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A Dialectical Approach to Information Retrieval: Exploring a Contradiction in Terms

THORNLEY, CLARE VICTORIA (2005) A Dialectical Approach to Information Retrieval: Exploring a Contradiction in Terms. Masters thesis, University Of Strathclyde.

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Information retrieval (IR) is the process of representing the meaning of documents so that people who want the information they contain can retrieve them. It is, therefore, centrally concerned with information and meaning. It is concerned with them both on a pragmatic level in terms of designing and making IR systems, and on a theoretical level in terms of why and how these systems work and what this could have to do with the nature of meaning and information. This thesis is primarily about the theoretical and philosophical issues in IR. The main question discussed is the extent to which an investigation into the relationship between the subjective and the objective can improve our understanding of how meaning and information operate in IR. My thesis is that this relationship is a dialectical one, the subjective and the objective exist in a mutually antagonistic and dependent relationship, and that this new perspective on its nature can be theoretically useful for IR. Thus I develop a new theoretical perspective, the dialectical model, which is then used to improve conceptual clarity in a number of difficult and intractable IR problems. The aim is not to solve these problems but to provide a clearer insight into their nature.