Home > Conference, Review > SIGIR 2011 Highlight: “Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind”

SIGIR 2011 Highlight: “Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind”

A “highlights” post is meant to call attention to a paper which grabbed our attention and we think is worth your time.  This paper, “Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: On the Effect of Social and Physical Detachment on Information Need” by Elad Yom-Tov and Fernando Diaz won an honorable mention last week at SIGIR 2011 in Beijing.

This paper examines the effect of social and physical distance on queries for events.  The authors examined three cases: the San Bruno, CA gas line explosion of 9/9/2010, a violent storm in New York City that took place on 9/16/2010, and the 2010 Senate election in Alaska.  Data came from a query log of Yahoo! users.  Physical distance was computed using the profile zipcode of each user, and social distance was computed using the zip codes of instant messenger buddies.

The paper finds, perhaps not surprisingly, that the volume of queries related to each event decreases with distance and time from the event, and that searchers with closer geographical and social ties both query more, and query for different kinds of information.

I especially like this view of social search, and of local vs. general-informational search.  I would love to see work on this covering more events and events with a wider range of impact.  The selected events were ones that have a local focus but which achieved nationwide attention in the United States.  It would be interesting to look at events with a longer time-frame (trials, evolving events) and to consider if there are events that have a larger impact socially than geographically.

@inproceedings{Yom-Tov:2011:OSO:2009916.2009970,
 author = {Yom-Tov, Elad and Diaz, Fernando},
 title = {Out of sight, not out of mind: on the effect of social 
          and physical detachment on information need},
 booktitle = {Proceedings of the 34th international ACM SIGIR conference 
              on Research and development in Information},
 series = {SIGIR '11},
 year = {2011},
 isbn = {978-1-4503-0757-4},
 location = {Beijing, China},
 pages = {385--394},
 numpages = {10},
 url = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2009916.2009970},
 doi = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2009916.2009970},
 acmid = {2009970},
 publisher = {ACM},
 address = {New York, NY, USA},
 keywords = {distance, information, need, physical, social},
}
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