Making the Semantic Web Accessible to the Casual User

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Science on February 03, 2009

The Semantic Web presents the vision of a distributed, dynamically growing knowledge base founded on formal logic. Common users, however, seem to have problems even with the simplest Boolean expression. So how can we help users to query a web of logic that they do not seem to understand? One frequently proposed solution to address this problem is the use of natural language (NL) for knowledge specification and querying. We propose to regard formal query languages and NL as two extremes of a continuum, where semistructured languages lie somewhere in the middle.

To evaluate what degree of structuredness casual users prefer, we introduce four query interfaces, each at a different point in the continuum, and evaluate the users' preference and their query performance in a study with 48 subjects. The results of the study reveal that while the users dislike the constraints of a fully structured formal query language they also seem at a loss with the freedom of a full NLP approach. This suggests that restricted query languages will be preferred by casual users because of their guidance effect, mirroring findings from social science theory on human activity in general.

Speaker: Prof. Bernstein
Abraham Bernstein is a full Professor at the Department of Information Technology (Institut für Informatik) of the University of Zurich. He conducts research on various aspects of supporting dynamic (intra- and inter-) organizational processes. His work draws from both social science (organizational psychology/sociology) and technical (computer science, artificial intelligence) foundations.

Before coming to Zurich he was an Assistant Professor, at the Information Systems Department in New York University's Stern School of Business, and received a Ph.D. at MIT's Sloan School of Management, where he worked with Prof. Thomas W. Malone at the Center for Coordination Science.

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June, 26 2008

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