information retrieval: relevance, pertinence, precision and recall

The relevance of information in relation to some question was defined in the late 1950s when the Cranfield test was developed at the Cranfield College of Aeronautics . The two measures that were developed are precision and recall.


The extent to which information retrieved in a search of a library collection or other resource, such as an online catalog or bibliographic database, is judged by the user to be applicable to (“about”) the subject of the query. Relevance depends on the searcher’s subjective perception of the degree to which the document fulfills the information need, which may or may not have been
expressed fully or with precision in the search statement. Measures of the effectiveness of information retrieval, such as precision and recall, depend on the relevance of search results.

Compare with pertinence.

In information retrieval, the extent to which a document retrieved in response to a query actually satisfies the information need, depending on the user’s current state of knowledge–a narrower concept than relevance. Although a document may be relevant to the subject of the inquiry, it may already be known to the searcher, written in a language the user does not read, available in a format the reseacher is unable or unwilling to use, or unacceptable for some other reason.

In information retrieval, a measure of search effectiveness, expressed as the ratio of relevant records or documents retrieved from a database to the total number retrieved in response to the query;

Compare with recall.

recall In information retrieval, a measure of the effectiveness of a search, expressed as the ratio of the number of relevant records or documents retrieved in response to the query to the total number of relevant records or documents in the database;One of the main difficulties in using recall as a measure of search effectiveness is that it can be nearly impossible to determine the total number of relevant records in all but very small databases.

source: ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science


Fairthorne, Robert A. in “The Symmetries of Ignorance” distinguishes between two kinds of aboutness, extensional and intentional:

Robert Fairthorne writes: “The problem of helping those who are ignorant, in detail, of what people have said about things, is therefore solved by defining ‘aboutness’ in extension. That is by listing the things that are mentioned in a document. . . .” […]
(1) extensional “aboutness” takes into account the environment of the use and the production of a document (thus it is a relation, not an attribute);
and (2) intentional “aboutness,” which clearly cannot be determined from the study of the text alone: “It entails knowledge of how it is going to be used by what class of readers.”The Role of Classification in Subject Retrieval in the Future by Rolland-Thomas, Paule

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 13, 2007 ]

Access 2006 Conference in Ottawa

I recently participated in the Access 2006 Conference in Ottawa

Common touchstones at the conference include:* customized web applications and search interfaces
* open source software
* national and provincial consortiae initiatives
* information policy
* digital media
* library catalogue innovations
* end user searching behaviours
* metadata

source: what is Access?

Some notes from the CARL Preconference on Institutional Repositories

Benefits of institutional repositories include: impact, visibility, and reputation.

CARL Harvester, CARLCore is unqualified Dublin Core.
OAI-PMH metadata protocol = Deposit -> metadata generation -> aggregations -> end user
URIOpenURL vs. DOICrossref (proprietary)
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) – search for institutional repositories

University of Toronto:
University of Toronto’s Knowledge Media Design Institute – virtual institute
Project Open Source | Open Access (

Open Access Examples:
Public Knowledge Project
Data Liberation Initiative

An online portal to full text anthropological resources, AnthroSource offers AAA members access to 40,661 articles in AAA journals, newsletters, bulletins, and monographs; a linked, searchable database containing past, present, and future AAA periodicals; centralized access to a wealth of other key anthropological resources, including text, sound, and video; and interactive services to foster communities of interest and practice throughout the discipline.


Bioline International – a not-for-profit electronic publishing service committed to providing open access to quality research journals published in developing countries
Journal of Medical Internet Research
National e-Science Centre (UK)

Examples from Europe:
University of Glasgow ePrints Service
Queensland University of Technology
CERN Document Server

Institutional Repository Software:
Fedora – Fez (web interface to Fedora) and other tools

notes from Access 2006

Canada and Ontario:
Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries
Ontario Scholars Portal

Library Enterprise System vs. ILS
– refinement and knowledge discovery
Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN)

Increase in cost, paying for publishing and access > Biomed Central

>PrestoSpace – AV Materials
>Building resources for Integrated Cultural Knowledge Services (BRICKS)
>TEL (European Library)

Lucene – indexing search engine, archives, multiple metadata (EAD, DC, Fulltext), good at merging indexes. Solr – open source search server based on Lucene. Example: National Adult Literacy Database.

Endeca – NCSU catalog (Endeca for faceted browse, relevance ranking).

Search comforts: spell (did you mean?), stemming, sort options
Search + browse: layered facets, filter across multiple dimensions, facet deselection, relevance, speed, locally managed, persistent parameters

Cocoon – XML publishing framework
Ruby on Rails – agile web development
LizardTech – for MrSID and JPEG 2000 images

Collex –

a set of tools designed to aid students and scholars working in networked archives and federated repositories of humanities materials: a sophisticated COLLections and EXhibits mechanism for the semantic web


University of Victoria -> backup catalog using PHP – Yaz

a tiny HTTP API for the few basic operations necessary to copy discrete, identified content from any kind of web application


XML Databases – alternative: SQL + Lucene

XML Catalogues / Library 2.0 – “an architecture of participation”
>eXtensible Catalog (XC) – an open-source online system that will unify access to traditional and digital library resources
>TalisKeystoneresourcestalk.talis.comdirectory.talis.comdevelopment networkProject Cenote
>Library Thing (beta)
>Library 2.0 Wiki

>LibX Firefox

Web services
xISBN service
Amazon APIAmazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) – Limited Beta
Google API

> Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) – more enduring and flexible, reusable (sustainable?)
– BPEL (OASIS standard) for expression of complex processes. Active BPEL (Open Source), Active BPEL Designer (visual designer).
– services invoked with SOAP
– orchestration exposed with WSDL

> UK -> Structured Vocabularies for IR (thesauri, ontologies, etc.) > British Standard – BS8723
Controlled Vocabularies: LCSH, Rameau (Fr), SWD (de)
e-Framework for Education and Research – an initiative by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and Australia’s Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST)
Digital Library Federation – DLF Service Framework for Digital Libraries
NISO MetaSearch Initiative
NISO RP-2006 – Best Practices for Designing Web Services in the Library Context (PDF)
SOA in higher education
DELOS – Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries

Discussion lists:

>Bibliothek Hamburg

Book reference:
Putting Content Online: a practical guide for libraries” by Mark Jordan

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Oct 18, 2006]

Nondeterministic Turing Machines

In theoretical computer science, there is a theorem which states that all nondeterministic Turing machines (NTM) have an equivalent deterministic Turing machine (DTM). NTMs differ from DTMs in that the former allow for the possibility of more than one next state from a given configuration.

If there is more than one next move, we do not specify which next move the machine makes, only that it chooses one such move.

source: Computability and Complexity Theory, Steven Homer & Alan Selman, p.31

The proof for the theorem that NTMs have equivalent DTMs is through construction: the DTM builds NTM’s computation tree and then performs a breadth-first search on this tree. I was never convinced by this proof. If you take time into consideration, and the fact that NTM’s computation tree approaches infinity in size due to the size of the option set from which it ‘chooses’ at each step, you get a search that takes the DTM forever (or almost forever) to complete (which, to borrow Douglas Bridges’ expression, “does not extend to an assurance that you will find the desired term before the end of the universe”). I remain unconvinced that NTMs are equivalent to DTMs.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jun 20, 2006]

Ryszard Kapuściński, a poetic reporter of the human condition

Ryszard Kapuściński was a historian, writer and journalist. His reporting was both philosophical and poetic without sacrificing fact, the inventor of ‘literary reportage’. I’ve read his Heban(Ebony), Szachinszach (Shah of Shahs), Cesarz (Emperor). He specialized in Africa and Latin America and Cesarz (Emperor), the story of Haile Selassie, is his best known book. He did also write about the Soviet Union, the first part of his Imperium (First encounters 1939-1967) describes Kapuściński’s original voyage through Belarus, Siberia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbeijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kirghiz, and Uzbekhistan. Here is my translation of Kapuściński’s description of an encounter with Gulnara Gusein, a medical student and phytotherapist in Azerbeijan

People come to Gulnara with a paper from professor Gasanov. On the paper, the professor prescribed the name of a flower and the duration of smelling. The smelling is done sitting down, most often for ten minutes. Gulnara oversees so that everyone is smelling what they are supposed to, so that, for example, a sclerotic does not begin to smell rosemary. The flowers stand in rows in a glass house that is called a phytotherapy office, it is reminiscent of a greenhouse. Gulnara tells me to sit down and also smell something. Can I sense the scent? I don’t smell anything. Obviously – that is because a flower does not emit a scent all for itself. One has to touch the stem, and the flower can feel that someone is showing interest in it. And it starts to emit its aroma. Every stir the flower meets with aroma – it is naive and frivolous, it wants to be liked by everyone. Comrades, stir up the flowers! – Gulnara reminds the elders sitting in the study, who start to stir the stems as though they were shaking ants off of them.

I ask Gulnara, who is a medical student, if she believes, that a flower can cure a human being. Cure not psychologically, because this possibility has been substantiated, but cure physically, for example return elasticity to a calcifying cell. Gulnara smiles. She says only, that people from all over the world come to see her. She emphasizes: even from America. Professor Gasanov’s method – therapy using the scent of flowers – has already become well known.

I think that for Gulnara, like for me, the charm of this method is not only its aesthetic trait, but also its cheer and goodly wisdom. What is the professor supposed to do with an elder that carries seven crosses and forgets their date of birth? Of course, the professor could put them in a crowded hospital room, into the odor of chloroform and iodine. But what for? Is a twilight that smells of flowers not more beautiful than the twilight of chloroform? So when the professor sees someone, who has to look into their identity documents to give him their own date of birth, and complains, that his head is silting somehow, professor listens carefully, and then writes on the paper: “Rp.: Laurel leaves. Ten minutes a day. For three weeks.” And look, says Gulnara, crowds try to see the professor. The waiting list lasts for months.

source: translated from Polish, Imperium, 2001 edition, p 58-

While in Armenia, he recounts the biography of Soghomon Soghomonyan (Komitas), as it was told to him by the young composer Emina Aristakesjana.

1915, the beginning of the massacre of Armenians in Turkey. Until the times of Hitler, it was the greatest massacre in the history of the world, one and a half million Armenians died. Turkish soldiers dragged Komitas on a cliff from whence they were to execute him. At the last moment the daughter of the sultan of Istanbul saved him, his student. But he already saw the abyss and this disturbed his mind.

He was 45 then. Someone took him to Paris. He did not know that he is in Paris. He lived another 20 years in an insane asylum. He walked little, was silent, but looked on. Perhaps he saw those who came to visit him, they say that he stared at their faces.

When spoken to he did not respond.

They tried different things. They sat him down in front of an organ. He got up and left. They played records for him. He gave the impression that he did not hear. Someone placed on his lap the Armenian instrument, tar. He carefully put it away. Nobody knows for sure if he was ill. Perhaps he chose silence?

Maybe that was his freedom.
He did not die, but he was no longer alive.
He existed-in-non-existence in this hanging between life and death, in the lunatic purgatory. Those who visited him say that he was increasingly tired. He stooped, thinned, darkened. Sometimes he fidgeted his fingers on the table, in silence, because the table made no sound. He was calm, always serious.

He died in 1935: so after 20 years he fell into that abyss before which the daughter of the sultan of Istanbul saved him, his student.

source: translated from Polish, Imperium, 2001 edition, p 51-

Kapuściński died last Tuesday, January 23, 2007.

This man who witnessed 30 coups and revolutions and counted Che Guevara, Salvador Allende and Patrice Lumumba among his friends


In his “Travels with Herodotus,” due to be published in the United States this year, Kapuscinski offers tribute to the Greek historian he considered the world’s first great reporter.

In a 2003 speech, Kapuscinski explained Herodotus’ formula for successful journalism: First, be willing to submit to hard, painstaking travel to get information first hand. Then, be able to listen carefully and respectfully to people. Third, do your homework, be investigative and precise. Journalists must be “missionaries, translators and messengers.”

Retrieved from:  International Herald Tribune. “Kapuscinski, master of literature of fact ”

see also: NPR – audio of 1988 interview with Ryszard Kapuscinski

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 28, 2007   ]

Europeana – ideas, inspiration, culture is a collaboration between universities, research institutes and content providers. It was launched this year as a beta, and is scheduled to be available as a release in 2010.

The site includes a link to a prototype of the Europeana semantic search, as well as a functional beta Timeline navigator, communities and more.

Europeana links you to 4 million digital items including images, texts, sounds and videos from museums and galleries, archives, libraries and audio-visual collections. The list of organizations contributing content includes the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the British Library in London and the Louvre in Paris.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Aug 07, 2009]

Komitas, a.k.a. Soghomon Soghomonyan

Some music by the great Armenian monk-composer Soghomon Soghomonyan (Komitas) can be found in the virtual museum of Komitas. Komitas is credited for bringing a renaissance to Armenian music through his collection and arrangement of over 3000 Armenian folk songs.

Gomidas Songs

Isabel Bayrakdarian was on CBC Radio today, presenting her new album Gomidas Songs .

The life of Father Gomidas is a powerful story of devotion and passion for his country, its people and its music — and it is one beautifully explored by Isabel Bayrakdarian and her husband, pianist and composer Serouj Kradijan, in a new CD called “Gomidas Songs.” THE_SUNDAY_EDITION, 2008 12 14

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from 2007-2008  ]

Montreal International Jazz Festival 2007

The 28th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival is taking place from June 28th to July 8th. I would have liked to have seen Angelique Kidjo, and I still hope to get tickets for theToumani Diabete show. In the meantime, I took in the high-energy Femi Kuti show…

Femi Kuti performing at Metropolis, July 2007

Seun Kuti and Egypt ’80, the original Fela Kuti group, played on Tuesday.

   Toumani Diabate

Toumani Diabate played the Spectrum on Friday with the Symmetric Orchestra, and that was for me the most enjoyable concert of the festival. Toumani Diabate comes from a long line of musicians, seventy-one generations of musical knowledge passed from generation to generation. He played with musicians from the various countries that exist today on the land that was once the ancient kingdom of Mali… 2 vocalists, keyboards, drums, bass, guitar, traditional African guitar, belafon, djembe. Symmetric Orchestra’s album was released last year asBoulevard de l’Independance.

Toumani Diabaté (Kora), Fodé Lassana Diabaté (Balafon), Toumani Diabate Symmetric Orchestra at Spectrum, July 2007

Soumaila Kanoute (Vocals)

Fodé Lassana Diabaté (Balafon)

Toumani Diabate’s previous album, In the Heart of the Moon, is a collaboration with the Malian singer and guitarist Ali Farka Touré. He has also recorded an album with Ballake Sissoko,New Ancient Strings. Other Diabate albums include Djelika and Kaira .

There is a feature on Toumani Diabate and the Symmetric Orchestra, including interviews and the full audio of 3 tracks at NPR.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from July, 2007  ]

Montreal International Jazz Festival 2006

The Montreal International Jazz Festival 2006, wraps up this Sunday, July 9th with a free performance by Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Band.

I also went to the jazz festival on thursday to take a few photographs and listen to some wonderful music outdoors…

Sekouba Bambino from Guinea, a former member of Bembeya Jazz and Africando. The festival’s web site calls his voice reminiscient of Kouyaté Sory Kandia.

Seckou Keita Quartet

Goran Bregović

First North American tour, Goran Bregović and the wedding and funeral band put on an amazing concert for the closing of the festival

Next performance is tomorrow (July 10th), playing as part of the City of Chicago’s Music without Borders series.

Speaking of Bregović, Bijelo dugme has a song composed by Duško Trifunović, the lyrics are

ima neka tajna veza
za sve ljude zakon krut
njome covjek sebe veze
kada bira sebi put
sidro koje ladju cuva
da ne bude buri plijen
tone skupa sa tom ladjom
jer je ono dio nje
ima neka tajna veza
tajna veza za sve nas
ima neka tajna veza
tajna veza za sve nas

I would like to know the translation of this song… and a friend sent me one (thank you!) …

There is a secret connection
For all people law is harsh
People are bound with this connection
When they choose their way
Anchor which keeps the boat
Not to be the prey
Sinking together with this boat
Because they are connected together
There is a secret connection
Secret connection for all of us

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from July, 2006  ]

Krzysztof Wodiczko spoke about the Canada Council in 1983

In 1984, Krzysztof Wodiczko published an essay in Parallelogramme based on his lecture, “The Bureaucratization of the Avante-Garde” given at Rivoli Cafe in Toronto a year earlier. He warns against the dangers of integration with “the present central bureaucratic process of political, social, or cultural incapacitation and moral capitulation of the entire artistic culture”. He sketches out a comparative analysis between the artistic climate of the Warsaw coffee shop and the Toronto bar.

My own and my friends’ lives in my native Poland of the sixties and seventies consisted to a large extent of conducting, as a daily routine, a continuous critique of the cultural policy of the central bureaucracy. The main place of the exercise of our opposition was, of course, the coffee shop, an important cultural site of intellectual and artistic discourse in Poland. […] The more liberal and flexible in their strategies the “state ideological apparatuses” were (the coffee shop is one of them), the more difficult it was for us to see to what degree our sharp, restless, and detailed critique was adopting the enemy’s linguistics and subjecting us deeper and deeper to its seductive site, to its mastery at indoctrinating our souls, and awakening our unconscious drive for collaboration, and desire for bureaucratic habits, style, language, aesthetics, philosophy, and power.

The statements and complaints made in the coffee shop were appropriated by the Polish state (through monitoring, recording and informants) “as an illusion of its liberalizing process, to reinforce their operational capabilities, and, in the end, to serve the mechanisms of bureaucratic legitimation.” The contrast between the authoritarian one-party system and that of a ‘liberal’ stoic democratic organization becomes increasingly blurred as we focus on the similarity of the ‘artistic’ atmosphere and ‘cultural climate’ in Poland and that of the Canada Council, a country within Canada.

One learns that within the capitalist-liberal state of Canada, this bar belongs to another state (a state within the state), that is, to the aristocratic “state” of the Canada council. The Toronto site of the romantic dialectics of capitalist madness! This is a Canada Council bar, in which the trapped spirit of a middle-class artist is tossing between a desire for democratic egalitarian capitalism and that of a postcolonial bureaucratic aristocratism. 

Institutions and bureaucracies inevitably try to perfect the mechanisms that will perpetuate themselves through information control and ‘feedback’, acting superficially in a self-controlled way, in ‘opposition’ to themselves.

The Canada Council, as in Poland and in every authoritarian machine, must neurotically produce its own “coffee shops,” alternative publications, and spaces, in order to control its own position and direction and to serve itself as a medium of critical discourse on its own future.

The ultimate victory of the Canada Council lies in a perfect camouflage of its main cultural effect: “a total bureaucratic pacification of the intellectual creative power of the artistic intelligentsia and artistic culture”. The language and gestures of the artists and bureaucrats becomes indistinguishable

Looking closer, one will be able to disclose a horrifying phenomenon: what was for Warsaw a nightmare or an imminent danger (not yet reality) received its total three-dimensional realization in Toronto. Finally everyone appears to be both the artist and the bureaucrat. In the happy and comfortable atmosphere of life in this state-hi-cultural-bureaucratic musak, in the climate of final reunion of old enemies, artistic (antibourgeois) and modern state (bourgeois) avant-gardes, in the aura of communion of the bureaucratized artist and the aesthetisized bureaucrat, the Toronto artist intelligentsia elevates itself to a much higher level of collaboration than artists in Poland. It approaches the conscious level, the level which I shall call cultural corruption!

The Canada Council contributes and supports the existing political balance by remaining politically silent and still. “By not saying anything, on the one hand, the Canada Council reinforces the modern liberal state, and on the other hand, by overstating the romantic notion of ‘creativity’ it degenerates art to cathartic kitsch and separates it from any political, social, or philosophical sense.” The cultural bureaucracy functions as a modern aristocracy and high priest that “protects, coordinates, steers, governs and understands for everyone” the climate of spirituality that is necessary for democracy. Changing the Canada Council from an oligarchic system into a democratically elected one would only serve to further assimilate the left avante-garde into the existing democratic corporate/capitalist system, resulting in a completely balanced one, a

“back-and-forth movement of two terms” (“artistocrats” versus “cultural workers”), a permanent spectacle which will not be the spectacle for us – we will be the spectacle.
Once again (as if nothing ever happened in the 60s), we are living the time of a corporate/commercial and bureaucratic incapacitation of art. This time it manifests itself culturally in various forms of dissolution or capitulation of the artistic intelligentsia and takes the form of a decadent revival of pseudocritical, anti-intellectual “expression” in art and the ornamental, skating irresponsibly on the surfaces of history – “postmodern” design manipulation.

Wodiczko concludes with a clear recommendation for “the formulation of self-governing artist’ economic organizations and agencies, the gradual detachment of the artistic cultural community from the centralized state bureaucracy, and the organization of nonbureaucratic, small and flexible ‘Intelligence”-like working institutes and other, yet to be defined, artistic-educational institutions”. Contrary to the state bureaucratic, these organizations are always ready to dissolve themselves, and could actually help “to rescue and revive our stolen souls from bureaucratic protection, annexation, assimilation, and appropriation; to return to collective or individual constructive critical knowledge, independent and systematic artistic research, and a sense of social place.”

Interestingly, the NFB produced a film about Wodiczko’s projections.

Wodiczko quotes are taken from: Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews. MIT Press, 1999

Critical vehicles: writings, projects, interviews, For the Incapacitation of the Avante Garde in Canada (1983), p32-34
full-text at Google Books

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Feb 24, 2007]

Secret Life of Plants

When I was introduced to the The Secret Life of Plants (1974) by Peter Tompkins & Christopher Bird a few years ago now, I read it if only because I happen to own a copy of the Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (1979) on vinyl and I wanted to understand the relationship between these. It turns out that the liner notes of the Stevie Wonder album acknowledge that

The Secret Life of Plants is an Infinite Enterprises Film. Produced by Michael Braun. From the book “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird

The sense of synchronicity of having picked up, quite randomly, the Stevie Wonder album many years ago, and now having a friend show me this book was enough of a motivation to read on. I have not seen the film yet, and I echo the only user comment on that IMDB page: “Does anyone know how I can borrow or rent a copy?”

I received a press release yesterday from the non-profit public art group in New York, Creative Time about their Strange Powers exhibitions. Specifically what caught my attention was this ESP Plant Workshop by the Center for Tactical Magic, advertised as a free event Thu/Fri 4-7pm, Sat/Sun noon-7pm on 64 East 4th Street. The research into the idea of communication between plants and people is described in detail in Tompkins and Bird’s book. Yes, this type of research was carried out by many scientists and engineers not so long ago.

“Everybody believes that art can be a spiritual vehicle” says Laura Hoptman, of the exhibition’s two curators

from the press coverage section, Creative Time’s newest art spectacle takes a journey into the paranormal by Barbara Pollack, Time Out New York

The Secret Life of Plants describes the work of many scientists and engineers that seemed to believe science also to be a spiritual vehicle.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Aug 26, 2006  ]