Chief Admin


Blogs: 170
Pages: 4
Memos: 113
Invitations: 1
Location: Kyoto and Auckland
Work interests: research, editing, science communication
Affiliation/website: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka
Preferred contact method: Any
Preferred contact language(s): English, German
Contact: email = researchcooperative-at-gmail-dot-com
Favourite publications: Various, and especially the open access versions of older journals with effective review systems

Founding Member

Work: ethnobotany, prehistory, museum curation
Affiliations: 1996-present: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. 1995: Freelance editor, Kyoto. 1994: JSPS Research Visitor, Kyoto University, Kyoto. 1993: Research Visitor, Australian National University, Canberra. 1991: Visiting Researcher, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.1990: STA Fellow, National Institute for Ornamental Plants, Vegetables, and Tea (NIVOT), Ano, Japan
Contact: National Museum of Ethnology, Senri Expo Park, Suita City, Osaka, Japan 565-8511
Biographical: Established the Research Cooperative in 2001
Favourite Publications: Various

Associative Search for Social Networks

user image 2014-05-11
By: Research Cooperative
Posted in: Research Co-op

I often wonder what the ideal search system for members of social network like ours.

Recently I heard the phrase "associative search" for the first time.

This kind of search is relevant for the museum where I work. We have public access databases, but these merely give results that exactly match the keywords entered into an in house search engine. There is no intelligence in our database search engine.

Here is a good description of how associative search works, from a blog of the Internet Archive:

" When using the new search within a single program feature, the browser dynamically refines the results with each character typed. As typing proceeds towards the final search term, unexpected 60-second segments and phrases arise, providing serendipitous, yet systematic choices, even while options narrow towards the intended results.These surprising occurrences suggest the diverse opportunities for inquiry afforded by the unique research library and encourage some playful exploration. "

This kind of search system is really needed for public, user-friendly, opean access search of museum archives... and it will be especially valuable for users who are not experts for particular kinds of material. Even if they only have a rough idea of what to call something, they have a chance of finding what they want through associative search.

However, this depends on rich and fully indexed content. From a friend in Australia, I heard that a "Virtual Museum of the Pacific" failed from the start because the system was unique or specialised ("designed by programmers") - i.e. too difficult to maintain and update.

It is a trap to invent new technology that is then expensive to maintain and update. In most situations, it is probably best to innovate in how we use easy-to-maintain generic systems.

I hope that someday Ning (host of the Research Cooperative) will realise that it has created an ideal test platform for testing search systems with online social networks.

Associative search might be an ideal service to provide for social networks.

While thinking about this, I also realised that even inactive members of our network can be of interest, since they have provided at least some information about themselves in each public profile page. That information in itself may have value as an archive of mini-biography, even as members inevitably lose contact with the network, by choice or otherwise. Our network can become a kind of social memory for people involved in research communication.

I need to think about this more.

Meanwhile, I recommend the following note by Thomas T. Hills and Thorsten Pachur ,

"Searching Our Cognitive Social Networks: How We Remember Who We Know"

found at


(See also " Associative search and the Research Cooperative ")


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