Human-Information Interaction Research Lab
Information Technology for Sharing, Browsing, and Interacting with Data

About Us

The Human-Information Interaction Research Lab (HIIL) in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies (FIMS) at the University of Western Ontario was created by Dr. Lu Xiao in Fall, 2010. We are interested in designing and evaluating the socio-technical support to help people solve problems and/or learn. In the past, we have designed and evaluated collaborative learning tools; examined the role of rationale sharing in small group activities, in idea generation crowdsourcing activities, and in online deliberation activities; and studied learning processes in participatory design projects through community partnership. Our current work primarily focuses on the use of analytics and visualization techniques to understand and facilitate deliberation processes in both small group and large-scale settings, and to enhance digital curation of heterogeneous data sets.

Current Research Projects

Curating Testimony: a Design-based Partnership in Creating Collaborative Visual Analytic Tools for Human Rights Rememberance, Education, and Research

We became aware of the impetus to curate and analyze the recorded testimonies about human rights violation events. These testimonies are not only important to human rights research as primary data, but also valuable to the survivor communities and general public to understand the details of what has happened and what is happening, and to bring justice to the society. In this project, we combine machine learning/natural language processing algorithms and interactive visualization techniques to help researchers, educators, and survivor communities to browse, analyze, and use the curated data sets. Our research partners include the Center of Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) at Concordia University (, Page-Rwanda/Centre documentation (, and HablaCentro (

The Curating Testimony Project at Western University is one outcome of our Canadian component of the "Digging into Human Rights Violations: Anaphora Resolution and Emergent Witnesses” project (DIGHRV project). For our research activities in the DIGHRV project, please visit:

Analysis of Wikipedia's Article for Deletion (AfD) Discussions - towards Understanding and Supporting Large-Scale Online Deliberation

The rapid development of the tools increases online multi-participant activities, which makes online democratic deliberation an increasingly attractive research topic (Coleman & Gøtze, 2002; Forte & Bruckman, 2008; Hague & Loader, 1999). We analyze deliberation content (and context) to better understand the deliberation process and outcome and identify and store reusable knowledge. We currently study Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions. Wikipedia’s AfD process relies on a system of votes combined with rationales for deciding whether articles are to be kept or deleted. Rationales are based on such factors as evaluation of sources and reference to Wikipedia’s inclusion criteria. The decision of keeping or deleting the article not simply based on the number of votes, but an analysis of the validity and strength of the provided rationales. We have explored the types of rationales used in Wikipedia AfD, the relationships among the article’s topic, and the kinds of votes, the discussion situation (unanimous or non-unanimous), and the final decision (Xiao & Askin, in press).

Visualizing Shared Rationales in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC)

Compared to the concept of design rationale, rationales in our program are loosely defined as reasoning or explanations of one's decisions, recommendation, and assertions, etc. Our previous studies have shown that sharing rationales in a dedicated virtual group space affects group members' knowledge awareness and contribution awareness of their work in virtual group environment. Additionally, groups develop specific practices around articulating and sharing rationales. As a continuation of the way, we explore ways of identifying and visualizing shared rationales in CMC.  (Our Lab is looking for motivated Ph.D. student in Computer Science to join this project. Please contact Dr. Xiao at lxiao 24 at uwo dot ca along with a copy of your CV if you are interested).

Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Community Workshop Model  about Math Informal Learning : Beijing, China and London, Canada

Most of the learning in our lives actually takes place outside the control and confines of formal education. Informal learning is "a broad and loose concept that incorporates very diverse kinds of learning, learning styles and learning arrangements” (mcgivney, 1999, p.1). Informal learning can be initiated either by a single individual or by a group of people such as a community. The organic and flexible formats of informal learning activities affords creativity and provides opportunities to trigger reflective thinking in the learning process, and the community-embedded context has the potential of supporting collective learning.

In Math education research, "findings suggest that subject- specific practices of school, family, and community partnerships may help educators improve students' mathematics skills and achievement.” (Sheldon & Epstein, 2005, p. 196). Implementation in schools, nonetheless, is challenged by many factors including unfamiliarity with and lack of first hand experiences by teachers, family members, and the community at large. New visions of learning mathematics that are targeted to 21st century learners and that make mathematics more enjoyable, accessible and relevant need to be supported at various levels: research, policy and practices in schools, homes and communities. However, parents are not necessarily familiar with contemporary mathematics classroom practices (Muir, 2012).

We are exploring a community workshop model that will provide learners together with their parents the opportunities to engage in and experience mathematics through hands-on explorations and use of tools. This research project has faculty members from Information Science, Education, and Educational Technology, and from University of Western Ontario and Beijing Normal University. We will offer the workshops in two international locations: London, Canada and Beijing, China. We expect that the study will help us: 1). understand the benefits and challenges of offering community-based parent-child (children) informal learning programs for math education; 2). explore how digital technologies can be designed to support parent-child (children) informal learning activities; 3). construct design requirements of social networking systems for collective and reflective informal learning activities; and 4).  explore the role of culture in informal learning activities (e.g., we may observe different parenting strategies in informal learning activities cross the two sites). Our Lab is looking for motivated MS/Ph.D. student in Information Science or Education to join this project. Please contact Dr. Xiao at lxiao 24 at uwo dot ca along with a copy of your CV if you are interested.