Snapshot: Assistant Professor Kyong Eun Oh

February 10, 2014

"I am interested in specializing in personal information management and information organization because they are directly related to our everyday lives."

Why did you decide to work at Simmons GSLIS?

As one of the top library and information science institutions, Simmons GSLIS has a long tradition of excellence. Also, Simmons GSLIS is a lively and committed community that takes pride in advancing the profession. I'm excited to be part of the community.

You bring an international perspective to managing information to GSLIS. How has this shaped your research and perceptions of how we manage information in the U.S.?

I believe there are more similarities than differences between how people in Korea and the United States manage information as technology is reducing the differences among cultures and is building bridges among people, regardless of time and location. Although my research has not focused on cultural differences, I would like to explore these areas in the future.

With many book chapters, publications, and conference proceeding credits to your name, why have you decided to specialize in personal information management and information organization?

While all information topics are important, I am interested in specializing in personal information management (PIM) and information organization because they are directly related to our everyday lives. Personal information management is a specialty area that investigates how people find, organize, and keep the information needed to meet life's various goals. We can make predictions and develop strategies, tools, interfaces, and applications that support users' effective management of personal information from PIM research. I am interested in investigating the interaction between information organization and user behavior and experience in physical and virtual spaces. The ultimate goal of my research is to improve the quality and productivity of people's daily lives by understanding and supporting people's interaction with information.

From your published research about student technology use in higher education environments, what have you learned about human-technology interactions in these settings?

Students are using a variety of technologies in the higher education classroom. The type of tool used is often selected based on a project's requirements and its availability. While students enjoy experimenting with the latest innovations, new technology is not displacing older technology. Instead, they coexist and interact in complicated ways. For example, my research showed that when multiple computing technologies are available, students used new and old ones at the same time in intricate ways.

While technology can support learning in the classroom, it can also be a distraction. Students use technology for non-course related purposes. In addition, a certain degree of competency is also needed to effectively use new tools for project work. The speed at which students can learn about the latest innovation and apply it to the task will influence its use. To strengthen the advantages of technology and support appropriate use of it in higher education, information technologies need to be adopted only after thoroughly examining the needs of the class. This means considering the class environment (e.g., number of students, student background, and topics covered) and the tool itself (e.g., its various factions, advantages, and possible disadvantages.)

Based on your research about the importance of classification in providing convenient access to books, do you think bookstores are better at providing access to books when compared to classification systems at public libraries?

In my survey assessment of more than 300 people, an increased number of people reported that bookstores' classification system makes it easier to find books than public libraries. However, it is difficult to conclude that classification systems at bookstores are better at providing access to books than are public libraries. Although there are similarities between bookstores and libraries, the purposes of using them and the types of information people are looking for are not exactly the same. The main implication of my research study was not to recommend classifying public library collections the way bookstores do, but to investigate what characteristics of classification systems enhance convenience.

You've also conducted research about users' preferences of facets and access points when searching for online health information. What have you learned and how does it apply to how facets and access points should be used to help users find information?

The main purpose of that research study was to investigate how online consumer health information is currently organized, and which facets users prefer in accessing online health information. In this research, nine primary facets that are used in organizing online health information were identified by analyzing top 20 consumer health information websites. Then, an online survey revealed that 'disease/condition', 'body part', and 'nutrition' facets are preferred in accessing online health information over other facets.

What we learned is that information needs to be organized in a way that supports users finding information. We learned to emphasize importance of knowing demographics of users and their wants over graphic design when developing facets and access points.

What courses will you be teaching or co-teaching in the spring 2014 semester? What research projects are you working on at this time?

Next spring, I will be teaching LIS 415 Information Organization and LIS 488 Technology for Information Professionals onsite at GSLIS Boston. Currently, I am working on three research projects. The first is based on my doctoral dissertation, which explored the process of organizing digital personal information from a cognitive sociological perspective. The second project investigates online health information organization as briefly explained in the previous interview question. The third project examines visual properties that make 3D visualization difficult to comprehend. I am currently writing papers about the initial findings from these research projects. I also plan to further analyze collected data by focusing on different aspects, and expand upon these research studies. In the next few years, I will continue to expand my work in investigating information organization in relation to personal information management, information behavior, cognitive sociology, and information technology.

Please share your experiences as a volunteer Korean language teacher, English as a second language instructor, and counselor for Iowans for International Adoption.

My knowledge is based on the lessons from many great teachers and mentors throughout my life. As I was supported by them, I believe I have a responsibility to support learning for others. I was a volunteer teacher in an after-school program in a marginalized area in Seoul throughout my college years. While I was an exchange student in the United States, I taught Korean language to Korean-American students in Vermont as a volunteer teacher. During this time through my sister, who was an exchange student in Minnesota at the time, we had a connection that arranged for us to work at Iowans for International Adoption. There, I taught Korean culture and language to Korean adoptees as a volunteer counselor. I believe that these experiences expanded my horizons.

What hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

I love exploring different places. I have visited 23 states in the U.S., and traveled 15 different countries. My office map indicates all the places I've travelled and all the places I still need to visit. I would like to go to China, India, and South America one day.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer