The Foundations of Information Push and Pull

  • George Cybenko
  • Brian Brewington
Part of the The IMA Volumes in Mathematics and its Applications book series (IMA, volume 107)


Information push and information pull have recently emerged as useful concepts to describe the operation of distributed information resources. Information push, in particular, is becoming closely associated with intelligent agent functionality. Loosely speaking, if a user requests and receives a very specific piece of information, this is information pull. If information is sent in anticipation of the user’s need, or the agent’s response includes information not directly solicited, then the situation is characterized as information push. Intuitively, junk mail (electronic or paper), television newscasts and wirefeeds are examples of information push. New web services such as Pointcast and Informant are examples of more selective push technologies. Web browsing, library searches, and telephone white pages are traditional examples of information pull. Clearly, these categorizations can be ambiguous and are easily lost in semantics. The main goal of this paper is to formalize these concepts and describe a mathematical framework around which further work can be more precise. Specifically, we develop a stochastic framework based on Markov models to describe an ambient environment and an agent system. Depending on the relationships between the environment, the agent and the user’s performance criterion, a continuum of possible information push and pull scenarios can be described. Some basic analytic results concerning the operation of a push/pull information system are derived.

Key words

information retrieval information dissemination push pull 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Cybenko
    • 1
  • Brian Brewington
    • 2
  1. 1.Dartmouth CollegeThayer School of EngineeringHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Dartmouth CollegeThayer School of EngineeringHanoverUSA

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