Research Repository

Exploring Strategies to Prevent Harm from Web Search

Zimmerman, Steven (2021) Exploring Strategies to Prevent Harm from Web Search. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


Download (5MB) | Preview


Web search, the process of seeking and finding information online, is an ubiquitous activity engrained in the lives of many individuals and much of broader society. This activity, which has brought many benefits to individuals and society, has also opened the door to many harms, such as echo chambers, loss of privacy and exposure to misinformation. Members of the information retrieval (IR) community now recognize the dangers of the search technologies commonplace in our daily lives. The upshot of this recognition are growing efforts to address these dangers by the IR community. These efforts focus heavily on system oriented solutions, but give limited focus on behavioural and cognitive biases and behaviours of the search and even less attention to interventions designed to address these biases and behaviours. As such, a theoretical framework is proposed, with behavioural and cognitive strategies as a core component of interactive Web search environments designed to minimize harm. Using the framework as the foundation, this thesis presents a number of offline and online studies to evaluate nudging, a popular intervention strategy rooted in the field of behavioural economics, and boosting, a successful intervention strategy from the cognitive sciences, as strategies to reduce risk of harm in Web search. Overall the studies produce findings in line with the theories underlying the behavioural and cognitive strategies considered. The key takeaway from these studies being that both boosting and nudging should be considered as viable approaches for harm prevention in Web search environments, in addition to pure system and algorithmic solutions. Additional contributions of this thesis include methods of study design for the comparison of multiple paradigms that promote improved decision making, along with a set of evaluation metrics to measure the success of the IR system and user performance as they relate to the harms being prevented. Future research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of these strategies for other types of harms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Information Retrieval, Search, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Interactive Information Retrieval, Privacy, Misinformation, Medical Search, Nudging, Boosting
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, School of
Depositing User: Steven Zimmerman
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2021 12:36
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2021 12:36

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item