[The idea is still under revision, but this is sort of the direction we wanted to explore in our final project in the advanced HCI class]
Sitting in CTB, Sally was randomly entering a couple of key words she could remember from the group brainstorming meeting and a couple of online conversations she had with Xuan the other day. It was Saturday morning already, less than 24 hours away from due time of their project proposal and the group still has not settled on a concrete main project idea yet. “Xuan’s anecdote about her information retrieval experience? tagging, sharing? CSCW?… it might be related to Jeremy’s idea from our lab meeting last week, or that CSCW talk I attended in Savannah, or even the TED talk someone shared on Facebook…”, she was trying to remember and put together all separate pieces, “if only I could have a tool to help me cross connect and make sense of all these information, and it is the best that Xuan and Tejas could both see fill in their thoughts and information as well.”
Indeed, either intentionally or unintentionally, we are exposed to a wealth of information in our experience interacting with the world, especially in this digital age with various information sources and communication channels. Information resides in those spontaneous search queries, IM or email conversations, etc. is highly situated and contextualized. Therefore, even with comprehensive information management tools, it eludes or loses its value if not systematically organized and shared in a timely fashion. In this final project, we try to address and seek possible solutions to this problem, that is, how to make sense of the ubiquitous and unstructured information we come across everyday both in terms of individual level information management and group level information sharing.
There has been a substantial amount of research done with regards to personal information management (PIM) in the field of HCI. People’s behavior of informal note taking, creating to-do lists or even composing emails sent to ourselves to record information scraps (e.g.: Bellotti et al., 2005; Lin et al., 2004) have been investigated in a wide variety of ethnographic studies. As reviewed by Truong and Hayes (2007), early PIM systems emphasized on offering users convenient ways to take notes or tag miscellaneous pieces of information. However, users’ lightweight and unstructured note taking behavior hinders the efficiency of such tools in terms of creating meaningful future archiving criteria (Kalnikaité & Whittaker, 2007). As cognitive studies of reminiscence habits inform us that the mechanisms of utilizing and retrieving information are largely related to the situation in which the information is activated (Czerwinski & Horvitz, 2002), recent PIM tools tried to incorporate the function of automatic context association. For instance, a lightweight information capture tool devised by Van Kleek et al (2007) called Jourknow not only enables users to take unstructured notes of information, but also associates a variety of contextual metadata such as time, file location or even background music to facilitate future information retrieval.
Contribution to HCI Community
Our work might extend previous work in this area from the following three aspects:
First, previous research in this area has a strong focus on individual information management in terms of how to effectively record and retrieve information. However, even with a database of well archived data, users are still lack of meaningful clues to organically connects and make sense of the data. An academic article read yesterday, a lecture attended a month ago or even an anecdote heard in a conversation, bridges are needed to connect these individual data islands.
Second, individual’s experience of viewing documents or browsing websites is no longer entirely socially isolated. Along with the popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, etc., is the increasing number and bandwidth of channels via which users can both actively seek and share information. How to effectively subtract the context as well as cross-relate shared and exchanged information embedded in social media platforms is crucial to devise a comprehensive information management system.
Third, very few existing studies view the sense making issue of information scraps from a group collaboration level. Even with various group collaboration tools, a fair amount of spontaneous information seeking and exchange are still left uncaptured or unshared. An fluid two-way channel is needed for group members to review each others’ information scrap archives, so as to establish a better common ground and facilitate rich and dynamic collaborations.
Our goal of the project is to think about ways to “make sense” of unstructured information users create in daily life. One way we now think of, that could help to “make sense” of these unstructured information scraps is to “structure” them by associating and relating them together using contextual cues around these information. We hope these contextual cues around both individually-created information scraps (e.g. personal notes, or some article or website individuals want to save), and socially-created information scraps (e.g. sporadic IM chat with your group members, etc.) could create some “storylines” behind each pieces of information, which help individuals and groups make sense of these unstructured information, better organize them to aid individual and group memory and information retrieval, and appropriately share these information.
Some work from psychology informs us why people create information scraps, how they manipulate them, and why they need help to make sense of them. Ross and Nisbett (1991) framed this problem in channel factors, as the “small but critical facilitators or barriers” to an action. Ross and Nisbett demonstrated the amplified effects that small difficulties or facilitators will have on human action, just as a pebble placed at the fork of a stream can dramatically divert the course of water. Seemingly small time and effort requirements such as booting up a laptop might thus be perceived as enough of a burden to cause us to use other means of capture such as writing on our hands. Information scraps could serve as a memory prosthesis (Lamming et al. 1994) or exosomatic memory, later used to remind us of the original thought. However, creating information scraps alone might not be enough. Information scraps usually help us index into our memory via a variety of contextual cues. For example, location is a very powerful memory primer (Darken and Sibert 1993); a combination of knowing what and when can also effectively aid recall of the rest of a memory (Wagenaar 1986). We are also able to recall a variety of contextual information about our documents to potentially aid in refinding, such as textual content, visual elements, file type, or implicit narratives around file creation (Blanc-Brude and Scapin 2007).
As mentioned, creating information scraps is not enough for individuals to make sense of these data. Some theories on sensemaking highlighted the importance of “storyline” behind data on both individual and organizational level. On the individual level, sensemaking is the largely cognitive activity of constructing a hypothetical mental model of the current situation and how it might evolve over time, what potential actions can be taken in response, what the projected outcomes of those responses are, and what values drive the choice of future action (Wikipedia). According to Klein et al. (2006), sensemaking is an active two-way process of fitting data into a frame (mental model) and fitting a frame around the data. Neither data nor frame comes first; data evoke frames and frames select and connect data. When there is no adequate fit, the data may be reconsidered or an existing frame may be revised. This description resembles the Recognition-Metacognition model (Cohen et al. 1996), which describes the metacognitive processes that are used by individuals to build, verify, and modify working models (or “stories”) in situational awareness to account for an unrecognised situation. We can interpret sensemaking of a piece of information as putting this information into a current conceptual framework or individual workflow to better understand the information in a larger informational context, or use this piece of information in the future.
On the group level, sensemaking is a collaborative process of creating shared awareness and understanding out of different individuals’ perspectives and varied interests. The process of moving from situational awareness in individuals to shared awareness and understanding to collaborative decision-making can be considered a socio-cognitive activity in that the individual’s cognitive activities are directly impacted by the social nature of the exchange and vice versa. (Wikipedia). Consider two members of a three-person group randomly chatted via email about part of the project plans, or some local members of a distributed project team informally talked with each other about some new project ideas, these recorded information scraps could be shared with other members in the group to help with collaborative sensemaking of the group work.
Therefore, creating contextual cues around information scraps is more than just aiding individual and group memory. It could potentially promote self-awareness about your workflow, or your communication style with others, and a group-level situational awareness. We defined two kinds of information scraps (IS) in our proposal: individually-created IS, and socially-created IS. One thing to notice is that we aim to aid sensemaking of both individually-created IS and socially-created IS on the individual level and on the group level. As seen in this table:
|Individidually-created information scraps||Individual level
(way of sensemaking: relating)
|e.g. relating one article about shopping tips retrieved from a website, and one personal note about shopping|
(way of sensemaking: sharing)
|e.g. sharing one article you retrieved with other group members.|
|Socially-created information scraps||Individual level
(way of sensemaking: relating)
|e.g. relating an email with a friend that contain some important information about a job opportunity with your personal note about looking for a job.|
(way of sensemaking: sharing)
|e.g. sharing a chat history with one group member A, with other members like B and C.|
The targeted users for this application could be anyone who has needs for better organizing, structuring, and sharing information scraps on both individual and group level. For this project, we’ll focus on studying people who work in a collaborative environment. We plan to conduct user studies with two groups, each group consisting at least two members.
In the first phase, we will conduct user interviews with open-ended questions, focusing on how they created information scraps, how they organize and make sense of these information scraps on both individual level and group level, and the potential information management needs that have not been satisfied by current systems and collaborative tools.
In the second phase, we will perform a contextual enquiry process and observe the needs and existing ways our target group used for collaboration and information sharing within the group. We will ask our target group members to share their conversations in the form of chat logs, emails and other digital forms with rich context information such as location, people involved, and topics/tags. This information will be used to analyze the current practices in information sharing and retrieval.
In the third phase, we will analyze the individual and group information scraps we collected and try to map the internal information patterns via various context cues. We base on our observation and users’ need we identified in the first phase to come up with design mock-ups to justify/satisfy users’ requirements. Then a second-round interview will be conducted to ask users to reflect on the design mock-ups. Finally we’ll present design implications from the user study.
Week 1: Background reading, IRB (?)
Week 2 (spring break): More reading, data collection in progress
Week 3: User interview, writing progress report, data collection
Week 4: Report due. Analyzing data
Week 5: Design mock-up, user testing
Week 6: User interview and feedback, writing results up
Week 7: Writing the draft paper
Bellotti, V., Ducheneaut, N., Howard, M., Smith, I., & Grinter, R. E. (2005). Quality versus quantity: E-mail-centric task management and its relation with overload. Human-Computer Interaction, 20(1), 89–138.
Blanc-brude, T., & Scapin, D. (2007). What do people recall about their documents? Implications for desktop search tools. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI’07). ACM Press, 102–111.
Cohen, M., Freeman, J., & Wolf S. (1996) Meta-recognition in time stressed decision making: Recognizing, critiquing, and correcting. Human Factors, 38, 206-219.
Czerwinski, M., & Horvitz, E. (2002). An investigation of memory for daily computing events. People and computers XVI: memorable yet invisible, 229.
Darken, R., & Sibert, J. (1993). A toolset for navigation in virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 6th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST’93). ACM Press, 157–165.
Kalnikaité, V., & Whittaker, S. (2007). Software or wetware?: discovering when and why people use digital prosthetic memory. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (p. 80).
Klein, G., Moon, B., & Hoffman, R. (2006). Making sense of sensemaking Ii: a macro-cognitive model. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 21, 88-92
Lamming, M., Brown, P., Carter, K., Eldridge, M., Flynn, M., Louie, G., Robinson, P., & Sellen, A. (1994). The design of a human memory prosthesis. Comput. J. 37, 153–163.
Lin, M., Lutters, W. G., & Kim, T. S. (2004). Understanding the micronote lifecycle: improving mobile support for informal note taking. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 687–694).
Ross , L., & Nisbett, R. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology.McGraw-Hill. New York, NY.
Truong, K. N., & Hayes, G. R. (2007). Ubiquitous Computing for Capture and Access. Foundations and Trends® in Human–Computer Interaction, 2(2), 95–171.
Van Kleek, M., Bernstein, M., & Karger, D. R. (2007). Gui—phooey!: the case for text input. In Proceedings of the 20th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (p. 202).
Wagenaar, W. (1986). My memory: A study of autobiographical memory over six years. Cognitive Psych. 18, 225–252.