Interactive analogical retrieval: practice, theory and technology
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Analogy is ubiquitous in human cognition. One of the important questions related to understanding the situated nature of analogy-making is how people retrieve source analogues via their interactions with external environments. This dissertation studies interactive analogical retrieval in the context of biologically inspired design (BID). BID involves creative use of analogies to biological systems to develop solutions for complex design problems (e.g., designing a device for acquiring water in desert environments based on the analogous fog-harvesting abilities of the Namibian Beetle). Finding the right biological analogues is one of the critical first steps in BID. Designers routinely search online in order to find their biological sources of inspiration. But this task of online bio-inspiration seeking represents an instance of interactive analogical retrieval that is extremely time consuming and challenging to accomplish. This dissertation focuses on understanding and supporting the task of online bio-inspiration seeking. Through a series of field studies, this dissertation uncovered the salient characteristics and challenges of online bio-inspiration seeking. An information-processing model of interactive analogical retrieval was developed in order to explain those challenges and to identify the underlying causes. A set of measures were put forth to ameliorate those challenges by targeting the identified causes. These measures were then implemented in an online information-seeking technology designed to specifically support the task of online bio-inspiration seeking. Finally, the validity of the proposed measures was investigated through a series of experimental studies and a deployment study. The trends are encouraging and suggest that the proposed measures has the potential to change the dynamics of online bio-inspiration seeking in favor of ameliorating the identified challenges of online bio-inspiration seeking.