Seminars at the Faculty of Informatics

Differentiating conscious and formalized information needs

Speaker: Ian Ruthven
  Strathclyde University, UK
Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Place: USI Lugano Campus, room SI-003, Informatics building (Via G. Buffi 13)
Time: 14:30-15:30



Information need is a fundamental concept within Information Science. Robert Taylor’s seminal contribution in the 1960s was to propose a division of information needs into four levels: visceral, conscious, formalized and compromised levels of need. Taylor’s contribution has provided much inspiration to Information Science research, but this has largely remained at the discursive and conceptual level. In this talk, I present a novel empirical investigation of Taylor’s information need classification. I linguistically analyse the differences between conscious and formalized needs using several hundred postings to major Internet discussion groups. We show that conscious needs are more emotional in tone, more based on sensory perception and contain different temporal dimensions than formalized needs. I show how it is possible to differentiate levels of information need based on linguistic patterns and that the language used to express information needs can reflect an individual’s own understanding of their information problem. This has implications for how moderators of online news groups respond to information needs and for developing automated support for classifying information needs.



Ian Ruthven is a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Strathclyde University.
He works in the area of information seeking and retrieval; understanding how (and why) people search for information and how electronic systems might help them search more successfully. This brings in a wide range of research including theoretical research on the design and modelling of information access systems, empirical research on interfaces and user interaction and research on the methodology of evaluating information access systems.
Recent research has included interface design research to help children search for information, information seeking studies on information poverty within marginalised groups and studies on how people use online information to create a sense of happiness.


Host: Prof. Fabio Crestani