterica.
WIN Google is full of
Nielsen + Loranger,  Prioritizing Web usability , 2006 Google is  so good  that … 75% of users stick to first page of SERP...
Nielsen + Loranger,  Prioritizing Web usability , 2006 Brand-X searches: 93% of users stick to first page of SERP
ISSUES ?
Is online research narrowing  scholarship? One
“ Collectively, the models presented illustrate that as journal archives came online … citations became more concentrated ...
Power Law Distribution rules  the web (and more). http://www.congo-education.net/wealth-of-networks/figure-7-4.gif
http://www.searchenginelowdown.com/uploaded_images/Hitwise%20July%202005-719785.JPG http://www.hitwise.com/datacenter/main...
http://threesixty360.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/forbes-billionaires1.jpg http://blog.stackoverflow.com/wp-content/uploads...
Whether you look at the web as a whole  or any subsection within it (blogs, political sites, sports sites, etc)  you see p...
“ We introduce a new term to describe the organizational structure we find:  ‘ googlearchy ’  – the rule of the most heavi...
This doesn’t fit the  hype of the web as a radically de-centralizing force.
The introduction of cheaper rotary printing presses (in 19 th  century) was initially a centrifugal force … But over time,...
“ This research ironically intimates that the chief values of print library research is  poor indexing .” “ By drawing res...
Search  dependency ? Two
“ Based on our research and that of others… …  it seems that many adolescents take a reactive stance to searching the inte...
“ Into the potentially problematic category we would place the  unquestioning  attitude about the search engine,  Google ,...
“ Students in this study seemed to have a great deal of confidence in their abilities to distinguish the good sites from t...
“ Overall only about  1 in 6  searchers …  can consistently distinguish between paid and unpaid results.” Pew Internet and...
Remember scanning behavior!
Pre-reflexive thinkers  [about 78% of students in this study were categorized as such]  usually only choose the first hits...
Google Usability analyst Jakob Nielsen calls it: Gullibility Nielsen Group, “User Skills Improving, But Only Slightly,” ht...
Cognitive impairment ? Three
This is the key one …  but is still  under-studied
Are efficient search engines actually  changing  our cognitive abilities, perhaps for the worse?
There are plenty of grumpy  old teacher stories about kids nowadays…
“ The research literature on young people’s use of information technology in their learning suggests that in the case of a...
I have tried to provide a range of evidence that suggests we should be worried about cognitive impairment.
Yet there have been some claims that in fact the new media environment is making us  smarter .
These claims are mainly founded on the  Flynn Effect (IQ test scores have been rising 3-5 points per decade since 1930s) T...
Recent research indicates Flynn Effect has  reversed  in the past decade. Sundet  et al , “The end of the Flynn effect?”  ...
“ almost all of the modest gain between 1988 and 1998 derived from the geometric figures test of spatial ability.” Teasdal...
Leisure  paper-based  reading still remains one of the strongest correlates of post-secondary success. Gallik, “Do they re...
National Endowment for the Arts, http://www.arts.gov/research/ReadingonRise.pdf (January 2009)
WHAT should we do?
- Rilke “ Archaic Torso of Apollo ” “ You must change your life” http://www.wordswordswords.us/images/apollo.jpg
“ we need to find structural ways to push our students back into libraries to discover the value of wandering up the corri...
SUCH AS? 1. Explicit bibliographic expectations e.g., 2 books, 2 print-based refereed articles, 1 non-refereed web site, e...
My Year Without Search Book Web site http://www.myyearwithoutsearch.com
Randy Connolly Dept. Computer Science & Information Systems Mount Royal College, Calgary  [email_address]
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My Year Without Search

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The web is no longer principally a shopping and entertainment medium, but is now an answer hunting and gathering system. This presentation examines some recent research in web usability and psychology and argues that efficient web searching is transforming cognition, personality, and learning.

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My Year Without Search

  1. 1. My year without Search The unconscious changes that efficient search engines are having on our consciousness
  2. 2. A conversation about a future project…
  3. 3. It all began with my father … … and his Alzheimer’s
  4. 4. Anxiety about forgetting , about concentrating , about sustained reading
  5. 5. Then I read something that reduced my anxiety …
  6. 7. “ I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print.” Nicholas Carr, “Is Google making Us Stoopid,” The Atlantic (July/August 2008)
  7. 8. Anecdotes?
  8. 9. So began my idea for a research project…
  9. 10. conceptual underpinnings
  10. 11. http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com/pictures/echo-narcissus-1903/ Narcissus Myth as interpreted by Marshall McLuhan
  11. 12. “ Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves.” Marshall McLuhan, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,” Understanding Media (1964) Technologies are Extensions of ourselves
  12. 13. “ To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it.” Marshall McLuhan, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,” Understanding Media (1964) “ To listen to radio or to read the printed page is to accept these extensions… into our personal system and to undergo the closure or displacement of perception that follows automatically .”
  13. 14. Marshall McLuhan, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,” Understanding Media (1964) that puts us in the Narcissus role of … “ It is this continuous embrace of our own technology … numbness in relation to these images [extensions] of ourselves.”
  14. 15. We are thus too numb to recognize that As such, we tend to be unconscious of the real effects of technology on the individual. “ Man in the normal use of technology … is perpetually modified by it.” Marshall McLuhan, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,” Understanding Media (1964)
  15. 16. “ if men learn this [writing], it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; Plato, “Phaedrus,” The Collected Dialogues (275a) they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written.”
  16. 17. In pre-literate societies poetry was a tribal encyclopedia
  17. 18. The transition to writing was accompanied by changes in the nature of human thought. the abstract concepts of literacy The formulaic image-thinking of orality was replaced by
  18. 19. “ More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness.”
  19. 20. We’re shocked … NOT
  20. 21. Of course, no one is that shocked any more by the idea that literacy has a profound effect on our thinking.
  21. 22. Cognitive neuroscience shows that as a reader develops, there are continuous physical changes in a variety of brain areas. D. Caplan, “Functional Neuroimaging Studies of Written Sentence Comprehension,” Scientific Studies of Reading 8 (2004)
  22. 23. my next step
  23. 24. web usability the ease with which people can use the web in order to achieve a particular goal.
  24. 26. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdolishny/2760207306 Usability is important
  25. 27. Usability experts have observed that over past 5-6 years the nature of web usage has dramatically changed.
  26. 28. <ul><ul><ul><li>Most web usage has switched from Surfing to Information Foraging </li></ul></ul></ul>
  27. 29. Information foragers are seeking very specific prey
  28. 30. Because search engines make it easy to find patches, foragers will spend little time looking for prey. rely on search engines Information foragers to get to the “information patch”
  29. 31. “ learning to use the Internet is a process of transitioning from casual ‘looking’ to more focused searching for an answer to a ‘specific question’.” Howard + Massanari, “ Learning to Search and Searching to Learn ”, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2007)
  30. 32. WHY is this important?
  31. 33. The velocity of web usage … … is now quite surprising…
  32. 34. long do you spend viewing your average web page? HOW
  33. 35. are displayed for less than 25% of all web pages four seconds! Weinreich et al, “ Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of Web Navigation ”, IW3C2 2006
  34. 36. are shorter than 52% of all visits ten seconds! Only about 11% are visited for more than 2 minutes. Weinreich et al, “ Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of Web Navigation ”, IW3C2 2006
  35. 37. Weinreich et al, “ Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of Web Navigation ”, IW3C2 2006
  36. 38. WHY is this happening?
  37. 39. SCANNING
  38. 40. The vast majority of web pages are scanned and not read by most users
  39. 41. The focus on usability this decade has succeeded in achieving broad acceptance of conventions in the design of web sites
  40. 42. Weinreich et al, “ Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Usage ”, ACM Transactions on the Web (February 2008)
  41. 43. Eye-tracking studies
  42. 44. Nielsen Group, “F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html (April 17, 2006)
  43. 45. “ F is for fast . That's how users read your precious content. In a few seconds , their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school.” Nielsen Group, “F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html (April 17, 2006)
  44. 46. Nielsen Group, “Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/newsletters.html (June 12, 2006) Notice Red areas show only first two words in headlines are read
  45. 47. Humans are hard-wired to excel at fast scanning Reading is unnatural, but scanning is not.
  46. 48. Nielsen Group, “First 2 Words: A Signal for the Scanning Eye,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/nanocontent.html (April 6, 2009) Users read only the first More recent research shows eleven characters More recent research shows … 12345678901 of an online headline (forget about the body text).
  47. 50. WHAT does Google have to do with this?
  48. 51. Google search and result pages account for almost a quarter of all pages Weinreich et al, “ Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Usage ”, ACM Transactions on the Web (February 2008)
  49. 52. It is the perfect tool for facilitating fast convenient answer-seeking web behavior.
  50. 53. It is the necessary partner scanning behavior for the rapid of information foragers.
  51. 54. It facilitates the quick scanning and foraging behavior of contemporary web usage.
  52. 55. HOW does Google work?
  53. 56. The exact algorithm is a trade secret . It ranks pages according to the quantity of “ link-backs” from other sites.
  54. 57. There is no need to know Boolean logic or other esoterica.
  55. 58. WIN Google is full of
  56. 59. Nielsen + Loranger, Prioritizing Web usability , 2006 Google is so good that … 75% of users stick to first page of SERP 50% of users click on 1 st choice Majority behavior if not clicking on first two choices? Reformulate search 20% of users click on 2 nd choice
  57. 60. Nielsen + Loranger, Prioritizing Web usability , 2006 Brand-X searches: 93% of users stick to first page of SERP
  58. 61. ISSUES ?
  59. 62. Is online research narrowing scholarship? One
  60. 63. “ Collectively, the models presented illustrate that as journal archives came online … citations became more concentrated within fewer articles.” “ by enabling scientists to quickly reach and converge with prevailing opinion, electronic journals hasten scientific consensus” James A Evans, “Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship,” Science 321 (July 18, 2008)
  61. 64. Power Law Distribution rules the web (and more). http://www.congo-education.net/wealth-of-networks/figure-7-4.gif
  62. 65. http://www.searchenginelowdown.com/uploaded_images/Hitwise%20July%202005-719785.JPG http://www.hitwise.com/datacenter/main/dashboard-10133.html
  63. 66. http://threesixty360.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/forbes-billionaires1.jpg http://blog.stackoverflow.com/wp-content/uploads/so_graph1.png http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3643/3431254269_fd26579096.jpg
  64. 67. Whether you look at the web as a whole or any subsection within it (blogs, political sites, sports sites, etc) you see power law distributions.
  65. 68. “ We introduce a new term to describe the organizational structure we find: ‘ googlearchy ’ – the rule of the most heavily linked.” Matthew Hindman et al , “’Googlearchy’: how a few heavily-linked sites dominate politics on the web,” Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association , 2003
  66. 69. This doesn’t fit the hype of the web as a radically de-centralizing force.
  67. 70. The introduction of cheaper rotary printing presses (in 19 th century) was initially a centrifugal force … But over time, they (along with other agents) acted as a centripetal force and centralized print into a few major newspapers and book presses. in that there was a flowering of many new print sources (penny presses, community papers, union leaflets, etc). That is, a power law distribution developed.
  68. 71. “ This research ironically intimates that the chief values of print library research is poor indexing .” “ By drawing researchers through unrelated articles, print browsing and perusal may have facilitated broader comparisons and led researchers into the past.” James A Evans, “Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship,” Science 321 (July 18, 2008)
  69. 72. Search dependency ? Two
  70. 73. “ Based on our research and that of others… … it seems that many adolescents take a reactive stance to searching the internet, reframing their inquiries around what can be easily found.” Guinee et al , “ Adolescents’ Search Strategies, ” Journal of Educational Computing Research 29 (2003)
  71. 74. “ Into the potentially problematic category we would place the unquestioning attitude about the search engine, Google , which many students see as the total answer to all their information needs.” Kiili et al , “ Students evaluating Internet Sources, ” Journal of Educational Computing Research 39 (2008)
  72. 75. “ Students in this study seemed to have a great deal of confidence in their abilities to distinguish the good sites from the bad.” “ Students are also not consistently able to differentiate between advertising and fact.” Graham and Metaxis, “ Of Course it’s true; I saw it on the Internet, ” Communications of the ACM (2003) Yet
  73. 76. “ Overall only about 1 in 6 searchers … can consistently distinguish between paid and unpaid results.” Pew Internet and American Life Project, “Search Engine Users,” (2005)
  74. 77. Remember scanning behavior!
  75. 78. Pre-reflexive thinkers [about 78% of students in this study were categorized as such] usually only choose the first hits selected by the search engine (in a research task), regardless of whether they were or were not ‘sponsored links’. Whitmore, “The relationship between undergraduate epistemological beliefs, reflective judgment, and their information-seeking behavior,” Information Processing and Management 40 (2004) 50% of users click on 1 st choice
  76. 79. Google Usability analyst Jakob Nielsen calls it: Gullibility Nielsen Group, “User Skills Improving, But Only Slightly,” http://www.useit.com/alertbox/user-skills.html (Feb 4, 2008)
  77. 80. Cognitive impairment ? Three
  78. 81. This is the key one … but is still under-studied
  79. 82. Are efficient search engines actually changing our cognitive abilities, perhaps for the worse?
  80. 83. There are plenty of grumpy old teacher stories about kids nowadays…
  81. 84. “ The research literature on young people’s use of information technology in their learning suggests that in the case of assignment completion at least, what was more important than entertainment or interest was to finish by the expending the least amount of effort .” British Library/JISC Study, Information Behavior of the Researcher of the Future (2007) “ The popularity of Google is facilitating laziness, poor scholarship, and complacent thinking.” Tara Brabazan, the University of Google: Education in the (post) information age (2007)
  82. 85. I have tried to provide a range of evidence that suggests we should be worried about cognitive impairment.
  83. 86. Yet there have been some claims that in fact the new media environment is making us smarter .
  84. 87. These claims are mainly founded on the Flynn Effect (IQ test scores have been rising 3-5 points per decade since 1930s) This growth has however been in scores below the median, not above it. Sundet et al, “The end of the Flynn effect?” Intelligence 32 (2004) Strangely, mean SAT score results since 1950s have steadily declined. Flynn, “The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978,” Psychological Bulletin , 95,
  85. 88. Recent research indicates Flynn Effect has reversed in the past decade. Sundet et al , “The end of the Flynn effect?” Intelligence 32 (2004) Teasdale and Owen, “Secular declines in cognitive test scores: A reversal of the Flynn Effect” Intelligence 36 (2008) Teasdale and Owen, “A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse” Intelligence 39 (2005)
  86. 89. “ almost all of the modest gain between 1988 and 1998 derived from the geometric figures test of spatial ability.” Teasdale and Owen, “A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse” Intelligence 39 (2005)
  87. 90. Leisure paper-based reading still remains one of the strongest correlates of post-secondary success. Gallik, “Do they read for pleasure? Recreational reading habits of college students,” J ournal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 42 (1999) Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M (2005)
  88. 91. National Endowment for the Arts, http://www.arts.gov/research/ReadingonRise.pdf (January 2009)
  89. 92. WHAT should we do?
  90. 93. - Rilke “ Archaic Torso of Apollo ” “ You must change your life” http://www.wordswordswords.us/images/apollo.jpg
  91. 94. “ we need to find structural ways to push our students back into libraries to discover the value of wandering up the corridors of journal stacks.” Tara Brabazan, the University of Google: Education in the (post) information age (2007)
  92. 95. SUCH AS? 1. Explicit bibliographic expectations e.g., 2 books, 2 print-based refereed articles, 1 non-refereed web site, etc 2. Academic search printouts e.g., Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, etc 3. No research, but fixed, substantial, printed-out readings e.g., provide students with substantial number of readings from which they have to read a percentage. 4. Teach and re-teach how to evaluate information Don’t expect the high schools to do this for you! Even if you think you’re reading, you probably aren’t.
  93. 96. My Year Without Search Book Web site http://www.myyearwithoutsearch.com
  94. 97. Randy Connolly Dept. Computer Science & Information Systems Mount Royal College, Calgary [email_address]

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