Current Research Projects

Dr. Luciana Duranti – InterPARES Trust

Screen-Luciana-3InterPARES Trust (ITrust 2013-2018) is a multi-national, interdisciplinary research project exploring issues concerning digital records and data entrusted to the Internet. Its goal is to generate theoretical and methodological frameworks to develop local, national and international policies, procedures, regulations, standards and legislation, in order to ensure public trust grounded on evidence of good governance, a strong digital economy, and a persistent digital memory.

ITrust builds on the foundations of InterPARES (International Research into the Preservation of Authentic Records in Electronic Systems) carried out in three phases from 1998 through 2012. The research findings and products of the first three phases of the InterPARES Project can be found at

Major funding for The InterPARES Trust Project is provided by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant. Matching funds are provided by The University of British Columbia’s Vice President Research, the Dean of Arts, and the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies. Matching support in kind is provided by all partners.

The InterPARES Trust research partnership includes more than 70 institutional partners around the world – universities, national and regional archives and libraries, government agencies, intergovernmental and transnational agencies, and businesses – and more than 300 researchers and graduate research assistants. InterPARES Trust is also a partner in the SSHRC-funded Participedia Project led by Dr. Mark Warren, Department of Political Science, UBC.

Dr. Luanne Freund – The Digital Information Interaction Group @ UBC (DiiG)

Luanne FreundThe Digital Information Interaction Group (DiiG) at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) brings together researchers and students engaged in the study of human interaction with digital information objects, collections of digital media, and digital information systems. Our shared interest in digital information interaction cuts across fields within information science: knowledge organization, information retrieval, HCI, and information behaviour, as well as drawing upon cognate disciplines, such as organizational behaviour, design, computer science and cognitive psychology.

Graphics, Animation and New Media – A Network Centre of Excellence

I am a Network investigator for the NCE Grand, and working on the the NGAIA – Next Generation Information Access Project, the NEWS Project, and the MEOW Project. I am project co-leader for the NGAIA project.

Funding Agencies: SSHRC/NSERC – $147,000 (2010-2015)

E-informing the public: a genre-based approach to information interaction in digital government

I am PI on a multi-year study investigating the information interactions between government information producers and public information consumers from the perspective of genre theory. The aim is twofold: to inform the design of strategies and tools to facilitate access to and use of digital government information, and to validate and extend to the public domain a novel approach to information retrieval based on the relationships between tasks and genres. This work will focus on the case of digital government at the Canadian federal level.

Funding Agency: SSHRC – $122,000 (2009-2013)

Systematic Review of Imposed Search Tasks

People’s search behaviors vary widely. It’s likely that some of this variation is not related to differences in the characteristics of individual searchers (e.g., domain knowledge or search expertise), but is instead due to differences in the tasks that they are trying to accomplish. Through a systematic review of prior research, we hope to gain a better understanding of the types of search tasks that have been imposed in studies of searching behaviors and evaluations of information retrieval (IR) systems, and the potential influence of those search tasks on study/evaluation outcomes.

Co-Investigators: Barbara Wildemuth, Elaine Toms.

Dr. Victoria L. Lemieux – CiFER (Centre for the investigation of financial electronic records)VictoriaLemieux1[3]Paper title: Toward a “Third Order” Archival Interface: Research Notes on Some Theoretical and Practical Implications of Visual Explorations in the Canadian Context of Financial Electronic Records

Abstract: This paper addresses challenges related to abstraction and representation of archival records and makes a number of theoretical and practical contributions to discussions in the archival literature on this topic. Reporting on an interdisciplinary research project aimed at creating a high-level interactive reference model of the Canadian context of financial electronic records, it contributes a framework for theorizing about societal context as a domain ontology and an approach to establishing the boundaries of societal context. It also draws upon information systems theory, in particular representation theory, to extend the theory of records as representations. It then moves on to discuss experiments in developing a prototype interactive visual representation of a domain ontology of the Canadian context of financial electronic records, suggesting that interactive visual representations that combine features of ontology editors and builders with features of tools for visual analysis may provide a good foundation for “third order” archival interfaces.

Dr. Aaron Loehrlein – Current Projects

Screen-Aaron-1Categories and Concepts

There is a striking similarity between the models of categories that are used in cognitive science and the representations of concepts that are seen in knowledge organizing systems (KOS). In addition, the two disciplines naturally complement each other. Cognitive science provides an excellent framework for studying how KOS are used, while knowledge organization studies the manner in which concepts and categories are shared via explicit representations. This fundamentally interdisicplinary study compares concept representations that are be used to organize experiences in memory with concept representations that are used to organize books (or other items) in a collection. For example, it compares facet analysis with models of decision making.

Influences of Hierarchies

When we navigate hierarchical structures, the manner in which concepts appear in the structure may influence how we think of about the topic area. Preliminary findings suggest that concepts that appear in the top level of a hierarchy become slightly more important to the people who use the hierarchy. This effect is not seen to be associated with concepts that appear at lower leves in the hiearchy. This study will measure the extent to which hierarchical structures shape the mental models of the people who use them.


Explores how library users take what they know about one class of books and apply that knowledge to other, similar classes of books. Similarity is measured according to principles of knowledge organization. For example, books are similar if they share a subjct heading or if they are grouped near each other in a hierarchical classification system. This study will ultimately provide a new tool for the evaluation of knowledge organizing systems: the degree to which a system supports the making of inductive inferences.

Classification of Financial Products

In the wake of the globabl financial crisis, much attention has been focused on how how financial products such as derivatives can be represented and organized. Working with Dr. Victoria Lemieux and the Open Financial Data Group (OFDG), we seek to identify principles for the creation and implementation of taxonomies of financial products. Part of this study is focused on the identification of “best practices” in a given situation. However, we also take a broad view, examining various approaches that have been taken (or could be taken) in the classification of financial products. We also consider general issues in the construction of taxonomies, such as the circumstances in which a taxonomic class might be considered a “species” as opposed to an ad hoc intersection of characteristics.

Dr. Eric Meyers – Current Projects

Screen-Eric-2The Nature and Impact of Group Information Problem Solving in the Middle School Classroom

Information seeking success during classroom inquiry exercises is conditioned by the type of research task assigned as well as the presence of peer collaborators. In a field-based, mixed-method study of 120 middle school students, searchers who worked in groups of three performed about the same as individual searchers on fact-finding tasks, but significantly lower on explanatory and evaluative tasks, the kinds of task where they should have enjoyed a theoretical advantage. This difference also appears to affect students’ learning outcomes. What happened? The process losses in the group condition, including distractions, inefficient coordination strategies, and inference failures, significantly affected student performance for more complex inquiry activities. This finding has implications for the types of inquiry work teachers and librarians assign, as well as the intermediation practices of school professionals.

Youth Credibility in Context

Everyday, kids encounter a flood of information online. Some of it is good, some is questionable or even dangerous. How do kids tells the difference? This research project is investigating credibility assessment in the everyday lives of young people, ages 11-14 years. The goals of this research include: 1) to better understand the context of young people’s credibility assessments, including how and when such decisions play a role in information seeking and everyday problem solving with digital media; 2) to develop design requirements for tools and services that help address their need for reliable and credible information. The project employs a multi-method approach to address the following research questions: How do youth conceive of credibility in their information worlds? How does the process of finding information affect youth credibility assessments? What heuristics and strategies do youth employ to assess credibility in digital media? This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Values in Children’s Digital Playgrounds

The next generation of children’s play spaces has arrived. How are these virtual environments affecting the nature of contemporary childhood? This project explores how these spaces support or constrain specific human values in their design, and the implications this has for the way young people interact with social media, as well as what and how they learn from these interactions. We are exploring three key areas where human values are implicated in the design and use of virtual worlds: 1) safety and privacy; 2) environmental intelligence and sustainability; 3) gender and cultural identity.

The project takes a multi-stakeholder perspective on these worlds, soliciting feedback from kids, parents, educators, and interaction designers. The goal is to develop design considerations for the future of children’s interactive media, and a framework for adults who mediate these spaces.

Digital Literacy in YouTube

This research project is interested in a niche segment of YouTube’s vast database, namely informational video that may be used by middle and high school students to supplement their academic needs. These videos have a number of affordances that students appear to appreciate, including a variety of teachers and lessons, the ability to play and replay an instructional segment at the point of need, and a community of other viewers from whom to seek further assistance. Our research team poses the questions: how are students engaging with YouTube for school-focused tasks, and what role does information literacy play in this experience?

We are analyzing user-generated comments using computer-mediated discourse analysis to understand the nature of students’ learning in this space, particularly focused on evidence of meaning making, concept negotiation, and information sharing, seeking and use practices. Our findings reveal insights about the nature of instructional video as well as the ways it helps resolve students’ academic information needs.

Dr. Lisa Nathan – SIP Studio

HR-Lisa-3The Sustaining Information Practice (SIP) research and design studio is made up of faculty and graduate students based out of the iSchool@UBC. Lisa Nathan leads project inquiries into the concept of sustaining information practices, ways of managing information that diverse peoples develop to address longer-term challenges (e.g., environmental adaptation, decolonization, social justice). Financial support has come from numerous funders, including the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the U. S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

Stewarding Traumatic Collections

Abstract: In contemporary, digitally-connected yet disparate societies, how do those who are tasked with designing and managing information systems that document traumatic events in human experience (e.g., genocide, colonization) guide their actions over the longer-term?

(Re)Designing Info Practices

Abstract: Working with ongoing community|academic partnerships (e.g., Indigitization above), our research focuses on negotiations between community and academic expectations and concerns regarding how information is managed, to inform the (re)design of project information practices.

Valuing Values

Abstract: This line of inquiry focuses on supporting reflective, generative thinking during the design process. Ongoing work involves gaining feedback on designers’ use of Envisioning Cards, a physical manifestation of this type of support, exploring the generative role of values in the design process.

Negotiating Sustainability

Abstract: Ecovillages are communities comprised of individuals striving to develop lifestyles that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Although these communities develop innovative practices in many areas (from transportation to food production), this line of inquiry demonstrates the embedded resilience of mainstream information practices.

Dr. Heather O’Brien – Antecedents and Learning Outcomes of Exploratory Search Engagement


User engagement is characterized by the depth of an actor’s cognitive, temporal and emotional investment in an interaction with a digital information system. Recent emphasis on user engagement suggests that the need to engage people with and through technology is paramount: failure to do so may result in lost revenue for e-commerce and search engine companies, and access to/engagement with technology may impact social relationships, civic engagement, health, learning, and so forth. Yet there is a lack of empirical evidence linking user engagement with meaningful outcomes, such as learning, in human information interaction studies. Furthermore, predictors of engagement with search systems are not fully articulated; specifically, what role tasks, content, system features, and user characteristics (e.g., interest, cognitive load, affect, topical and technological expertise) play in precipitating engagement.


This Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant funded project (2016-2019) is investigating antecedents (specifically, individual differences and task difficulty) and learning outcomes of user engagement with exploratory search systems, framing exploratory search as an educational and societal investment. While the idea of ‘search’ may conjure up the image of the minimalistic search engine homepage with every answer a query or click away, this is not the reality.  Information needs cannot always be reduced to a simple query and multiple sources may be needed to piece together evidence, solve a problem, or make a decision. Given the abundance and richness of digital information we must ensure that people are gaining all of the benefits that an information society has to offer, and we must engage them to help them do the hard work of learning.

Dr. Richard Arias-Hernandez – Current Projects

Evidenced-Based Evaluation Framework for Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL) Projects for the Bachelor of Media Studies (BMS): This TLEF project will design and test an evaluation framework (i.e. model and data collection instruments) to evaluate CBEL projects for the BMS. This evaluation framework will be used to improve CBEL initiatives for students, teachers, and community partners alike. Results of this project should also inform an evidence-based strategy that integrates current independent CBEL initiatives, focused on individual courses, into a single coherent CBEL strategy for the whole BMS.

Linked Data for Digital Libraries and Archives: This project focuses on the creation of an elective course and series of workshops that will generate a syllabus, a literature review, learning activities, and related pedagogic material to teach the basics of linked data for digital libraries and archives. Learning activities will incorporate a design research perspective that will test graph database technologies using test beds and pilot projects with digital libraries and archives in the Metro Vancouver area interested in testing linked data for some of their digital collections.

STS & LIS: First phase of a long-term research project that entails a systematic literature review of the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and Library and Information Studies. The goal of this project is to map the research/theory/design landscape at the intersections of these two fields to identify crossings, translations, interruptions/disruptions, mutual contributions, emerging themes, unattended gaps, and potential developments.

Evaluation of online teaching of basic technical skills for iSchool students (MLIS/MAS): Development of an evaluation framework, data collection instruments, pilot, and refinement of evaluation model to improve the quality and achievement of learning outcomes for SLAIS’ program Technology in the Core.