Mindtools: What does it Mean to be Literate in the Age of Google?

February 19, 2014

A special talk by Dr. Daniel Russell, research scientist at Google will take place at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in room 01 of Manning Hall on March 5, 2014 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. The title of the presentation is, "Mindtools: What does it Mean to be Literate in the Age of Google?" The event, which is sponsored by Information Science Student Undergraduates Empowered (ISSUE), SILS' undergraduate student association, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

What does it mean to be literate at a time when you can search billions of texts in less than 300 milliseconds? Although you might think that "literacy" is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding. Knowing how to read is just the beginning of it -- knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organize and use the information you discover, how to understand your metacognition -- these are all critical parts of being literate as well. In this talk Russell will review what literacy is today, in the age of Google, and show how some very surprising and unexpected skills will turn out to be critical in the years ahead.  We have created powerful new tools for the mind. Thing is, those tools are constantly evolving and changing even as the things they operate on change as well. This puts us in the position of having to learn how to find tools, and understanding the substrate on which they work. Literacy in these days is not just reading and writing, but also understanding what knowledge tools are available, and how they can be used in interesting new ways.

About Dr. Daniel Russell
Dr. Daniel Russell is a research scientist at Google where he has been working in the area of search quality, with a focus on understanding what makes Google users happy, skilled and competent in their use of Web search.  He is sometimes called a search anthropologist because of his focus on understanding how people use the tools of technology to amplify their intelligence.  But his research methods draw equally on ethnography and field work, lab studies, classical usability analysis, eyetracking experiments and large-scale logs analysis. 
From 2000 until mid-2005, Russell was a senior research scientist in the User Sciences and Experience Research (USER) lab at IBM’s Almaden Research Center (San José, CA).  The lab’s main interests are in the areas of designing the complete user experience of computation, especially in the domains of highly sensed / attentive environments, formalizing the characteristics of human behaviors for input mechanisms, and creating new ways of emplacing computation into the work space.  As an individual contributor, Russell was best known for his recent work on the large, interactive IBM BlueBoard system for simple collaboration, and for his studies of sensemaking behavior of people dealing with understanding large amounts of information.
Prior to his engagement at IBM, Russell managed the User Experience Research group at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.  Returning to PARC after a nearly five year stint at Apple, UER@PARC spent nine months working on the design of a complete user experience for a new class of information appliance.  The group designed and implemented Madcap, a highly interactive browser for large, richly coordinated media collections.
Until September of 1997, Russell was the director of the Knowledge Management Technologies laboratory within Apple’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG).  In this capacity, he coordinated the research efforts of five areas (Intelligent Systems, Spoken Language, User Experience, Interaction Design, and Information Technology) to provide an amalgamating, integrative direction to the research as a whole. Before KMT, he managed Apple’s  User Experience Research group, which studied issues of sensemaking, cognitive modelling of analysis tasks, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, shared awareness of individual state, joint work coordination, and knowledge-based use of complex, heterogenous information.
Prior to joining  Apple in 1993, Russell was a member of the research staff at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the User Interface Research group studying uses of information visualization techniques.  Before that, from 1984 through 1991 he led the "Instructional Design Environment" project (with both Richard Burton and Tom Moran) to develop a practical computer-aided design and analysis system for use in ill-structured design tasks. In addition to his work at PARC, he has been an adjunct lecturer on the Engineering and Computer Science (Computer Science) faculty of the University of Santa Clara, and taught special topics classes in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University.
Russell publishes widely, with more than 100 articles and publications in his CV. He is a frequent subject of press interviews and has helped portray a great deal of complex technology to the non-technical world.
Dr. Russell received his B.S. in Information and Computer Science from U.C. Irvine, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of Rochester. While at Rochester, he did graduate work in the neuropsychology of laterality, models of apraxia and aphasia, coordinated motor movements and computer vision.  Prior to PARC, Dr. Russell worked in the Xerox Webster Research Center gaining practical experience in printing systems and computer architecture.