Information Foraging in the Social Web: Information Foraging Theory is a theory of human-information interaction that aims to explain and predict how people will best shape themselves to their information environments, and how information environments can best be shaped to people. The approach involves a kind of reverse engineering in which the analyst asks (a) what is the nature of the task and information environments, (b) why is a given system a good solution to the problem, and (c) how is that ideal solution realized (approximated) by mechanism. Typically, the key steps in developing a model of information foraging involve: (a) a rational analysis of the task and information environment (often drawing on optimal foraging theory from biology) and (b) a computational production system model of the cognitive structure of task. I will briefly review work on individual information seeking and then focus on how this work is being expanded to studies of information production and sensemaking in technology-mediated social systems such as wikis, social tagging, social network sites, and Twitter. In recent years, we have been extending our studies to deal with social interactions on the Web (e.g., wikis, tagging systems, Twitter). This has led to studies of how people assess source credibility (expertise, trustworthiness, bias) and how user interfaces might affect such judgments.
Pirolli, P. L. Information foraging in the social web. APA Fellow Invited Address at the American Psychological Association Convention; 2011 August 4-7; Washington, D.C.