My wife is an artist. When she draws a portrait of person, she usually puts a photo of the person nearby and starts sketching features. How does she do this? She consciously alters her perception of the object: the face. She forgets she is looking at a face. She suppresses the concepts faces, eyes, and circles. Instead of interpreting what she sees as a thing she understands, she sees shade and potential pencil stokes. She describes this process as looking at something as if you had never seen it before.
In contrast, my drawing technique (if it can be called a technique), is to use some basic shapes like circles, squares, eye shapes, continuous line, or other mental templates for imitation. The underlying difference is that my wife’s interpretation is data based and my interpretation is assumption based. I see a head and assume that an oval shape will be sufficient. I won’t show you any drawings I made but they all look like a fairly talented 6 year old created them. I don’t really see what’s there.
The above shows that, at least in some contexts, consciously altering your perceptions by suppressing normal aspects of thought can positively affect your ability to analyze. Can we do this with search experience? I’m going to try.
What’s it Like to Google?
I’m presented with a box. My cursor blinks and brings my attention to the left center of the page. Bright letters sit above this bar spelling out G-o-o-g-l-e. What a strange nonsense word. It sounds like a mantra. Was this word generated from an infants ramblings? The word has a two step feeling, “goo – gull”. One two, left right, punch hook. Ninety percent of my screen is filled with whitespace. Two buttons, “Google Search”, and “I’m Feeling Lucky” sit under my blinking cursor. I suppose I know what search does. What about feeling lucky? Is this a Dirty Harry reference? What does it do? I ignore it for now.
I want to experiment with this interesting box that contains nothing. What should I type? Dinosaurs comes to mind. Typing dinosaurs brings up a small picture on the right with a Wikipedia summary. Suggestions comes up:
- dinosaurs tv show
- dinosaurs videos
- dinosaurs games
I type in gibberish: sai odsi oisvoij odaisj avds. No results. I try more searches, randomly finding things of interest. I try this over and over. I begin to type in more words until I find no search results.
***The above text describes a common task through the eyes of an individual who has never seen a search engine before.
To google is a two step process. One can estimate knowledge and discover the depth of content available by interacting with the little enlightening white bar.