According to Google researcher (who also calls himself a cyber-tribal-techno-cognitive-anthropologist) Dan Russell, most people learn how to search from friends (and a little bit from classes) and they remember stories. He tells stories about what he’s learned from searching in his book The Joy of Search (MIT Press) and his wonderful blog (firstname.lastname@example.org).
People have mental models about libraries and what the library does. Is Google omniscient?
How people search, identify, locate, evaluate sources.
How does Google work? Is it: Completely keyword search; Fulltext indexing; Partial text indexing; Link anchors; Blended results; What’s covered in the index?
When he asks people to draw a picture about how search works: 33% have the word “magic” in them.
Without a mental model, you can’t make predictions. What breaks your mental model of Google? It has a staggering amount of books, video, images, and documents.
But there are still difficult questions
What was the population of Japan in 1490?
How much apartment housing should San Francisco have?
It’s good to know what you can and cannot search. You can search on symbols, images
He can search on an image of what looks like an insect bite and surrounding rash on his son’s arm, but it’s not likely to tell him much
There’s an app that will identify mushrooms but how reliable is it? (only survivors get to rate the app)
Aerial photo of building in Palo Alto from years ago– Use time slider on Google Earth
What can you search for? What’s possible? Where to look? Google StreetView, Earth, others
Go through various iterations to get to answer.
He then told two search stories based on his experience, one about a phone number in Warsaw and the other a historical account of Perry on Delos. These are taken from his book and well worth reading.
It’s important to remember that not everything is on the web
Use CTR-F to find on a page. Surprising to me, Dan claims that 90% of people don’t know this trick.
Know the conventions of the culture:
Spoof sites (part of genre of internet culture is creating spoof sites
You tube is where people go to learn – do we know how to point people to high quality videos
The way we’re asking questions is changing
It’s always been a skill
Now it’s a critical skill
An interesting trick to find information about a website without going to the website is to search sitename –site:sitename
Site assessment is a basic skill
EPA Facts (EPA.gov versus EPAFacts.com) Environmental Policy Alliance
We need to design info systems to support informacy and continual learning
We need to teach our students about how to use all of our information systems
Augment skills of ordinary people
Search is not intuitive.
The latest post on SearchResearch is all about how and how often searchers fact-checked. Well worth the read!
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