Cognitive processing and representation of hyperlinked documents
01 / 2008 - 12 / 2012
This subproject investigates the influence of spatial, visual, semantic, and pragmatic factors on the processing and representation of conceptually structured or unstructured hyperlinked documents. These different factors have been shown to be of value in the practice of structuring hyperlinked documents, but, so far, little or no attempt has been made to determine each of these factors independent influence on the processing, comprehension, and recall of hyperlinked information. An experimental environment has been created that allows for the study of each of these factors independently in setups of increasing complexity. In two studies using a conceptually unstructured hyperlink environment it has been shown that spatial characteristics (like up-down and left-right) of visually uniform and semantically and pragmatically empty hyperlinks influence the search patterns and memory for hyperlink locations, dependent on the familiarity of the information domain. In an unfamiliar environment, recall was poor but the search patterns revealed a dominance of left over right. In a familiar environment, recall showed a dominance of up-down and left-right positioned hyperlinks over hyperlinks positioned in the middle. Two further studies revealed that the search patterns were influenced by the conceptual structure of the information domain as well. The project aims to extend this research by including visual characteristics of hyperlinks and hyperlink structure in the experimental setup. It is expected that besides spatial and conceptual cues, visual cues aid the user in building a reproducible and searchable representation of the hypertext environment. The findings will be related to theories of hyperlinked information processing and representation.