Applying Social Network Analysis to Information Retrieval on the World Wide Web: A Case Study of Academic Publication Space

Kirchhoff, Lars
October 2010
University of St. Gallen, Business Dissertations;10/26/2010, p1
The exponential growth of information in the World Wide Web (WWW) results in a considerable problem within the academic world, but also for the organization and usability of information in the case of everyday needs. Great advances in information retrieval (IR) systems have been achieved in the late 1990's as relations between documents in the WWW have been recognized as important criteria for the measurement of document relevance. Through constant innovations, the WWW has become part of our everyday life and is used routinely to reach other people through various web based applications. Through these popular applications people increasingly reveal personal information publicly. This public available information allows the identification of relations between people from various sources within the WWW. However, information space models upon which document relevance computations in most of the current IR systems are based on do not take advantage of this social network information. Therefore, an adaptation of the information space model is suggested in this thesis in order to include the increasing amount of information about social relationships between people available in the WWW. The thesis investigates new information models that incorporate social network information and presents a design of a new class of IR systems. By using social network analysis (SNA) for the analysis of the found social structures, a social web IR system aims to improve the access to and the findability of information objects. A discussion on the validity and usability of social network information extracted from the WWW is presented in order to provide confidence in the approach. Furthermore, an implementation of the proposed social web IR system along with an analysis of the incorporated data demonstrates the usability of social network information in IR systems. The evaluation shows that the integration of social network information and metrics derived through SNA can be successfully applied into the relevance calculation of documents indexed by an IR system. Hence, the perceived document relevance could be improved by integrating social network information into the retrieval process.


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