Understand human values to help change technology. That's the focus for the Socio-Digital Systems (SDS), one of the research groups at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK. Beyond making people more productive and efficient, the team asks how humanity can build technology to help people become more expressive, creative and reflective each day.
Search has become a layer of -- and an integral part of -- wider practices, relying on how people gather information or the motivation behind the answers to specific questions through modes other than traditional search boxes for fact-finding or information gathering. Microsoft Research has identified five modes.
We will discuss the topic at the spring MediaPost Search Insider Summit later this month in the resort town of Amelia Island, Fla., but for now here are some interesting points that the experts at Microsoft Research reveal in a paper called "Thinking Outside The Search Box."
Microsoft defines "mode" as mindset of a user when they go online, such as their mood, motivations, and their patterns of activity. Understanding the modes allows researchers to "unpack how the Web plays a role" in everyday life.
Rather than looking at what happens when someone goes to a search engine like Google or Bing to find information, the researchers analyzed what led the searchers to go to online. They believe it helps to understand not only what search engines are used for, but what they are not used for and the bigger activities they take part in. It analyzes search engines and how marketers combine them with tools to create content, and provides some unexpected uses of search engines.
From these findings the researchers began asking questions other than what would make a perfect search engine, and more about what would make it more enticing or more personal and how it could become more social.
How does the saying "it's not the destination, but the journey" fit into a search experience? How can brands design an experience that feels like a voyage. These questions are asked in the report, which talks about pebbles being the stepping stones or Web pages as someone travels across the Internet.
We all know the "purposeful," the "opportunistic," the "orient," the "respite," and the "lean-back Internet" modes of using a search feature, but do we also know how search becomes a journey, traveling across information rather than getting to the source as quickly as possible, or personalization and social exchange. What about planting a seed, a concept that technology uses to feed long-term interests?
Microsoft researchers ask (in the research study): "search engines are normally designed to deliver content to a person. What if a search engine delivered content to a place? The research examines the characteristics of a place to define what search engines might deliver.