Title of essay “Searching for Information in 2005”
Topic of essay: The future of “online retrieval” or “information retrieval” or “online searching” or “searching the web” or “finding information” or …
Motivation of essay: We are living through an era of information paradigm shift. Older paradigms such as commercial vendors selling information (e.g.: Dialog) and publishers selling the work of scholars (e.g.: JASIS) is being replaced by the paradigm of “free” information (e.g.: (1) Scholars mounting their papers on their personal websites (see my vita), (2) Scholarly web journals (e.g. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal), and (3) Databases are available on the web (see ERIC on the web). Why pay for information if it’s free? But, as a counter argument: Dialog provides such a sophisticated ‘value-added’ searching enviroment.
Complicating the retrieval of information are the changes in the structure of web information. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is redefining web information as independent XML (Extensible Markup Language) units that can be style many different ways by XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language). At this moment there is a developing a XML Query specification for the retrieval of real and virtual documents. Bridging the gap between legacy methods and these new technologies is problematic and prompts the question: Where is meaning when form is gone?
A further complication is that web tools (browsers, spiders, etc.) seem to cover the web only partially or are given to promoting certain pages due to a commercial interest. Furthermore, it is not clear how to (1) index a web page, and (2) present the results in rank order. Are the words on a page a good indicator of its content? Is a count of the words a good indicator or meaning? Is the arrangement of web pages by number of links a good indicator of importance of the web page?
These troubling throughts require a careful analysis of the current situation and a near-term forecast. Please write an essay speculating on what is going to happen in the near term and provide ample justification and examples.
Some current readings: