FWF - NIN - Navigability of Decentralized Information Networks

Project: Research project

Project Details


In the early days of Hypertext and the World Wide Web, navigational support for information structures has
mostly been designed by small numbers of hypertext engineers, taxonomists or system engineers. The information
structures that make up the fabric of todays World Wide Web however are usually the result of the
interactions between a large number of users who dynamically construct these structures through some strong
or weak forms of collaboration. As a result, the topological structure and navigability of decentralized information
structures such asWikis, social tagging systems or recommendation systems today is usually unknown,
navigational support for users is rudimentary at best, and tools and techniques for shaping navigability are
mostly missing. While search has made significant progress over the last two decades, navigability of such
systems is a pressing practical and an open research problem. The overall vision of this project is to study
factors that shape the navigability of decentralized information networks and to equip their user interfaces with
automatic and effective navigational aids that augment users in exploratory tasks. The objectives of this project
are the following: (i) To study factors that shape navigability, we will model navigational behavior of users
in decentralized information networks by adapting cognitive and network-theoretic theories such as information
foraging, decentralized search and others. (ii) To simulate navigation, we will build on and expand a
rudimentary network-theoretic simulation framework developed by our group that has been proven useful in
preliminary studies. (iii) To verify and validate this framework, we will do simulations and perform human
subject studies that will reveal useful parameters and contribute to theory development (through e.g. click-data
studies). (iv) To devise automatic and effective navigational aids for large decentralized information networks,
we will run simulation experiments of different navigation paradigms and approaches (such as hierarchies,
facets, breadcrumbs, recommenders, etc) that will reveal their effectiveness from a network-theoretic perspective.
(v) To validate practical effectiveness of these navigational aids, we will integrate these aids into user
interfaces of real-world decentralized information networks and do studies of a range of navigational tasks involving
human subjects. The results of this project will increase our understanding about the conditions under
which navigability emerges in information networks, and about the ways in which navigability of information
networks can be shaped through automated interventions.
Effective start/end date1/04/1330/09/16


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