PROPOSED SCOPE OF AREA 6
THE IMPORTANCE OF formulating a general theory to describe systems for the storage of information and subsequent search for retrieval justifies an investigation of the assumption that storage and search systems have enough in common to enable the development of a general theory. Without such a theory our efforts are directed to the empirical description of different devices which happen to get developed.1
But when we attempt to develop a general theory, our research is directed toward the discovery of common characteristics, common methods of functioning, common purposes, and common types of logical organization. When these common notions have been isolated and defined, it should be possible to account for the difference between the various systems and devices in quantitative rather than qualitative terms.
It follows that the first work to be done is the identification of a group of concepts which have a common relevance to all storage and retrieval systems. As examples of such concepts we can suggest: A, relatedness or connectivity of documents in a collection along with a suitable metric to define the degree of relatedness; B, storage space requirements; C, number of dimensions of access to a file; D, access time; E, coding efficienty. Hence it would be appropriate, in Area 6, to have papers that isolate and define such common parameters of storage and retrieval systems. It would be highly desirable if reasonable models of retrieval systems could be set up and analyzed, and if similarities between these models and models of different kinds of systems that have already been studied could be exploited. In this way it might be possible to make use of techniques that already exist in such studies as linguistics and information theory.
It is to be hoped that the search for quantitative relations among the basic concepts and the achievement of a theory of storage and retrieval systems will be able to predict new properties of such systems. If this can be done, any attempt at experimental verification of these properties would be an appropriate topic for papers, as would be any experimental investigation of the reasonableness of the fundamental postulates of the theory.
Thus we have three sub-areas for papers in this general area:
Papers concerned with identifying, describing, and relating the basic concepts in the field of storage and retrieval theory.
Papers concerned with formal techniques of analyzing such systems.
Papers concerned with the systematic mathematical development and experimental verification of the theory. Perhaps it may be too ambitious to expect papers in the third area until work has gone forward in the other two.