Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Research in Review

This post summarizes the research I published in 2014. The work divides roughly into three components covering: 1) slow search, 2) crowdsourcing, and 3) face-to-face social interaction.

Slow Search
We live in a world where the pace of everything from communication to transportation is getting faster. In recent years a number of "slow movements" have emerged that advocate for reducing speed in exchange for increasing quality. These include the slow food movement, slow parenting, slow travel, and even slow science. Building on these movements we have been exploring the concept of slow search, where search engines use additional time to provide a higher quality search experience than is possible given conventional time constraints.
Four of the conference papers I published this year (at CSCW, WSDM, and SIGIR) focus on understanding and supporting slow search. We studied instances where people interact with search engines over the course of time - such as when they click multiple results following a query, issue many queries as part of a session, or even concurrently issue asynchronous queries to their friends - and discovered a number of ways that search tools might better support slow search. We then built a prototype search engine that provides different results depending on the time constraints of the task.
This year I also devoted a substantial amount of time exploring the implications of crowdsourcing personal information tasks, including some of the risks (e.g., of exposing information about ourselves to unknown crowd workers) and opportunities (e.g., people may be able to support personalization where algorithms fail).
My interest in crowdsourcing grows out of my background in personal information management. I find it fascinating that we are figuring out how to break large, complex tasks down in to small, simple microtasks that can take as little as a few seconds each to complete. Research shows that concrete plans with actionable steps enable people to complete their tasks better and faster. However, while task decomposition previously had to be done by hand, it is now possible to do it algorithmically. I am starting to take the lessons we have learned from crowdsourcing, and apply them to instances where it is the task owner - and not the crowd - who performs the microtasks (called selfsourcing). Expect to see a lot more on this in the coming year!
Social Interaction
Mobile devices allow us to connect with the rest of the world, regardless of where we are. Ironically, however, while they connect us with the greater world, they often disengage us with what is directly around us. To address this, we developed an approach that allows people to physically signal their willingness to collaborate while on a mobile device. In this work, when people use their smartphones in the default portrait orientation they have a traditional mobile experience, but when they rotate into landscape orientation it signals - to the device and the people around them - that they are in a collaborative mode. Others around them can enter into this mode as well and share information across devices by simply rotating their phones. 

Finally, I am honored to have received the Anita Borg Early Career Award this year for making "significant research contributions while also having a positive, significant impact on advancing women in the computer-research community." The picture above is of my son Dillon meeting me on stage to present the award.


  1. This is a very creative idea to slow down the speed for quality! Nowadays everything is so fast paced that one cannot enjoy life to the fullest, this slow searching concept may give way to bigger and better things!

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