Talk by Chirag Shah: “Going from ‘What’ and ‘How’ to ‘Who’ and ‘Why’: Task Analysis in Online and Physical Contexts”

Most of the recommender systems today operate at the level of an individual’s actions as a way to model what their needs may be and what suggestions they may like. In doing so, they are often ignoring the context in which such activities happen or the person performing those actions. In this talk, I will argue that knowing the context of task in which search and recommendation activities happen as well as the knowledge about the user could provide us with crucial information in a recommendation application. Specifically, I will describe our efforts to model a search task and/or how a user is approaching that task as a way to identify potential problems and come up with process-based recommendations in online exploratory searches. I will then present some recent work to connect exploratory searching in online and physical contexts, allowing us to do cross-context task analysis. These works are primarily based on several user studies done in the lab and in the field. Finally, I will bring these together under a new research theme called Information Fostering, where such nuanced analysis of task is used to predict problems or opportunities that may occur in the future

About the Speaker

Chirag Shah is an Associate Professor of Information and Computer Science at Rutgers University. His research interests include studies of interactive information retrieval/seeking, especially those involving social and collaborative contexts. Dr. Shah received his MS in Computer Science from University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst, and PhD in Information Science from University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He directs the InfoSeeking Lab at Rutgers University where he investigates issues related to information seeking, human-computer interaction (HCI), and social media, supported by grants from National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Health (NIH), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Amazon, Google, and Yahoo. He also serves as a consultant to the United Nations Data Analytics on various Data Science projects involving social and political issues, peacekeeping, climate change, and energy. More information about Dr. Shah can be found from

Location: Lecture Theatre D103, Gordon Street 25, University College London, London WC1H 0AY
Time: March 15th, 11:30-12:30pm