Integrating Information Retrieval with 3rd-wave HCI: The potential of Recall and Precision as interface design parameters

The HCI approach towards interface and interaction design is broadening to include new elements of human life, and with this evolution, a growing diversification of the role that information systems play in our daily life brings about new challenges for integrating computer technologies in human environments.

As HCI expands its reach outside the workplace to support human-information interaction in environments where efficiency and performance no longer constitute the backbone of interaction requirements, it creates new challenges for conventional information retrieval (IR) systems: first, the relationship between people and digital information spaces becomes more explicit and the technology that supports it more ubiquitous. Second, the human interaction with information spaces adopts a more direct approach supported by the coming of age of new interaction paradigms (e.g. touch, gesture, speech) that emulate the manipulation of objects. Third, the information space hosted by a situated interface tends to be specialized in subjects and themes befitting the environment where the interface is situated, and theĀ  interests of the people present in it. Fourth, the interaction properties may vary considerably in terms of interaction duration and the amount of user attention.

These challenges, among others, justify the search for a tighter coupling of interface and interaction design, and IR systems, by which IR as a supporting technology for interacting with information contributes to making the interface design more transparent and the human-information interaction more fluid and direct. Therefore, we reason that the performance of situated interfaces as IR systems ought to be attuned according to the nature of each specific interaction scenario, given that a maximization of IR performance, may not be adequate for answering the interaction design requirements in all kinds of user experiences. Consequently, IR performance tilts towards becoming a design issue that determines some of the design characteristics of the interfaces that mediate this interaction.

Therefore, we argue that the definition of the performance metrics Recall and Precision can be loosened or reinterpreted to respectively describe the quantity of retrieved information elements and their visual diversity as displayed on the interface, since relevance is no longer a performance factor from an HCI stance. These two metrics can consequently act as parameters that bind the design and performance of situated interfaces as retrieval systems to the informational expectations of users, by controlling the amount and diversity of visualized information in order to maximize the transparency of their designs to support a direct human-information interaction.

The use of these two performance metrics as design parameters may be seen as contraversial, however, it is justified given that efficiency and information relevance no longer constitute the essence of user expectations in all cases of human-information interaction. Instead, new aspects of human-information interaction (e.g. emotional, cognitive, experiential, situational, and cultural) are affecting the manner by which we conceptualize information systems. The use of Recall and Precision as design parameters does not comprehensively address all these aspects, but can be complemented by introducing new parameters to reflect with a higher affinity the aspects of human-information interaction onto the system design.