Book review – Invisible Search and Online Search Engines

(A note from the Editor. This 161pp book was published in 2019 but recently became open access. I must have missed it first time around!)

The reviewer

Cass Zhixue Zhao

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield. I have obtained my PhD from Information School, University of Sheffield. My PhD study focused on hate speech detection and model bias in deep learning. I was also a part-time research assistant during my PhD study, working for an NIHR-funded project to develop a search engine for pubic health research. In addition to the research areas mentioned above, my other research interests include disinformation diffusion and explainable machine learning

The review

Invisible Search and Online Search Engines will be an excellent start for new learners and researchers in the area of information retrieval, search engines and librarianship. It also works well as an exciting book for readers interested in search engines and searching behaviours online nowadays. It not only gives a broad overview of online searching but also incorporates a review of the history of information retrieval and librarianship.

The history is told in a story-telling tone rather than a textbook tone. After finishing the book, you will have a general idea of how different concepts and areas, such as librarian, information seeking, information retrieval and information behaviour, are linked. You will have your own idea of why a certain area in search has evolved in such a way.

There are many exciting and inspiring descriptions I found in this book. Particularly, I really enjoy reading Chapter 4, especially the observation and discussion of searching behaviours and consciousness behind it in people’s daily life. For example, do we really search for search or sometimes search for fun or just because of some mundane moments? How do these changes of intention lead to changes in searching behaviours and searching needs? The interviews with participants and talks of focus groups are also interesting to read. This book will also crazily remind you of how many times and topics you have searched in a single day. The changes in our daily searching habits, such as the searching platform and searching intentions, are also appealing to notice. Even just these facts or phenomena are fun to think about!

The book also directs readers to other interesting books and useful literatures, such as the book World Brain and the book Deflating Information. I recommend this book to readers who are interested in information retrieval studies, as well as online searching behaviours , social media and recommendation systems.



About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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