|Expanding Access to Science and Technology (UNU, 1994, 462 pages)|
|Session 3: New technologies and media for information retrieval and transfer|
|The potential offered by ''extended retrieval''|
The traditional form of an information retrieval system is composed of two parts: a resource file and a retrieval mechanism. A bibliographic retrieval system or an on-line library catalogue, for example, is composed of a file of bibliographic records and a retrieval mechanism designed to perform the most commonly desired searches on that file of records, such as a search by author, title, or subject. It is, in effect, a unitary system, a single system composed of one resource file and of one retrieval mechanism.
The new information technology is leading to a new computing environment. The cost-effectiveness of computer hardware is increasing, the cost of electronic storage is decreasing, and connectivity through telecommunications is becoming pervasive and less expensive. In the meanwhile, labour costs and building costs continue to rise. These changing conditions are resulting in a new environment in which:
- workstations are becoming widely available;
- very large sets of data can be stored economically;
- many thousands of computers are interconnected over local, national, and international networks; and
- the standards and protocols necessary for effective cooperation are being developed and adopted.
In this situation, we find a rapidly growing number of databases, an increasing use of databases, and a trend for individuals to use a number of heterogeneous databases. The result is increased complexity for the searcher and a greater need for expertise to identify what resources exist and how to use them cost effectively. (For a convenient general introduction, see Lynch and Preston .)
This changed information technology has created a new information retrieval environment in which the potential for information retrieval now extends far beyond the traditional form of a unitary retrieval system composed of one file and one retrieval mechanism. I use the term "extended retrieval" to denote this more general form of information retrieval. In this paper, I describe what I mean by extended retrieval and provide examples. Some technical consequences of the extension of information retrieval from a traditional, unitary form to an extended network environment will be noted.