Dr. Robert Capra: Interfaces to Support Exploratory and Collaborative Search Tasks

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Pinni B building lecture hall 2078, address: Kanslerinrinne 1


School of Information Sciences

Search interfaces are used by millions of users every day and provide access to a vast array of information stored in web pages, document collections, and other data sources.  The design of these interfaces mediates access to information and can influence our search processes.   Search interfaces have evolved over time, but providing high-precision ranked lists of results is a primary focus of many systems. Current search engines are effective in helping users complete simple search tasks such as fact-finding, but provide less support in helping users with tasks that may involve exploration, analysis, comparison, evaluation, and collaboration.

In this talk I will present results from a series of projects conducted with colleagues to develop and evaluate innovative search interfaces to support exploratory and collaborative search tasks. Across these projects, we observed how interface components influenced users’ search behaviors and ways that users made use of contextual information displayed by the interfaces at different stages of their search processes.  In my recent work, these observations helped inform the design of a novel search assistance tool that displays the search trails (paths) from previous users.  The idea behind the tool is that users may benefit from seeing how someone else approached the same or similar task.  Our implementation provides an interactive display with information about how another person searched, the queries they issued, results they clicked, and annotations made by the original searcher.  I will report on a laboratory study that investigated factors that influence user interaction with the search trails and effects on outcome measures.  Finally, I will conclude by discussing several exciting areas for future research on search interfaces.

About the speaker:
Dr. Robert Capra is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His interests include human-computer interaction, interactive information retrieval, and personal information management.  His research focuses on how people search for information in different contexts and on developing tools to support users’ search needs. He publishes regularly in top computer and information science conferences and journals and in 2016 was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER grant.

He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Virginia Tech and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in computer science from Washington University in St. Louis.  At Virginia Tech, he was part of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction where he investigated multi-platform interfaces, information re-finding, and interfaces for digital libraries.  Prior to Virginia Tech, he worked in corporate research and development, spending five years in the Speech and Language Technologies group at SBC Communications (now merged with AT&T Labs) where he focused on voice user interfaces, speech recognition, and natural language processing.

Dr. Capra is an active member in the HCI and information science communities.  He has co-edited special issues of IEEE Computer, ACM Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS), and the journal Information Processing & Management.  He has served on numerous conference program committees and in 2016, was co-chair of the newly formed ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR).

Additional information

Professor emeritus  Pertti Vakkari, tel. + 358 50 528  8354
School of Information Sciences