Metadata and Metaphors in Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries

Metadata and Metaphors in Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries

Ali Shiri (University of Alberta, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-879-6.ch027


This chapter introduces a new category of digital library user interfaces called metadata-enhanced visual interfaces. Drawing on the earlier information retrieval visual interfaces that have made use of thesauri, this chapter will review and analyze metadata-enhanced visual interfaces to digital libraries based on two key variables, namely metadata elements used for visualization purposes and visual metaphors incorporated into the user interfaces. The aim of this study is to inform the design of visual interfaces for digital libraries through bringing together issues that have roots in such communities as information retrieval, digital libraries, human-computer interaction, and metadata. The findings of this study provide design ideas and implications for digital library interface design in terms of the various metadata-based information search and retrieval features for visualization purposes.
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Innovative Visual Interfaces To Digital Libraries

Börner and Chen (2002) identify three usage scenarios for visual interfaces to digital libraries: (1) support the identification of the composition of a retrieval result, understand the interrelation of retrieved documents to one another, and refine a search; (2) gain an overview of the coverage of a digital library and to facilitate browsing; and (3) visualize user interaction data in relation to available documents in order to evaluate and improve digital library usage.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information Visualization: A method of presenting data or information in nontraditional, interactive graphical forms. By using 2-D or 3-D color graphics and animation, these visualizations can show the structure of information, allow one to navigate through it, and modify it with graphical interactions. (

Scatterplot: Scatterplot, scatter diagram, or scatter graph is a graph used in statistics to visually display and compare two or more sets of related quantitative or numerical data by displaying only finitely many points, each having a coordinate on a horizontal and a vertical axis. (Wikipedia)

Visual Metaphors: The visual metaphor can be defined as the representation of a new system by means of visual attributes corresponding to a different system, familiar to the user, that behaves in a similar way. An archetypical case is the desktop metaphor. In it the traditional hierarchical tree of directories and subdirectories is substituted by the graphical interface of folders and files. (

Metadata: Manually or automatically created document representations and surrogates which are used for knowledge organization and representations in digital libraries and other information retrieval applications.

WordNet: WordNet is a semantic lexicon for the English language. It groups English words into sets of synonyms called synsets, provides short, general definitions, and records the various semantic relations between these synonym sets. (Wikipedia)

Medical Subject Headings (MESH): Controlled vocabulary designed by the National Library of Medicine to search MEDLINE and other health sciences databases.

Subject Metadata: Metadata associated with the subject of a document or collection usually derived from some type of controlled vocabulary.

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