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Humans Are Informavores

Humans Are Informavores

Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card from PARC have developed an idea of humans as informavores and that our online behavior can be modeled using foraging theory. Foraging theory is used to analyze and explain how animals use scent to track food and locate “grazing patches” which contain more food than other locations. Informavores make similar decisions while surfing information sources, staying focused on the “scent” that will lead them to grazing patches of information.

Large-Scale Cognition: The Psychology of Informavores – [parc.com]

Dept. of Psychology, Stanford University
14 March 2001
Stuart Card
Xerox PARC

Aim of this Talk

  • Broad view
  • Emphasize scale change in information environment
  • Sample of psychological investigations
  • Sample of applications

Surf like a Bushman – [charter.net]

WHICH OF THESE activities occupies more of your time: foraging for food or surfing the Web? Probably the latter. We’re all informavores now, hunting down and consuming data as our ancestors once sought woolly mammoths and witchetty grubs. You may even buy your groceries online.

But in an odd sort of way, Internet shopping has brought us full circle. According to researchers in the US, the strategies you use when you surf the Web are exactly the same as the ones hunter-gatherers used to find food. You may be plugged into the information superhighway, but deep down you’re still a caveman.

At least that’s the opinion of two researchers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in California. Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card are using foraging theories from ecology and anthropology to understand how people find information in data-rich environments such as the Internet. They believe Web surfers rely on prehistoric instincts to maximise their yield when they hunt and gather morsels of information. If they’re right, their results could help others design websites and search tools that are as alluring to informavores as flowers are to bees.

Information Foraging Theory – [youtube.com]

(October 24, 2008) Peter Pirolli, Research Fellow at the Palo Alto Research Center, speaks about models and applications developed within the information foraging theory. These include recent models of Web surfing, exploratory search and interaction with information visualizations, as well as outlines of extension of the theory to social information foraging.

Exploratory Engineering
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