Phong Nguyen, PhD student with IDC
Sensemaking is described as the process of comprehension, finding meaning and gaining insight from information, producing new knowledge and informing further action. Very often, users get lost when solving a complicated task using a big dataset over a long period of exploration and analysis. They may forget what they have done, are not aware of where they are in the context of the overall task, and do not know where to continue. In this paper, we introduce a tool, SenseMap, to address these issues in the context of browser-based online sensemaking. We conducted a semi-structured interview with nine participants to explore how they search, manage, and synthesize online information for their daily work activities. This was followed by a series of design workshops to walk the user scenarios, generate design questions, and formulate solutions relating to user interactions, tool features and manifestation. A simplified model based on Pirolli and Card’s sensemaking model is derived to better represent the browser behaviors we found and to guide the development of design requirements: users iteratively collect information sources relevant to the task, curate them in a way that makes sense, and finally communicate the findings to others. SenseMap automatically captures a user’s sensemaking actions, i.e., analytic provenance, and provides multi-linked views to visualize and curate the collected information, and communicate the findings. To explore how SenseMap is used, we conducted a user study in a naturalistic work setting with five participants completing the same sensemaking task related to their daily work activities. Most of the participants found the tool intuitive to use. It helped them to organize information sources, to quickly navigate to the sources they wanted, and enabled them to effectively communicate their findings. A process model is also derived based on both quantitative and qualitative data analysis.