An empirical perspective on representing time

Scheuermann, Andreas; Motta, Enrico; Mulholland, Paul; Gangemi, Aldo and Presutti, Valentina (2013). An empirical perspective on representing time. In: Proceedings of the seventh international conference on Knowledge capture - K-CAP '13, pp. 89–96.



Most Knowledge Representation (KR) research follows a topdown approach: i) formalisms are designed on the basis of modelling needs and computational considerations, and ii) tools and applications based on these formalisms are realized and tested on application domains. As a result, there has traditionally been little attention in the KR research community to user issues, in particular to the usability of alternative modelling solutions. When statements about the intuitiveness of different solutions are found in the literature, these tend to reflect an author's epistemological standpoint, rather than any concrete user experience. In this paper we take a bottom-up, user-centric perspective and we report on an empirical study where subjects have been asked to represent temporal information and have been provided with alternative design patterns to do so. The study shows that, depending on their experience and level of expertise in KR, users tend to select different patterns for the given modelling problems. In particular, experts appear to choose on the basis of representation power, while naïve users appear to select on the basis of surface features and perceived user-friendliness. Interestingly, while some patterns are indeed perceived to be more intuitive than others, these considerations seem to apply primarily to less experienced users. Indeed, our findings appear to indicate that experts consider issues of 'intuitiveness' as secondary and, in contrast with naïve users, may be happy to apply patterns, which can be regarded as counter-intuitive, if they provide the right tool for the job.

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