On Modelling Mobile Context

Cathal Hoare, H. Joe Sorensen


The effect of a searcher's context on their ability to successfully locate relevant information has been widely explored and search user interfaces developed to cater for its impact. Recently, mobility has added new contextual dimensions including device constraints such as screen size, new forms of query expression through a mobile's sensors and environments where search would previously not occurred. While the type of information searched for in this context has been examined, the impact of this context on search user interface design is only recently being addressed. This paper examines two interrelated search features. The first, the ability to effectively triage search results while mobile and mark those that solve complex information needs for later examination admits the need for the second feature. The second feature models users physical context and adapts the interface to account for static or mobile contexts. The paper will begin by exploring the requirements for mobile exploratory search - a form of search that is beyond lookup search, usually solved through disclosure of one or two pieces of information. Patterns of mobile search will be examined, before exploring how others have used smartphone features to provide context to search queries. The paper will then describe how we model a user's context to determine whether or not the user in a mobile or static context and how our search user interface is adapted in each case. The paper will conclude with a presentation of and discussion about the results of two evaluations; the first describes the accuracy of our ability to detect users' context, while the second will describe how users employed our context aware search interface.



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