What happens to our attention metadata?

The ACM IEEE joint conference on Digital Libraries was held in Vancouver 19-23 June 2007. The ‘hot’ topics focused on information extraction and profile matching, eye tracking to detect user’s attention, geo-location applications, collaborative tagging, mining citations and online photo sharing. Interestingly, Web 2.0 tools, such as CiteSeer, del.icio.us, digg and flickr were very popular in most sessions and discussions, and in a conference where most of the crowd came from the Americas and Japan.
Of particular interest was the workshop on ‘Contextualized Attention Metadata (CAM): personalized access to digital resources’. The papers presented in the workshop focused on people’s attention, user interruption task, log analysis, user profile matching, combining CAM from different scenarios and CAM visualizations. One of the main speakers, Seth Goldstein, co-founder and chairman of Attentiontrust.org described how people ‘like attention’, as they not only use other users’ attention to improve their own search path, but also to track who is checking them out (for example using http://www.trakzor.com/ for MySpace), or engage socially with users with common interests using social media presence tools (e.g. http://www.mybloglog.com/, which alerts you when others visit your favourite online pages). But, do users place a higher priority in publicity rather than usefulness? Vanity can just be one aspect, as people also seek for confirmation that their postings are indeed read by other people. For example, a blogger wants to know if their blog is visited by other people, as this is the reason they originally created it. From an ethnographic point of view, concerning privacy issues, Europeans appear to be more reluctant than Americans in giving away their attention metadata to companies. Elia Tomadaki presented a short paper entitled ‘Attention Metadata Visualizations: Plotting Attendance and Reuse’, showing ways of visualizing attention metadata produced in videoconferencing interactions held via FlashMeeting showing community participation and activity, and object reuse for measuring impact.

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