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Picking the Brains of Strangers Improves Efforts to Make Sense of Online Information

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 Digital knowledge map


Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research recently presented their findings on distributed sensemaking at CHI 2012.

The team recruited 21 Microsoft employees for a study, and found that the quality of their work was better when they used a digital knowledge map that had been created and improved upon by several previous users. Digital knowledge maps provide a means of representing the thought processes used to make sense of information gathered from the Web.

"Collectively, people spend more than 70 billion hours a year trying to make sense of information they have gathered online," said professor Aniket Kittur in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "Yet in most cases, when someone finishes a project, that work is essentially lost, benefiting no one else and perhaps even being forgotten by that person."

Distributed sensemaking can save time and lead to a better understanding of information gathered online. Using eye tracking, the team discovered that participants often focused more on the organization of knowledge maps, rather than any specific content, as they are modified successively by multiple users. New users spend less time focused on specific content elements, shifting a greater balance of their attention to structural elements such as labels.

From Carnegie Mellon University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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