vol. 19 no. 4, December, 2014

Eliciting mental models of music resources: a research agenda

Manca Noc and Maja Zumer
Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Introduction. The paper presents an approach and possible methods for eliciting mental models of the bibliographic universe for music resources and comparing them to Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), a conceptual model of the bibliographic universe. A small pilot study using these methods is also presented.
Method. There are several viable methods for eliciting mental models such as card sorting, concept mapping, and graph selection. Card sorting and concept mapping were used to conduct the pilot study.
Conclusions.The pilot study shows promising results, allowing us to continue with the full-fledged research, which hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the perceptions and needs of users, specifically for music resources.


Current bibliographic information systems have been frequently criticised, namely because they are inefficient and not really in tune with users' needs. Users find it especially difficult to search for classical music resources (Cunningham, Reeves and Britland, 2003, Thomas, 2011, Riley, 2005). Liew and Ng (2006) state that the biggest issue in searching for musical documents is the current cataloguing system, which is not suitable for music, particularly because bibliographic information systems do not collocate records related to each other. Browsing is also not well supported, despite the fact that people typically discover music by tracing music similar to what they like and already know (Cunningham, Reeves and Britland, 2003).

A new paradigm is needed and Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, 1998), developed by International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is a conceptual entity-relationship model of the bibliographic universe, which has the potential to overcome current flaws and enhance the user experience (Carlyle, 2006). However, in order to assess its potential for music resources, user studies need to be conducted. The paper offers an approach to testing mental models of bibliographic universe for music resources, while comparing them to the FRBR conceptual model. Card sorting and concept mapping are presented as possible techniques for mental models elicitation, along with the results of a pilot study, conducted in March 2014.

The model

The FRBR model defines three groups of entities, the relationships between these entities and their attributes. The core of FRBR are the Group 1 entities, which are: work (a distinct intellectual or artistic creation - for example Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik), expression (an intellectual or artistic realization of a work - for example a performance of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik), manifestation (a physical embodiment of an expression - for example an edition of CDs of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik), and item (a single exemplar of a manifestation - for example a particular CD from a local library that contains the recording of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik).

However, despite its user-oriented approach, the FRBR model has not been tested prior to its release, therefore we cannot speculate on whether or not these principles even correspond with the users' needs (Pisanski and Zumer, 2010a).

Mental models

In order to implement FRBR in bibliographic information systems, we have to find out how users search for documents, how they perceive the entities, and which relationships they recognize between entities, in short what their mental models of the bibliographic universe are. Norman (1983) defines a mental model as the mental representation constructed through interaction with the target system and constantly modified throughout this interaction.

Many researchers agree that the biggest issue in researching mental models is the research itself (Rowe and Cooke, 1995, Leiser, 1992). It is difficult to find a technique to successfully elicit, describe, and analyse people's mental models because they are often incomplete, full of contradictions, and inconsistent (Whitman et al., 1999). There are several viable methods of eliciting mental models, such as card sorting, concept mapping, pair comparison, ranking tasks, and so on. Card sorting, concept mapping, comparison tasks, and their variations have proven to be successful in eliciting mental models of the bibliographic universe for fiction (Pisanski and Zumer, 2010a, 2010b, 2012), which is why these methods will be tested and implemented in our research of mental models for music.

Design of the study

Lately, there have been considerable efforts to fill the void of user studies of FRBR, dealing mainly with fiction (Pisanski and Zumer, 2010a, 2010b, 2012) and user evaluation of FRBR-based catalogues (Zumer, Zhang and Salaba, 2012). The results of these user studies provide us with a solid basis for our research agenda, which continues these previous efforts, asking whether or not the FRBR model is intuitive for lay users and whether or not the FRBR model actually corresponds with the users' mental models of searching and finding classical music resources. The latter are specific because of their different characteristics and diversity, compared to books, as they can be found in a variety of forms and media (printed and recorded music, CDs, DVDs, LPs, and other older media).

The research agenda consists of several studies. For each study, we intend to include 10-15 participants who are not music professionals. The first study will combine two separate tasks, card sorting and concept mapping. These were chosen in order to provide an initial insight in participants' mind-set and a sound basis for planning future research. Using the think-aloud method and in-depth interviews, participants will be encouraged to explain their actions while performing the tasks.

In the card sorting task participants will be asked to sort 14 cards, containing descriptions of different instances of entities, into at least three groups according to different levels of abstraction. This will be followed by the concept mapping task, where they will be asked to arrange the same cards to represent the relationships and connections they perceive between the entities, thus forming a concept map.

The resulting card sorts from the first task will be analysed with cluster analysis and the most frequent co-occurrences will be determined. The graphs from the second task will provide us with links between the entities, which will enable us to determine the most frequent links. These will be analysed by clustering and the average graph will be calculated and compared to the FRBR model.

Cards include simple lay descriptions of FRBR group 1 entities based on an example of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. This example was chosen because it is generally well known and has been published in a variety of different forms and formats.

Pilot study

To test the design of our research, a small pilot study was conducted in March 2014. 4 participants were asked to complete both tasks, 2 for each example. The results of the pilot study show that participants understood the objectives, the instructions given, and that they had no major problems completing the tasks.

While none of the participants in the card sorting task sorted the cards completely according to the FRBR work, expression, manifestation, and item structure, the results show that their mental models are similar to the FRBR model. They can mostly identify the work as a separate entity (only one of the participants did not put it in a separate group), and can mostly differentiate between expressions, manifestations and items. They do, however, tend to separate expressions that are scores and expressions that are performances. None of the participants put all the expressions in the same pile. This is also the case with manifestations that derive from the expressions, for example an issue of the score or a recording of a performance. The interviews that were conducted alongside the card sort as well as the results of the concept mapping task show that this stems from the belief that scores and performances are not on the same level because scores are needed to perform the music, so they have priority. The results of the concept mapping task corroborate the result of the cart sort, namely that participants mostly recognize the work as a separate entity and to some extent differentiate between expressions, manifestations, and items. However, one participant did fail to produce a hierarchical concept map and organized the entities around a central entity - work and another did not put the work at the top of the hierarchy.

About the authors

Manca Noc is a Young Researcher at the Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of the Ljubljana, Slovenia. She can be contacted at manca.noc@ff.uni-lj.si
Maja Zumer is an Associate Professor at the Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her research interest includes modelling of bibliographic information systems. She can be contacted at maja.zumer@ff.uni-lj.si

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How to cite this paper

Noc, M. & Zumer, M. (2014). Eliciting mental models of music resources: a research agenda. In Proceedings of ISIC, the Information Behaviour Conference, Leeds, 2-5 September, 2014: Part 1, (paper isicsp1.html). Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-3/isicsp1.html (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/...)<

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