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Nahl's taxonomic model, especially its structural integration of levels and domains of user-behaviors, is compatible with Dervin's sense-making theory and Kuhlthau's counseling approach to the information search process. These three orientations converge on placing the user at the center and employing scientific techniques for discovering the details of the user's live experience in the information environment. Self-witnessing methodology emerges as a common tool serving objectivity, empiricism, and theoretical framework, even if still in development. There are three basic characteristics to this behavioral methodology: concurrent self-reports, authentic self-descriptions, and integrated probing.
A major problem with system-centered 'usercenteredness' is that it is insufficiently objective, despite the use of summative rating scales and survey data. It uses categories of measurement intuitively selected by the experimenter, in order to obtain global, summative, and retrospective judgments from users. In a major scholarly effort, Ericsson and Simon (97) fully establish the superiority of concurrent reports obtained throughout the time user activity and experience is occurring. Protocol analysis involves tape recording users thinking aloud the thoughts and feelings they experience during the task, transcribing the audio, and analyzing it to reveal thought sequences, decision points, intentions, and reactions. The categories that emerge from such analysis are thoroughly user-grounded, with minimal imposition by the experimenter. They are objective because users are the only source of data for their thoughts, reasons, and perceptions. Reporting on such data as they occur is a natural process of language activity and does not depend on special abilities or training, as illustrated in another major study.
Two reasons may be stated why self-witnessing data are more authentic and useful than data based on summative rating scales or surveys. First, they use natural language expressions which are more accurate and specific. Second, they are spontaneous responses to on-going mental activity and state. However, intermittent probing by the experimenter is necessary in order to insure relevance and completeness of information obtained.
Research on the self-witnessing method (24, 97-99) indicates that though the user's self-reports are spontaneous and natural, they are incomplete unless the experimenter provides adequate prompts. What constitutes adequacy in prompting varies with the theoretical justification of the study. In the taxonomic approach, probes are defined by level and domain, especially the latter. For instance, cognitive prompts elicit rationales for decisions while affective prompts call forth motives and intentions that seek fulfillment from cognitive rationales through sensorimotor executions.
User-Based Behavioral Objectives for Bibliographic Instruction
Within the bibliographic instruction field, the most recent version of the model formulated by the profession is user-oriented in its purpose, attempting to incorporate and "outline the pertinent processes individuals use when gathering information" (p.257). However, the model statement of educational objectives for user instruction remains at a broad level of description, in the form of general and terminal objectives. From a user-centered perspective, the Model Statement needs to evolve towards specifying the actual behaviors performed by users during an information seeking or processing activity at the level of enabling objectives. The authors of the objectives recommend that instructors select terminal objectives from the Model Statement and create necessary enabling objectives specific to local needs. A step towards this elaboration was proposed and involves content analysis of user self-reports (or "structured diaries") that describe one's feelings, thoughts, and actions while engaged in searching:
The self-reports of library users provide access to relevant information about their mental processes as they pursue an assignment. We obtained information on inaccurate assumptions and other errors, on skills learned during the assignment, and on how to improve assignment instructions. Self-reports indicate part of what students feel, think, and do in carrying out an assignment. Such information may be helpful in understanding the nature of library users' feelings, thoughts, and actions. It is an advantage to be able to correctly anticipate user behavior and to communicate adequately with users, accommodating our suggestions to their level and pace (91)(p. 6).
The authors present a "taxonomy of library speech acts" in the affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor domains to help information specialists develop empirical, user-based enabling objectives in the planning of instruction. The deepening of user-centered consciousness is possible when information skills of users are defined as "integrated behavioral objectives:"
Bibliographic Instructional Design (BID) represents the new paradigm in BI, a shift from a tool-based library instruction approach to an interactive, access-based approach focused on active learning and critical thinking. BID places an emphasis on the needs and behaviors of information seekers in complex information environments. BI librarians have accepted the vital role of teaching people how to interact with information systems, how to evaluate output, and how to gain control of the information environment (p. 73).
The authors propose a taxonomy of terminal objectives for information literacy that is organized in a matrix of three levels and three behavioral domains. Information literacy begins with critical thinking skills (level 1), proceeds to information retrieval skills (level 2), and matures in lifelong learning to learn skills (level 3). Each level includes affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor learning objectives. For example, affective skills at the critical thinking level (A1) involve "becoming sensitive to the need to evaluate information." Cognitive skills at the information retrieval level (C2) involve "formulating a question and planning a search strategy." Sensorimotor skills at the learning to learn level (S3) involve "facilitating one's life through lifelong information seeking and enjoying its rich benefits." Similarly, using the matrix definition, all nine zones of instructional objectives are defined. Information specialists can use this taxonomy to plan instruction and assistance that is integrated, so that the objectives address the affective, the cognitive, and the sensorimotor domains of user behavior.
From the perspective of user-based design or planning of instruction and assistance, objectives are laid out in a synthetic or developmental order: from overall goals to general objectives, to terminal objectives, to enabling behavioral objectives. For example, a decision to provide an Internet connection in an academic library might lead a committee to decide to provide instruction in how to conduct Veronica searches of Gopher menus. This is a general objective. A subcommittee might then consult with other experts and draw up a list of terminal objectives which might include navigating menus, formulating queries, applying boolean operators, and saving documents to users' disks. The list of terminal objectives would then be assigned to instructional staff to work out the procedures and materials that help learners acquire the needed skills for locating Internet documents through Veronica searches. Enabling objectives at the behavioral level normally require demonstrations, supervised search practice, handouts, charts, the use of online Help, and other learning activities. Enabling objectives guide instructional procedures and need to be very specific and detailed. For example:
General Objectives: To teach new Internet users to conduct Veronica searches and save retrieved documents to their disks.
Terminal Objectives: Accessing the Gopher menu; accessing the Veronica screen; formulating queries; boolean operations; saving a document.
Enabling Objectives: Locating Gopher; Highlighting Gopher indexes; Using line numbers on Gopher menus; Canceling a request; Selecting possible Gopher titles for various topics of interest; Beginning a Veronica search; Devising search terms; Using boolean operators; Using Bookmarks; Using the History function; Using commands for saving and printing options; Inserting and ejecting disks, etc.
Note that as we descend the synthetic tree from general to specific, there is a need to include greater detail. However, from the user's perspective, the order of learning and understanding is exactly reversed. Users begin with an ability to understand at the level of the enabling objectives: How do I get out of this screen? How do I get there directly? Where did I go before this? What's the save command? These are their immediate problems and their total focus. The solution to a lack of enabling skills is provided at the next level up where terminal objectives organize individual skills into the ability to execute complex goal-related tasks. At the third level, users begin to acquire self-confidence in their general ability as an information literate person capable of sitting down at a terminal and figuring out how to search the Internet. Users thus see analytically (from frustrating detail to general know-how) while instructors see synthetically (from general goals to specific objectives).
Research on the modification of users' behavior with systems highlights the complexity of the user's involvement in the information environment. Some researchers perceive the need to consider the whole user, and have proposed holistic theories to help safeguard user-centered consciousness in the applied world of system design and user access.
Constructing a Scientific Basis for User-Centeredness
If the past two decades have brought user-centered consciousness to the fore, the next few years should yield greater theoretical sophistication and efficiency. Theoretical integration with psychology, education, sociology, and communication is already visible. Table 1 is a summary of the work to date of three researchers who have independently evolved a scientific and empirical orientation toward user-centeredness. The list is not meant to be exhaustive and other researchers could be included whose work and ideas are compatible (12, 58, 94, 96, 101, 102).
Though distinctly different in procedure and disciplinary grounding, the writings of Brenda Dervin, Carol Collier Kuhlthau, and Diane Nahl together encompass a broad section of scientific research and method giving credence to the expectation of a new user-centered paradigm, effective enough to produce a permanent change in how the information world continues to develop.
The three approaches listed in Table 1 taken together cover the entire spectrum of the user's universe:
Dervin: How users assimilate information in reaction to their life situation.
Kuhlthau: What challenges users go through in the information search process and how to assist them in lifelong information seeking.
Nahl: What users feel, think, and perform during information sessions or tasks.
Dervin's conceptual basis lies in the mechanisms that tie social setting to the individual's mental framework. Information is not so much a fixed resource or product, as a social occasion for communicative exchanges between author-producer and user-consumer. Information is what consumers use to alter their life situation. Affective needs reveal cognitive gaps which propel the person to seek, whereupon one seizes what seems relevant and meaningful, that is, what will make a difference in one's situation. This difference translates into acquiring understanding, changing attitudes, solving problems, constructing interpretations, or becoming more persuasive with friends or employees. Dervin's descriptions of the information user or consumer make it clear that we are all information seekers and consumers. Being a user or a novice is not a demographic category or personality factor: it is a continuous lifelong process, a state of operating which we all must regularly assume as part of our societal functioning.
Kuhlthau's conceptual basis is grounded in a psychological maxim: people seek meaning in life and information seeking is driven by this deep need to make sense out of reality, to attribute causes to events, to hypothesize about what might be. But there is turmoil associated with this reality-construction because events change or new forces and constraints come into being. With mounting pressure to know, analyze, and decide, one is thrown into states of confusion and uncertainty, sometimes with such intensity that the individual may withdraw or resist further information seeking. The syndromes of technophobia, infoshock, and avoidance can be scientifically studied and cataloged. With knowledge of the stages users go through, information professionals can provide effective assistance by accurately diagnosing the stage a user is in and intervening with appropriate affective and cognitive facilitation procedures.
Nahl's taxonomic self-witnessing contributes two basic ideas from behaviorism: first, that thoughts and feelings are behaviors like motor actions; and second, that the three domains (affective, cognitive, sensorimotor) are exhaustive and integrated categories of human behavior. During a search session or activity, users produce a continuous stream of goal-motives, reasonings, and coordinated sensory-motor executions. This stream of behavior is hierarchically organized with goal-feelings directing cognitive sequences that explode into overt decision and action. Behaviors are organized into habits that serve goals and situational demands. They can also be changed by using appropriate behavioral modification techniques such as modeling, imitation, role-taking, self-witnessing, instruction, and communication.
User-centered instruction and management needs to view the target behaviors of users guided by bibliographic instructional design that addresses all three domains of human endeavor. Being optimistic about search outcomes and feeling enthusiasm for one's successes are affective skills that can be targeted as behavioral objectives in instruction and measurement. Doubting oneself, avoiding technology, and feeling depressed or overwhelmed in an information crisis are routine affections, cognitions, and acts that respond well to self-modification attempts through self-regulatory speech acts and social support. Higher motives have a controlling influence on lower motives and users can be given self-witnessing tools to help them become aware of the negative and positive learning contingencies in their information environment. Such tools include inventories of skills and errors users frequently make in specific situations, and taxonomic descriptions of information states, stages, and processes.
The Future of User-Centered Approaches
User-centeredness became visible with policy, was advanced through methodology, and eventuates in a new theory, a new view of the global dimensions that impinge upon users. As policy, user-centeredness continues as an organized affirmative-action-like program attempting to reverse the user-unfriendly atmosphere of the system-centered information environment. This includes the sphere of legislation, planning of services, and the education of professionals. As methodology, user-centeredness has evolved a wide range of measures for user factors in the information equation. Three degrees of shift have occurred. Nearest to the system-centered orientation are user data obtained through rating forms, survey questionnaires, and interviews. Further along, closer to users' search activities are transaction logs, journals or diaries, and longitudinal case histories. Closest to user-centeredness are concurrent think aloud protocols and directed self-witnessing reports, including rating scales if used concurrently, about one's actions, thoughts, and feelings throughout the search process.
As theory, user-centeredness has evolved an entirely new range of explanations of what it is like to be users and how to manage their needs. Cognitive science, communication theory, and educational psychology each play visible roles in the development of the user-centered paradigm. The cognitive science influence is a source of knowledge for understanding how users think within the information sphere, including how they solve problems, how they make decisions, how they represent systems conceptually to themselves, how they deal with special terminology, what errors they are prone to make, and the like. Influence from communication theory continues to evolve a transactional perspective on information as a subjective, creative, or constructivist accomplishment. The information gap that users face with disturbing feelings of uncertainty, demands an existential confrontation with self and the world of information. Managing this world for users is unavoidably involving to information professionals, demanding an activist mindset that pursues, probes, and guides users through various types of intervention.
The influence on user-centered consciousness from educational psychology may be seen in the taxonomic approach that relies on behaviorism as a means for studying thoughts and feelings in an objectified manner. The matrix approach attempts to identify the simpler components that make up the complex. It relies on two basic concepts known to educators and psychologists, namely, levels of development and domains of behavior.
Summarizing the trend of the past two decades, the following user-centered principles have emerged:
(1) Counseling interventions
Information professionals can operate more effectively as information counselors than simply as information providers.
Acknowledging the wholeness and integrity of users as human persons consists in providing affective support within the cognitive information transfer. Understanding users consists in recognizing the common experience of a predictable cyclic process: feeling challenged, reacting with infoshock and resistance, accepting assistance and redirection, viewing one's progress with satisfaction, and feeling restored and empowered. This up-and-down cycle recurs many times within a search effort, and managing its natural evolution with every user is the routine business of information professionals in the new paradigm.
Information professionals can gain a more developed consciousness of user-centeredness by role-taking, or putting themselves in the place of users.
Role-taking is a major concept in social psychology and communications. Taking the steps that users go through, coming up against the same barriers users must cope with, overcoming blocks, feeling overwhelmed by too much or too little information -- these are useful experiences that may help information professionals tune in to user perceptions. One approach is to search for information that is personally relevant and observe the process from beginning to its resolution, if ever. Information professionals need to be users and searchers on a continuous and lifelong basis. Another approach is to participate in a group exercise of role taking in which one professional assumes the role of user, a second takes the role of the librarian, and a third acts as an observer who afterwards provides feedback for a discussion of the interaction. The three then exchange roles.
(3) Discourse Management Skills
Information professionals can be more serviceable by acquiring discourse management skills such as interviewing, negotiating, counseling, reformulating, and the like.
Examples include the use of open questions to avoid premature closure, to personalize the topic, ask follow-up questions, identify where the user is in the information search process, and to identify the user's area and level of information need.
(4) Follow-up Services
Information professionals are user-centered when they follow-up on user activities in an attempt to establish closure.
Following up on searchers completes the cycle of assistance. It is the recognition that users are real people who need to go through actual steps. Creating a link back to the information professional may be critical to insure accuracy, success, and satisfaction for users.
A deeper understanding of user-centered consciousness may be gained by applying humanistic principles to the design of the information world. A well known approach is that of Carl Rogers, a founder of the humanistic psychology movement (103, 104). A basic tenet of this approach is that humans have an inborn need for positive regard, which is to receive sympathy, care, and acceptance from relevant sources. Out of this need to receive positive regard from others, we evolve the need for positive self-regard, which manifests itself as holding favorable self-perceptions. A problem arises when the positive regard others give us is constrained by conditions of worth. For example, children learn that they can have their parents' love and respect only if they behave in accordance with the parents' wishes. This conditional acceptance helps develop the children's conscience. At the same time, however, it leads to internalization of unfavorable self-assessment. One's perception of self-worth suffers and frequently leads to maladjustment such as alienation, anxiety, denial, self-blame.
Rogerian therapy attempts to remedy this state of mind by giving clients unconditional positive regard so that they might experience positive self-regard even in failure. To reflect this orientation and commitment to the client, he termed the approach "client-centered therapy," also referred to as nondirective therapy because it encourages clients to solve their own problems within a proper atmosphere. It involves the attempt to understand clients' internal frame of reference, which includes their thoughts and feelings in their struggle to cope. If we substitute "searchers" for clients, and "librarians" for therapists, we can summarize the Rogerian form of user-centered instructions in the following six principles:
(5) Affective Contact :
Information professionals and users must be in affective contact.
That is, they must express to each other the relevant feelings that the search environment evokes in both. Instructions must therefore have an affective component explicitly dealing with the feelings engendered by the search environment.
(6) Incongruence or Uncertainty
Information professionals can gain a deeper understanding of searchers then they perceive them as being in a state of incongruence or uncertainty, needing to succeed while lacking sufficient knowledge.
User-oriented management of the affective information environment will take steps to legitimize the searcher's negative or stressful psychological state by presenting it as an ordinary problem created by the setting requirements rather than by the searcher's deficits.
(7) State of Congruence with Users
Information professionals are in a state of congruency in relation to searchers when they accept searchers' weaknesses and ineptitudes, and at the same time, desire to help searchers acquire positive self-regard.
To be "accepting" simply means to acknowledge such insufficiencies as normal at the beginning, with routine remedies in the form of assistance, exploration, and instruction.
(8) Empathic Understanding of Users
Information professionals can acquire an empathic understanding of searchers' internal frame of reference.
User-centered instruction or assistance takes the point-of-view of the searcher instead of the system. To do this adequately, research will have to discover empirically what users' cognitive and affective needs are while searching, and build responses to these into systems.
The dynamic pace of change in the information world has spawned a new status for those who actively strive to work within information structures, that of the "perpetual novice".
(9) Lifelong Novicehood
The greening of the information world will have arrived when information professionals fully acknowledge the primary reality of the information environment, i.e., novices will always be with us.
The recognition of this reality does not come easily, even for sophisticated observers. For example, analyzes the role of expertise in the process of knowledge transfer, and refers to a study by that tries to identify the differences between experts and novices in various disciplines. A main conclusion is that "experts are not expert by virtue of some generic problem-solving skill, but only in their knowledge of a particular content domain" and that "the way in which experts initially perceived a problem is what distinguishes them from novices: how they proceed after the problem has been set up was not significant" (p.29). There is a general tendency on the part of information specialists to assume that the quicker we get rid of novices in the information world, the better it will be, as if novicehood were a temporary state to be ended upon the completion of the instruction. In addition, many believe that as computer literacy becomes more widespread, very little instruction in system use will be needed. There is as yet an insufficient consciousness among many professionals of the reality that novicehood in the information world never ceases.
In the mid-seventies, librarians were discussing whether or not patrons and researchers would want to do their own searching on the commercial information retrieval systems, and whether that would be a good idea. The end-user revolution is now behind us, and its character is beginning to unfold as an unprecedented number of people on a daily basis are attempting to operate within a rapidly evolving technological environment. So rapid, that a new social phenomenon is occurring: we find that, even as information professionals, we are all novices all of the time, struggling (intellectually and emotionally) to learn, keep-up with, and operate the latest versions of multiple systems, and continuously adding new systems to our repertoire.
We need to understand this organic change in our information environments. What does it mean for a person to forever be a novice, to never know a system completely, to discover after months of use that an unknown easy shortcut could have saved much effort, to be deprived of support in acquiring system skill? Who does not feel this on a regular basis, whether it is students learning to search online catalogs and databases or librarians exploring Internet search engines? Are hackers and computing facility administrators exempt from 'the state of novicedom'?
Information Literate Novices
The information age has created a new status for users which may be referred to as "lifelong novicehood," an expression that represents the reality for most people who are intermittent yet steady users of the information superhighway. The kaleidoscope of networked information systems requires novices or intermittent users to actively participate in successful operation of these evolving systems. This interactivity requires information literacy since it involves a variety of information-management skills:
* figuring out screen instructions and command option lines
* understanding the notion of canceling a command
* constructing a viable cognitive map of the system
* maintaining routinized checking procedures for typing accuracy
* paying close attention to command structure, spacing, and shortcuts
* keeping notes that are retrievable when needed
* retrying operations with slight modifications and refinements until it succeeds
Before the advent of user-centered consciousness, the idea of "being information literate" and the idea of "being a novice" appeared contradictory or mutually exclusive. However, though we see ourselves forced to assume lifelong novicehood, there is no substitute for information literacy, and this has rightly assumed a topic of importance among bibliographic instruction specialists(80). As the user-centered revolution passes the point of no return, the information world is endeavoring to restructure in order to create a user-friendly environment for information literate novices. Without information literacy, novices cannot function.
The Perpetual Novice
Currently, in libraries, campus computer labs, and computing center units one can observe confusion, inexplicable technical delays, and intractable passing of the buck regarding who is supposed to know what. This reflects the reality that technical and administrative experts in the information world normally operate in a mode that appears very much like the way novice users operate. This is because the hardware and software they get used to are frequently updated and made compatible with new hardware and software. Experts in the computer world can never stop having to learn a new system, and thus being a novice user of it. The challenge of working out compatibility in each unit or location is intense, as is evident from newsgroups for systems directors and information professionals. The principle that 'novices will always be with us' is thus an outcome that is a feature of the structure of the information world, rather than of the mental state of users. The information world has the inherent character of changing at a rate faster than users can assimilate. They are thus in a perpetual state of information shock. User-centered consciousness can come of age by promoting an information environment that is designed for "the perpetual novice." Novices may take two paths one of which - if carried to its logical extreme- may lead to a "happy hacker" mentality; while the other path may lead to a state of being which I call "the perpetual novice." In effect, I am saying that regardless of "how" you classify yourself when you first begin to learn the technology, some of you may overcome whatever reluctance you may have had initially to become enthusiastic users of these services, while others of you will begin to (or continue to) show some reluctance about this mode of communication in perpetuity. Ultimately, the latter group may turn into "perpetual novices" who *must* use the system for work and will do so, while still keeping empathy with the newbies. You may find yourself in that position because of your job requirements or social requirements or even an internal driving force that keeps you wanting to learn about new technologies though you know you will never grasp it all. Many things in this field (specifically speaking about telecom) and in our society are rapidly changing and one can find it difficult if not impossible to keep up with everything. I find the term "perpetual novice" or "perpetual newbie" very applicable to myself. Partially due to my job, mostly due to my own curiosity, I am always finding myself in a game of catch up, even when teaching others my new "discoveries."
A graduate student wrote:
I think I approach anything computer-related from the perspective of "goodie, here's a new challenge!" I always like playing or working on computers. Basically, the more "user-friendly" the computer is, the more hate it!! I like the old low-level archaic systems. For example, I like MS-DOS, Unix shell, and OS/2's shell. I hate Macs... I think part of this comes from a "hacker mentality," whereby you think you are doing some wickedly complex scheming quite easily. Others get the impression that you are some kind of "wizard." T he whole thing comes back to bravado. I get really excited when I get far into a system, especially if I think I'm not supposed to be that far under the system.
In the last analysis, it seems, hackers and novices differ only in self-image. There is no big mystery about the expert and the computer hacker -- they just never give up! Lifelong novicehood creates new kinds of challenges for information professionals because nothing can be taken for granted about what particular users may already know. An illuminating expression of this dilemma was posted to the bibliographic instruction listserv (BI_L) by Rick Newell of WLN in the fall of 1994:
This is going to sound like a very strange question: Do any of you ever give instruction on how to press keys on a computer keyboard? I do training for library staff (including clerks, paraprofessionals, and librarians) on Internet, online searching, etc. I just assume that everyone knows how to press keys, but I'm starting to conclude that this isn't true. Sometimes people will hold a key down too long (especially the "enter" key), and of course the function of that key repeats, and they get unexpected results. Or when I tell someone to press "Control-C", they don't always know that means to hold "Control" and press "C". Some people don't know that F1 is function key 1, not "F" followed by "1". I've always said I would like to quickly move beyond teaching" which key to press" and talk about more interesting things like search strategies, but I'm starting to think that perhaps more instruction is needed in the mechanics. I could point out all these "which keys to press, and how to press them things at the beginning of each class, but I'm afraid that people who are already experienced computer users will be offended. Probably most BI-L subscribers teach college students who already are familiar with computers. Any comments??
There exists a wide range of experience and skill across user populations, still, the majority of novice searchers are also novice computer users.
Surfing vs. Searching
We can gain a deeper understanding of what is user-centered by studying the growth of the Internet as a natural or cultural phenomenon. The spontaneous development of homepage architecture on the World Wide Web is an expression of the user-centered revolution. The information superhighway, through its worldwide telecommunications network, functions as a physical scaffolding for virtual cyberspace. Users are now navigators and "cybernauts," a status equivalent to the information literate novice. It is now expected that an information literate user can approach a terminal, launch an application such as Netscape, and begin exploring the multimedia global network of the World Wide Web. Visible command buttons on the screen and standardized pull-down menus allow the first time information literate user to surf around in cyberspace, traversing time and geography, hopping from hypertext links placed there by other cybernauts eager to serve as travel guides and commentators. The term "surfing" expresses a certain freedom in navigating or gliding around at will, deciding to follow a link purely on the basis of a momentary attraction or curiosity, and backing out of it, retracing steps or going on to new places. Though traditional search functions are available, browsing is the primary method of navigation on the Web.
A truly user-centered feature of cyberspace is the universal availability of navigation browsers with hypertext capability that have two basic functions. One allows users to navigate by hopping from link to link at will, and the other allows users to retrace their steps in a variety of convenient ways. For instance, the "bookmark" facility in many multimedia browsers on the Internet permits users to save any address of any location they travel to by creating a permanent personal address list that users can activate at any time and search, thus providing a permanent record of one's travels through cyberspace. The bookmarks list is "hot" in the sense that one can select and click any item and be taken to that address location again almost instantaneously. This function is user-friendly and allows serendipitous browsing and collecting of links to be revisited and explored more fully at other times. In effect, the bookmarks facility for hypertext networks such as the World Wide Web permit users to create personalized indexes, catalogs, and personal information retrieval systems almost effortlessly and without advanced technical skills.
Clearly, the next stage for end users is creating individualized information retrieval and delivery systems on the Net. Many end users are already providing information services for themselves and interested others on the Web in the homepage format. Homepages permit end users to design information presentation, retrieval, and delivery systems tailored to the owner's expertise and topical interests. In cyberspace, everyone is an expert in self-defined specializations. 'Websters' create personalized calling cards, resumes, family histories, they impart their knowledge on subjects, point visitors to other related or interesting sites, or provide a service of some kind that visitors may request. For example, Tony's Bad Style homepage presents his evaluations of homepages that he visits. He makes it his business to travel the Web, critiquing homepages because he is interested in developing acceptable quality control standards for homepage structure and content, and hopes to influence others with his prescriptive analyses. Some other examples include: homepages dealing with selling products and services (e.g., magazines advertise their print versions; record companies display pictures and bios of artists, and you can hear a part of a song; shopping malls of various types, etc.) emotional support, searchable directories of visual artists with pictures of their works, gardening advice, home buying advice, confessions, and a catalog of useless sites (like litter on the information highway), among many others. End users may also receive mail from visitors and have them fill-out questionnaires directly on their homepage.
History is another user-friendly function of hypertext browsers that keeps track of every document one has accessed, and highlights that link in a special color, irrespective of where the link occurs. World Wide Web indexes and documents each have unique access locations known as URL addresses (universal resource locator). When browsers click on a hot link that appears on a Web "page" (or screen) the client browser (e.g., Netscape) accesses that URL location through live telecommunications lines (telnet, ftp, etc.). The same URL address on a link can appear anywhere on anyone's homepage or document. In addition, when one creates a link, one can choose any title or description for it as long as the URL address is the same. In other words, the same document or index page appears under many different titles or descriptive annotations throughout cyberspace. The history function shows users what pages or documents they have already seen at least once, even though the link names or titles are variable or entirely different. This is user-friendly because it allows greater control over navigation and helps users avoid endlessly reviewing the same material. With the history feature, the same document or file has a variety of different names, but this is an advantage, because it allows multiple independent access to the same information, not unlike cross-references in thesauri and subject indexes.
Personalized Subject Indexes
Another user-friendly feature of Web browsers allows novices to instantly construct individualized subject indexes on any desired topic or activity. Standardized subject indexes are easily accessed by clicking a link, and are maintained and updated as a free service from many sources on the Web--academic, commercial, and individual (e.g., Yahoo, Whole Earth Catalog, InfoSeek). These are user-friendly and contribute to more orderliness on the Internet. First time users may also click on Netscape's Search button and type topics in natural language (e.g., automobiles, skin care, cats, museums, Hawaii, and so on). Within seconds, a new document appears on the screen as a subject index containing hot links to addresses that relate to the specified topic. This list can be saved as a permanent file and one can collect as many as desired. Within minutes, a first time user can create an individualized database on a topic for personal use or for the use of others.
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