THE FIND ENGINE

Can a mind map extend beyond the limits of our own mind?

Learning from the user feedback of Sevenclicks.org, I further developed the idea of creative online research. The Find Engine is a concept for an advanced and collaborative research tool that helps keeping an overview of research findings whilst stimulating creative exploration and discovery.

The Find Engine project stems from my research into creativity, and experiments into how databases can be expressed in a way that stimulates serendipity, exploration and interconnected thinking.

The vision of the Find Engine is a tool that enables you to explore and find the information you didn’t know you were searching for. Just as a fisherman throws a wide net into the ocean, you can approach the search with curiosity, and anticipate revealing the finds of your catch afterwards. 

Showing my pilot application Sevenclicks.org at exhibitions and applying the tool in workshops, I was able to gather feedback from a diverse range of users, and identify grounds for further development which is now manifested in the concept of the Find Engine.

As with Sevenclicks I intend to display information from the Wikipedia-database and let users explore connections and links between topics in a new way. Each topic reveals new branches and pathways with related topics for the user to explore.   

USER RESEARCH

Explorative Interviews

To explore first hypotheses on needs and problems during creative online research I conducted a series of interviews with users to find out where a new research tool could fit within their current workflow and process.

Key findings were:

  1. There is a high value in finding the right keywords, having the right search terms can lead to new research insights as well as new ideas and ‘’creative moments’’                       

  2. Creative moments occur when the research has reached a certain depth and requires the translation of a new piece of information to the current topic of the project                                      

  3. Structuring research seems to be a strong necessity, while experiencing the drift into a ‘’rabbit hole’’ is a common fear

’It's a black hole - it is difficult to stop, it takes time to find the right important terms’’ 

(Participant 3)

’Sometimes I see something and it directly sparks an idea… and sometimes I am not engaging with the information at all and I just recall something that I saw earlier in a new way’’ 

(Participant 1)

User Survey

Through the interviews I gained interesting insight into how online research is conducted by our users and when creative moments occur in the process. To validate the findings with a bigger sample size I created a survey with 30 participants from various professional backgrounds.

To see if they would benefit from a research tool that stimulates creativity they were ask if they think that creativity plays an important role in their profession. 70% of the participants agreed that creativity plays an important role in their profession, even though only a few (4) work in the creative industry. (see G2)

 

To validate the problems mentioned in the interview the survey participants were asked to choose which of the common problems they face while conducting research online. We found that all problems from the interviews found strong identification within the survey group as well with all problems experienced by at least half of the group. (see G1)

When it comes to moments of creativity, the survey participants also identified strongly with the statements of the interviewees from which we can conclude that they experience creativity in a similar process and setting. (see G3)

G3: Occurence of creative moments

PROTOYPING

Users will be able to build, edit and create their mind-maps, curating the interconnected information from Wikipedia displayed to them. To start the map they search for their first topic, from which they can branch out and explore related topics. Each new node of the mindmap can unfold into multiple related topics, gradually building up an interconnected view of the user’s start point and expanded pathways. 

While the previous version of Sevenclicks was linear, the user is now able to explore a topic in many different directions.

Whilst developing the interface for the find engine, I intend to leverage Wikipedia’s database once more, due to its accessible API, democratic ethos, and non-commercial, free of use policy. The GUI will reference a traditional mindmap - one that is not limited to content from your own mind, but that is built up node by node, each new spoke displaying new information from the database.  Compared to regular browsing practises, the find engine serves as a way to capture and curate the pathways of interest, and gives the user a visual aid to reflect on his findings and analyse the interconnections between them. 

User tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a mindmap (on an individual canvas)

  • Editing and curating content, by adding and removing information

  • Save and store mindmap 

  • Working collaboratively on the same canvas

  • Adding notes to research findings

Link to userflow-protoype here:

Project to be continued...