Nov 20, 2009

social artefacts

From ongoing research project Networks and Mobility in Everyday life: Gustavo Cardoso, Maria do Carmo Gomes, Rita Espanha and Vera Araújo (200?), Mobile Society: mobile phones and social change 2006-2008
"Although cell phones are usually considered mere instruments at their owners’ service, they are also social artifacts. As a communication channel, they support the relationship with others. But, more than this, cell phones communication patterns is influenced by the social context in which it is used, and, as it can be activated from anywhere, at any time, cell phones took up also an active social role. But who communicates with whom? What is the structure of social networks created by communication through cell phones? Is cell phones use connected to a borderline blur between social contexts and individual practices, as our daily roles intertwine?"
"The present study allowed evaluating the level of Portugal involvement in the Mobile Communication Society, highlighting the main differences between socio demographic groups within the area of several use contexts. On the other hand, it contributed to identify user profiles, enabling to foresee the development path on this sector, where everyday new possibilities emerge. Its major contribution will be perhaps the opening of a discussion about the need to analyze mobility role in general, and cell phones in particular, in today’s society."
in LINI - Lisbon Internet and Networks Institute

Nov 19, 2009

"Does this sound familiar?"

A piece by Nick Wingfield, on the Wall Street Journal (found via Lilia in my Friendfeed :):
"At the office, you've got a sluggish computer running aging software, and the email system routinely badgers you to delete messages after you blow through the storage limits set by your IT department. Searching your company's internal Web site feels like being teleported back to the pre-Google era of irrelevant search results. At home, though, you zip into the 21st century." [added the bold]
It's also an evidence based on the data I'm collecting. But not in the Information Systems literature, where the research work «assumes» that workers use (only) the organizational  systems to get work done. «Assumes» in here refers to the fact that personal artefacts are not part of the conceptual models of Information Systems (IS) nor are the other spaces that workers use to get work done. Maybe this can be seen as deliberate absence of something (John Law, 2004).

Nov 16, 2009

Inforgs for The Edge Informavore

Food for though: discussions on The Edge have the transcript of a talk with Frank Schirrmacher, The Age of the Informavore ["The term informavore characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food."], and short note to bring Luciano Floridi Inforgs to The Edge discussion.

Luciano Floridi (2009). The Philosophy of Information, its Nature and Future Developments. Special issue of The Information Society, dedicated to "The Philosophy of Information, its Nature and Future Developments", vol. 25(3):
"We become mass-produced, anonymous entities among other anonymous entities, exposed to billions of other similar inforgs online. So we self-brand and re-appropriate ourselves in cyberspace by blogs and facebook entries, homepages, youtube videos, and flickr albums. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally indiscernible."
Inforg, connected informational organisms. Detailed explanation in Floridi, L. (2007), "A Look into the Future Impact of Ict on Our Lives", The Information Society, vol. 23(1), pp. 59-64.
"The most obvious way in which the new ICTs are re-ontologizing the infosphere concerns (a) the transition from analogue to digital data and then (b) the ever-increasing growth of our digital space."
"(...) a quieter, less sensational and yet crucial and profound change in our conception of what it means to be an agent. We are all becoming connected informational organisms (inforgs). This is happening not through some fanciful transformation in our body, but, more seriously and realistically, through the re-ontologization of our environment and of ourselves."

Would like very much to connect to Leonor's thoughts about PI and listen to her reflections about it. Are you there?...

Nov 5, 2009

Why Personal Information Management (PIM) matters?

“Learning to be intelligent starts by learning to manage information.” Choo, 2003

Nov 3, 2009

open data [collection]

In my social network, Ton as been the person that as thought me a great deal about the usefulness of Open Data (OD), although he might not be aware of that [conversations with Lilia :)]. First thoughts I had about open data concerned my research activity and what it meant in terms of ethical issues namely, protection of human subjects, if I was to share the collected data and not because I have any personal problem in sharing.

I believe in sharing but I also believe that we should talk more about open data in research, in social sciences and ethical issues in particular. Apart from changing research behaviours, we are still collecting data from real people and we need to know more about it so we can still protect human subjects, while conducting our research. But then, if we treat them as participants and not as subjects, does it change our obligations to protect them? As researchers, we are responsible to conceal information that our participants have given us, and that we think in our judgement it might be harmful for them, are we not? [side question: if/when methods are given by a science researcher, will the teacher warn students about human research ethics?]

While studying organizations, in order to increase access to study people in organization(s), the researcher or team can decide, à priori, to grant anonymity and restrictions on the data set. This situation can even mean that the leading researcher will sign a declaration guarantying that the data collected in the study will only be used for that specific study. Following this guidelines, is expected to increase the organization trust on the researcher(s). On the other hand, if we are receiving public or European funding, it makes sense that deliverables, papers and data are given back to the society, hence open source, open access, open data and in general, the open movement shift that we have been witnessing from some time.

In order to use open data in social studies, one must incorporate this view while thinking about the research design to define what's going to be part of the open data set. We know that our choices, always determine what we will get and how we can get it. We have also to think about when to give access to the data collected. The social side of research means that releasing the data during the study can influence the behaviour of the people we are studying and hence affect the study results. Besides data, there are so many of us using social tools in the research processes (flickr for easy of coding photos, citeUlike for papers collection, blogs for work in progress, slideshare for...) maybe we just have to make it part of the study...

Funny, when I though of this post I just wanted to do a quick note about the Open Data Kit (*) as useful tools for collecting data during fieldwork... and ended up making my 15 minutes exercise in a public post ;)
(*) So, the tools currently available on the Open Data Kit (ODK), according to the information in the project page:

  • ODK Collect - phone based replacement for paper forms, built on the Android platform. It can collect a variety of form data types, like text, location, photos, video, audio, and barcodes. This functionality could be very useful for fieldwork data collection in social science studies.
  • ODK Aggregate - although not officially launched, it "provides a ready to deploy online repository to store, view and export collected data (...) and enables free hosting of data on Google", if one can does not have the required housing infrastructure.
  • ODK Manage - for managing the transfer of forms, data and applications between the mobile phone devices, using SMS.
  • ODK Validate - serves to validate and ensure the forms work well with all the ODK tools.
  • ODK Voice - also not officially launched, it facilitates "(...) mapping XForms to sound snippets that can be played over a "robo" call to any phone. Responses are collected using the phone's keypad (DTMF) and are automatically aggregated."

Oct 21, 2009


"Queria convencer-me que tudo dura para sempre, mas tudo tem um fim. Na verdade, nada dura mais do que um instante a não ser aquilo que guardamos na nossa memória (...)" Sam Savage (2009), Firmin
ICT have changed how we keep our memories. How do those external memories change our life?

Aug 31, 2009

idiosyncrasies and information behaviour in teams

Hyldegård, J. (2009). "Personality traits and group-based information behaviour: an exploratory study" Information Research, 14(2) paper 402:
"(...) Many studies exist on information behaviour in groups or teams (e.g., Case 2007), and a number of influencing variables have been identified, such as role, complexity of work task and social cost. Building upon this previous research it is hypothesised that the mere group setting in focus here will influence as well as mediate between individuals’ personality traits and their information behaviour."

Aug 25, 2009

when silence can mean a million things...

... and «talking» mean an empty life

I've been trying to learn how interactions between two people work in an era of perpetual contact (Katz & Aakhus, 2002) and I'm puzzled by the meanings of silence and how people seem to manage it in such elaborate ways. This seems to add new layers to the old communication paradigms, that were, mostly, based on face to face (f2f) interactions. It does not stop amazing me that, with all the communication channels available, it gets harder for people to get (and stay) together. And I keep thinking of a million things, but writing only a few that keep coming to my mind:
  • The elaboration of the mediated self, seems to be consuming all the time people have and detracting them for experiencing the, what might seem, the limitation of the physical world
  • Fears of failing in a world where people can bump into one another without being able to hold to a more controlled information space where they decide and control what is said and to whom, in their own grounds... and if they don't know something, they can always google it for staying better in the picture
  • The accelerated perception that people seem to feel that they have seen it all, that they can classify everything and that they can know everything, just because they can read it in words, in images or sound somewhere on the web
  • Hindering their capacity to marvel in face of serendipitous otherness discovery from casual encounters, just by feeling good by enjoying all the senses around «just a cup a coffee»
  • A need to accelerate the sense of «knowing someone» without the time required to «get to know someone» in different life stages, besides the digital ensemble ones
  • The perceive need to «say and show everything», taking away the magic of the exercise needed to play out with clues and trying to figure out what might the other be
  • The excessive ritualization where people really have to construct elaborate scripts to have «casualty encounters»
  • A sense of competitive «market for friends» in which if one does not became «friend» there will be millions of others in line that will
  • Growing difficulty to spot the genuine
I long for other rhythms. The kind that makes one feel happier for not needing to use technology for mediation of loneliness and emptyness.

Jul 30, 2009

technologies as cultural artefacts

Cornford, Tony (2003) Information systems and new technologies: Taking shape in use. In: Avgerou, Chrisanthi and La Rovere, Renata Lèbre, (eds.) Information systems and the economics of innovation, pp. 162-177.

Woolgar, Steve (1996). Technologies as Cultural Artefacts. In Dutton, William and Peltu, H. Malcolm, (eds.) Information and communication technologies, pp. 87-102.

Jul 28, 2009

a litle bit later...

... a friend came by. We stayed in the winter garden. We talked less than we usually do when we are together. Coffee in the table. Talking about research work. Talking about life. Back to working again. Each one, facing it's own computer.

Inside I'm thinking about the meaning of live. A much to big question. Start to think that is easier if I just think about the meaning of live for me. Guess I'm starting to understand that the meaning of life is loving passionately. When we love someone or something, we can build dreams. Inside us grows a force that tells us that we can make anything. Everything. Must be the reason why people in love feel younger, rejuvenated, energized.

We talk again. The sound of typing in each computer and the clicks on her mouse, must be a sign that we are both working. I light another cigarette... Way to many in this last days! I go on thinking about love and the meaning of life, and how we need to love and feel loved. This must be a to often talked about topic. But my mind wants me to go on. My fingers are doing the typing. And that makes me feel like working. I'm not. Sometimes, we just have to keep on. Typing, you know. Even if nothing comes out, they say we have to keep typing. I wonder. I keep typing, nevertheless.

Back to thinking about what's the meaning of life. No. Back to thinking about what's the meaning of my existence. Thoughts like these should have ended long ago in my teenage years. It seems not. Forty one years, and now I don't have an answer. Funny to think that in the meantime, along the way, I thought I had the answers. The effort we put on reconstructing, all the way, the meaning of our lives in such a delicate balance. Sometimes, without anticipation, they simply disappear. Collapse. Maybe we can't just remember. Maybe it's just a system malfunction. Maybe some events trigger these kind of thoughts. Mid life crises. If only I could be just a label, life would carry on. Normal. Usual.

Back from thinking, still in the winter garden. Just some sounds. We're both still working. Well, at least we are both still looking into our computers and typing. The sound of the mouse is louder. So is the sound of typing. We must be both working hard... because that's the only sound in here. Now we don't talk. I go make us more coffee. Maybe it will keep us typing longer. And we talk about the coffee and then get back to working (or should I say, back to typing). So many things that need not to be said when we are with a long time friend. Life, sometimes, does not look easy. We keep on. We must all keep on. We clinch to dreams. Dreaming is good. I need those to keep running. But I'm tired...

Had I been dreaming all along? How can a dream, so delightful, so long awaited for, can be taken back? My mind tries to recreate past events. Memorable. Are they real? They must have been. They are so vivid in my mind that they seem real. Once upon a time, there was a women who worked in a Government Research Lab. An ordinary women, working in an extraordinary place. There was not a single day that matched the previous one(s). Everyday had something special. Something unique, that needed to be learnt and shared... [...].

No. It was a dream, I'm sure. There's no trace of that place. Went looking for the office that faced the private garden, with the books on the shelves, the green plants, the mind map pieces glued on the door, the traces of past, present and future projects, the energetic team, all the partners involved in the projects, the working, the challenges.... nothing. None of those things exist. But if those 5 years, were but a dream, what was I doing during that time? Why do I keep pretending that they are still there? Why does my mind keeps convincing me that they existed?... I must be tired.

Have to think about getting back to life (whatever that is)! In the mean time, maybe I get to live another dream and my mind can fly away from all the reality that is sucking me.

Jun 26, 2009

case(s) sampling

This topic as been (too often) present in our discussions and deserves an entry on it's own. If you want, you can add your own views, and/or other citations, and/or contrary views ;-)

Kathleen M Eisenhardt & Melissa E Graebner (2007). Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 50(1), pp. 25-32:
"(...) frequent challenge to theory building from cases concerns case selection. Some readers make the faulty assumption that the cases should be representative of some population, as are data in large-scale hypothesis testing research. In other words, they ask, How can the theory generalize if the cases aren’t representative?

(...) clarify that the purpose of the research is to develop theory, not to test it, and so theoretical (not random or stratified) sampling is appropriate. Theoretical sampling simply means that cases are selected because they are particularly suitable for illuminating and extending relationships and logic among constructs. (...) cases sampled for theoretical reasons, such as revelation of an unusual phenomenon, replication of findings from other cases, contrary replication, elimination of alternative explanations, and elaboration of the emergent theory."

connecting «distractions» with literature

Just a quick note to add resources made available by 2 research groups on information overload and interruptions, following the entry about Distraction(s)...

Jun 11, 2009

weblog as PIM tool

Efimova, L. (2009). Weblog as a personal thinking space. Forthcoming in: HT’09: Proceedings of the twentieth ACM conference on hypertext and hypermedia, June 2009. New York: ACM:
"Using weblogs as a knowledge base, and then as an instrument to support PhD work, creates synergies, as the effort that goes into creating and organising entries [posts] later pays off by providing more ways for retrieval, and a better quality of the material to be reused. In turn, the experience of reuse or unexpected discoveries that older posts bring stimulates putting more effort in creating new entries." (p. 8)
Resulting from her own practice to a finished dissertation, using an autoethnography approach, Lilia presents a detailed account of that process, summarized in a table, showing "how different stages of idea development [during the PhD process] are supported by the activities around the weblog content."

Another strong point is made concerning the role of paper in knowledge work, and although I only saw the paper today, was glad to see that it reasons with the preliminary findings of the data I've been collecting and the entry that I've made previously, that it reasons with my own use of blogs for supporting research, and also for advocating the use of blogs instead of pages for eliciting the on going process of doctoral research work. Doing it requires "requires the filtering [of] large amounts of information, making sense of it, and connecting the different bits and pieces to come up with new ideas. In this process, physical and digital artefacts play an important role" (Efimova, 2009, p. 2).

The blog allows also for the integration of permanent captures of temporary information in that sense the blog works like a canvas that can display scrapnotes in other contexts extending their use for the weaving of new knowledge. But like she says in the paper,
"The connection between the functionalities of weblog technologies and their uses for personal information management needs further examination. The similarity between the roles my weblog plays in supporting my work and those of paper collections in other studies indicate a need to explore the affordances of weblog technologies from PIM perspective and possibilities of learning from blogging when designing other tools, in particularly those that support managing information scraps that do not fit current tools" (p. 9)

Jun 8, 2009

different perceptions of academic spaces

As a student, I don't review myself in the words of Tapscott. Maybe in most of my higher education I was very, very lucky. I did my bachelor in Macau (South of China), back in 1995-1998 and the majority of my teachers engaged with students in deep discussions and debates. Many times, the discussions continue outside the class room. Maybe because class-size (turmas) where around 30 people and not hundreds. But this should be viewed as anedotical evidence, since it is my own perception not based in any research, unlike the research based on the evidences collected by Tapscott in the US.

In my own life as student in the academic context, the questioning of our assumptions was the stage for our discoveries. Our teachers have done so in such a way, that we still maintain conversations today with some of them. The thousands of miles that separate us made the conversation fade, even though we could all communicate via CMC, makes me thing how important it is the social practice of face to face mentoring, so characteristic of academic spaces.

Later on, back to Portugal, following my 'licenciatura' (1999-2001), I moved to a pos-graduation (2001-2002), then a master (2002-2004) and now I'm on a PhD program (2006-2010) all in Portugal. I find the same engaging, the same will and open minds from the tutors and mentors with whom I cross. Some of the bonds that started in higher education later became business and work opportunities outside the educational system.

I agree that some things need to be changed, that the model needs perfecting, but I fail to see the end of Universities mainly because they are a gathering place where conversations can flow without restrictions, without our bias (seeing only what we want to see, is typical when each one of us is looking for information the web) and serendipity of finding what we did not know it existed happens through mentoring and exposition to contradicting views, of colleagues making questions that we did not knew how to ask, that otherwise would 'simple' be there 'invisible'.

Having access to all the courses information available, is not enough for all of us to become knowledgeable on those subjects. Like it's not enough to be able to access all the scientific databases to make a PhD. Even if we are independent learners (I wonder if we ever are!) we need to experience it, to articulate it, to try it out, to share it with others. Blogs, wikis, IM, and all the social tools that we have available, are great, and I've been using them for quite some time, and I'm longing even more for those moments where we can sit together, face to face, and articulate in a more encompassing language (where the non-verbal is the greatest part of our communication), where we are all hearing the same things, where we have the opportunity to read the silences, to articulate our discoveries, to let the unexpected and unlooked for emerge in the interactions.

The more I use technologies, the more I long for a place of real interaction with less noise and more meaningful interactions. With the people that I've come to know over the years over CMC and the continuing sense of friendship that grown out of it, comes also the frustration and the sorrow of not being able to be there to be part, to share special moments like this. We can flatten the world with ICT but our social relations are not substituted by «platforms». We still need to be able to live our relations with all our senses, not just by creating our digital identities and much less by disembodiment of our knowledge to resume it to bits of scattered information.

No! Information comes with the passion of long weaved and crafted social interactions that makes it much more than just words, images, sounds. Information comes with memories, with all the senses we have used in the distinct, the unique journeys that each one of us makes. Some of them come from having to know things that we wouldn't wont to look for. Even frustration, pain, losses, they are all needed to understand the information that surrounds us. And do not get me wrong. Technology is great. I'm a great enthusiast myself. But I do not think it should ever be used to justify short cuts of motivation and the need to find meaning that is not around the corner, ready to use (or to be bought). We live very assimetrical realities. What for some are fluent tools for others are handicaps, but they both have a very important place, and we should not afford loosing any of them. They are all needed. They are all part of a delicate ecology in our long history of learning.

For sure that the models in use can be perfected, but not the excuse of lack of tools for not making it, since they are at our finger tip disposal and we can (and are) bringing them to the academia (and the organizations and circles we are part of). That's also part of the privilege times we are witnessing. When we can all share tools as needed instead of having them imposed on us. Let us choose according to our needs, sculpting together the spaces of our learning.

Thoughts on reading the provoking piece on the Edge: The Impending Demise of the University By Don Tapscott, that wrote the well known book «Growing up Digital: The rise of the Net Generation».

Jun 5, 2009

Just because...

... it was the most inspiring piece of information I ever received!

strawberry messages

Jun 4, 2009

desktop research

From the Integrated Systems team of Microsoft Research, the Research Desktop project: "Research Desktop augments the standard desktop environment (...) [i]t provides support in four key areas: Activities, Tools, Library and Notes." Looking in more detail to the available project overview, some things caught my attention in respect to visual cues:
  • instead of the «type of file» icons, richer visual aids are given: book covers, actual display of photos, first pages of documents, groups of working information (including the tools that were used to manipulate that information)
  • the integration of a scrapbook were one can lay out documents and make scrapping like anotations: althought I'm convince that it will not substitute the paper scrappings in support for work, it nevertheless helps visualize work-in-progress needs when messing around with ideas. Remember that scrappings have also a social dimension during meetings: they have an important place during brainstorming, think-out-loud, and collaboration gatherings. Also, one of the places for scrappings is very often walls (either by whiteboards, placards), which can be related to the fact that individuals want to be in permament visual contact with that «work-in-progress». But this is just a feeling that needs to be verified
Some questions that come to my mind, regarding the Research Desktop. Since one of the components of collections, is the previous existence of items (unless it is a new user who has never collected anything previous to start using a new tool!) how will existing information «move» to this interface: 
  • will it be available regradless of OS used?
  • will it require manual adding? 
  • can the individual use any information format, regardless of previous OS / application / artifact?
  • since information is social, is it easy to share with team members, post on the web, transfer to other spaces (like printing on a large paper the scapbooking to hang on a wall) sharing with team members that have different OS or browsers?
Note to self: found this project because of the footprints left by someone that made a search for papers of Bergman, that took him to my profile in (that warn me about it), I've followed the link back to a paper of Bergman et al presented in CHI2009 (April), where I found other papers from Microsoft in a PIM session, which I then googled for access of the full paper, and arrived at Microsoft paper archive that was under the project umbrela.

The paper from Bergman et al:
Bergman, O., Tucker, S., Beyth-Marom, R., Cutrell, E., and Whittaker, S. (2009). It's not that important: demoting personal information of low subjective importance using GrayArea. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI '09. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 269-278. 

The paper from Oleksik et al: 
Oleksik, G., Wilson, M. L., Tashman, C., Mendes Rodrigues, E., Kazai, G., Smyth, G., Milic-Frayling, N., and Jones, R. (2009). Lightweight tagging expands information and activity management practices. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI '09. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 279-288. 

Jun 3, 2009

storing artefacts

[Image by Rusty Orr, Egyptian hieroglyphs, a low-density, long-lifetime storage medium, courtesy of the author and Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.]

Note to self: see rumblings in notebook (June 3rd, 2009) and paper with artefact expected to extend the lifetime and density of bit storage for large archives ("density as high as 1012 bits/in2, and thermodynamic stability in excess of one billion years." p. 1835) and how technological artefacts narrate human mobility, in this case storage artefacts.
Begtrup, G. E., Gannett, W., Yuzvinsky, T. D., Crespi, V. H., and Zettl, A. (2009). Nanoscale reversible mass transport for archival memory. Nano Letters, 9(5):1835-1838.

Jun 2, 2009

integrating flows of communication

Notice how Google Wave focus is not on knowledge management (KM) but on communication and collaboration. More precisely, in integrating flows of communication. And although it will only be release in the end of the year, you can show your interest by submitting your email.

After seeing the video, I can't wait to use it in real life research projects. While the use of web tools was of great value, there where always issues of individual preference for using different tools, and in the end we ended up with more scattered information across different tools. Because most of them where used only if a private space was provided, it added for the difficulty of moving information from one place to the other.

As for the last words in the Google Wave presentation "can't wait to see what you are gone come up with, guys", I'm just waiting for my time to come and play around with it :-)

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

May 14, 2009

Time costs and disconnectedness in PIM systems

Van Kleek, M. G., Bernstein, M., Panovich, K., Vargas, G. G., Karger, D. R., and Schraefel, M. (2009). Note to self: examining personal information keeping in a lightweight note-taking tool. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI '09. ACM, New York, NY, 1477-1480:
"We also observed that users often do not respect the traditional boundaries of PIM — for example, by mashing contact information into calendar appointments and calling it a to-do. This may be yet another instance of users optimizing for rapid capture: the time cost of interacting with multiple traditional PIM applications is even more substantial than that needed for one. But we believe another issue is in play: that they feel the information is a unit, and do not wish to partition it among multiple disconnected applications, where it will be harder to view and retrieve as a unit. This indicates a significant need for a more flexible data model and user model in PIM systems." (p. 1480)
Another related entry on scrapnotes and «technologizing» everything with links for the Haystack Group and associated projects, like the one referred in the study -

May 11, 2009

sixth sense

Apart from being a mobile solution (instead of the Microsoft Surface that is attached to a table), what I found very interesting in this TED Talk was the fact that this solution accommodates the use of physical paper in our daily lives in very different contexts of daily life and also the border less notion of work and non-work situations in individuals life, thus addressing support for information space transitions.

I'm listing this future technology as something that will change present PIM needs if, like it is said, the costs can be reduced with mass fabrication. Somethings where not said and need to be better understood namely, system requirements that allow the system to recognize so many different actors. I imagine that there is a need for individuals to «feed» some of this information in the background, like the information that allows to «recognize» the actors that we cross with (considering that not all the people we meet are public figures ;)

More details on the Sixth Sense Project in a short paper describing the prototype, Mistry, P., Maes, P., and Chang, L. (2009). WUW - wear Ur world: a wearable gestural interface. In Proceedings of the 27th international Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09, 2009). CHI EA '09. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 4111-4116:
"Information is traditionally confined to paper or digitally to a screen. In this paper, we introduce WUW, a wearable gestural interface, which attempts to bring information out into the tangible world. By using a tiny projector and a camera mounted on a hat or coupled in a pendant like wearable device, WUW sees what the user sees and visually augments surfaces or physical objects the user is interacting with. WUW projects information onto surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us, and lets the user interact with the projected information through natural hand gestures, arm movements or interaction with the object itself."
MIT Media Lab's new Fluid Interfaces Group, Pattie Maes researches the tools we use to work with information and connect with one another. Other projects that caught my attention: Quickies - Intelligent Sticky Notes (related to scrapings use in PIM, and make use of RFID on the back of each post-it)

May 7, 2009

information distillation

Inspired by the image provided by SciTopics (above) provided by Scirius, I wonder if the information is distilled by others, won't the individual be distilling a little further by the act of reading with losses in the process? When doing research we have to distill it ourselves to gain the needed knowledge to advance the research. Distilling is part of the process of creating new knowledge. In the picture above (obviously biased by what I've been doing), in the last rectangular that reads «SciTopics» I read «Literature Review» ;-)

PS [Oct 14, 2009] note to self: see Webtrendmap model on «information curators» (via GSiemens Newsletter) and also Mopsos model back in 2004 on blogs (as information elicitation) for CoPs formation (end of post, link to image model).

Apr 24, 2009

paper in knowledge work

In between coding and analysing data collected from different workers, in different settings, I'm reading «The myth of the paperless office», by Sellen & Harper (2003, paperback, following «How much information?» 2000 & 2003). Their first words relate to the information artefacts sorrounding them, being paper the one that populates the most their visible environment:
"As we write this book, we have paper all around us. On the desks are stacks of articles, rough notes, outlines, and printed e-mail message. On the wall are calendars, Post-it notes, and photographs. On the shelves are journals, books, and magazines. The filling cabinets and the wastebasket are also full of paper. Among all this sit our computers, on which the composition takes place."

Considering that the study was conducted until 2001, one could be surprised to find the same results 8 years later (see above illustration with some data that I've been collecting), unless you read the complete study and understand the role of paper in supporting knowledge work.

One of the main differences between the observations made, concern the place of observing. While in the book their main concern was observations in work settings, they nevertheless acknowledge that the role of the paper in the future would be reinforced in supporting knowledge work. One of such increases would be due to growing mobility of workers and working also at home, which is visible in the exploratory data collection above:
"Paper now populates not only the workplace but also the home office and the mobile worker's briefcase."(p. 208)
We can still sense the myth of the paperless office associated with progress. In December 2008, in an event promoted by the National Association for the Promotion and Development of the Information Society (APDSI), they where refering to it as a natural move forward. In the white paper report, in the introduction section (p.7), one can read:
"Os novos trabalhadores do conhecimento deixarão cada vez mais de usar canetas e papel, passando a autenticar trabalhos e decisões através de assinaturas electrónicas e a trabalhar lado a lado com processos decisórios automatizados por regras e algoritmos computacionais. (...) todos reconhecerão as tarefas substantivas e mais ou menos críticas que lhes são cada vez mais solicitadas neste novo ambiente (electrónico) de trabalho." (p.7)
[my rought translation: "The new knowledge workers will increasingly stop using pen and paper, and start authenticating work and decisions through electronic signatures and working side by side with automated decision making processes by rules and automated computer algorithms. (...) all will recognize the substantive and more or less critical tasks that are increasingly required of them in this new (electronic) environment of work. "]
The thing is that knowledge work is not only autenticating. Something needs to exist for authentication ocurrences. We seem to be still farway (althought spam messages say otherwise) from automation in creating new information that helps build knowledge. Someone has to craft it[1]. Could this automation corresponde to a vision of managers, the ones that live life for a lot of decision making? What we still see is that paper continues to have a roll in supporting knowledge work even among technological environments. Maybe it also captures the so much entangled notion of paper not allowing technological progress, the symbolic problem refered in detail by Sellen & Harper (2003).

One might think that better skills in digital literacy would foster less paper use. But not when it comes to knowledge work, at least. At some points, paper artefacts are crucial for finding meaning, making sense, brainstorming and even getting things done. It's been wonderful to observe what Lilia as accomplished. You can see, according to her own criteria[2], what role did paper play on her way to a finished PhD:

PS [June 26, 2009] According to a new page created, there will be an update to «How much information» 2000 and 2003:
"To answer these questions and others, an updated and expanded How Much Information? (HMI) research program is underway. The initial report will be the first in a three-year research program, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and seven companies, AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel, LSI, Oracle, and Seagate."
Also they have already reserved a space for «The History of Information» and they will be populating the timeline with a series of historical references.

[1] Can you imagine how glad pleanty of people would be, if they could automate the writing of their dissertations? Of course that would reduce the dissertation value (if any) in the process of learning. Not to talk about books like «How to write a lot: a pratical guide to productive academic writing», by Paul J. Silvia (2008), wouldn't be needed.
[2] One can choose to observe with a set of lenses or (try to) observe with the lenses of the observed. That's the differences of etic (observer lenses) and emic (from the perspective of the observed). In my study, I've choose an emic approach but since I can not put aside my own beliefs and world view, I'm also collecting data about my own behaviour and others in order to explicit it and be more aware of my own bias.
[WC 755]

Apr 6, 2009


Entries before this date were imported from «information space transitions», a private space for messing around with my thoughts, (like the notebooks that have been accompanying me for the last 22 years). Some of posts from «blog da tese» were also imported under the tag «Blog da Tese import». Some of the posts were so «context dependent», that it did not make any sense to bring them to this space. It's a lot like moving from one house to another: you decide what you are going to move with you, and what you are letting go. But unlike moving from one house to another, I can always (not sure how long this «always» will be ;)  go there, and look for it.

Mar 30, 2009

«information behaviour» vs «information practices»

In Professor Tom Wilson's Blog (Information Research - ideas and debates), there's a discussion going on about «information behaviour» and «information practices», being the later a more incopassing terminology:
"Information behaviour and information practice are closely related. They incorporate common elements such as "action" but still they are not reducible to each other. Behaviour draws more strongly on the tradition of psychology (or social psychology) while the conceptualizations of practice draw more on sociology (Bourdieu, Giddens) and social philosophy (Schutz, Schatzki, Wittgenstein). From this perspective, information behaviour and information practice complement each other"
The conversation is based on a review by Tom Wilson, on the book of Savolainen, Reijo Everyday information practices: a social phenomenological perspective. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008. Since I do not have access to the book, will keep for now the link to the review in Information Research Journal:

Mar 27, 2009

«Infrastructures» definition by EU Commission

Importance of Research Infrastructures for Europe
  • [definition:] “Research Infrastructure” are facilities, resources and related services that are used by the scientific community to conduct top-level research in their respective fields. This definition covers: major scientific equipment or sets of instruments; knowledge based-resources such as collections, archives or structured scientific information; enabling ICT-based infrastructures such as Grid, computing, software and communications. Such Research Infrastructures may be “single-sited” or “distributed” (a network of resources).
  • [examples of what constitutes infrastructures:] Examples of Research Infrastructures range from synchrotrons, telescopes, high power lasers, or high performance computers, to research vessels, bio-banks, brain imaging facilities, clean rooms, data archives, etc.
  • [contributions of infrastructures to EU Research:] High quality, internationally open Research Infrastructures are necessary tools to carry out top quality research. They contribute to extending the frontiers of knowledge, supporting industrial innovation, exchanging and transmitting knowledge, and training the next generation of top researchers. Therefore, Research Infrastructures are at the core of the “knowledge triangle”, combining Research, Education and Innovation.

Mar 16, 2009

faster and lighter batteries

Research in MIT, Computational and Experimental Design of Emerging materials Research group (CEDER), might solve electric power needs while on mobility: Novel material for rechargable battery (in more or less 3 years).

Mar 8, 2009

losses in «information transitions»: time, errors, sync

Example of information loss in «information transitions». Actual high mobility of healthcare workers to collect data on tuberculosis patients. IS applied research solution: capturing information (almost) directly to PDA. Still have to be entered by workers, but after collected through the PDA stays in digital form and is apt for transfer to other IS.
"Under the old patient tracking system, a team of four healthcare workers would visit more than 100 health care centers and labs twice a week to record patient test results on paper sheets. A couple of times a week, they returned to their main office to transcribe those results onto two sets of forms per patient -- one for the doctors and one for the health care administrators.

From start to finish, that process took an average of more than three weeks per patient. There was also greater potential for error because information was copied by hand so many times.

With the new system, health care workers enter all of the lab data into their handheld devices, using medical software designed for this purpose. When the workers return to their office, they sync up the PDAs with their computers. " [taken from Harvard-MIT Health Science and Technology News & Events, Researchers use handheld devices to monitor TB patients in Peru]

Mar 6, 2009

mobility concept

Kakihara, M. and Sørensen, C. (2001). Expanding the 'mobility' concept. SIGGROUP Bull. 22, 3 (Dec. 2001), pp. 33-37:
"The train and airline infrastructures are highly integrated with ICTs such as electronic reservation systems and traffic control systems. It is therefore important to recognize that the fundamental nature of technological revolution in the late twentieth century is the dynamic and complex interplay between old and new technologies and between the reconfiguration of the technological fabric and its domestication (...).This paper concerns the concept of mobility, which manifests such a transformation of our social lives combining new and old technologies. It is now widely argued that our life styles have become increasingly mobile in the sense that the speed of transportation and hence geographical reach within a given time span is dramatically augmented by modern technological developments and sophistication such as train and airplane systems."

Multiple computer devices

Dearman, D. and Pierce, J. S. (2008). It's on my other computer!: computing with multiple devices. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 - 10, 2008), pp. 767-776:
"The number of computing devices that people use is growing. To gain a better understanding of why and how people use multiple devices, we interviewed 27 people from academia and industry. From these interviews we distill four primary findings. First, associating a user's activities with a particular device is problematic for multiple device users because many activities span multiple devices. Second, device use varies by user and circumstance; users assign different roles to devices both by choice and by constraint. Third, users in industry want to separate work and personal activities across work and personal devices, but they have difficulty doing so in practice Finally, users employ a variety of techniques for accessing information across devices, but there is room for improvement: participants reported managing information across their devices as the most challenging aspect of using multiple devices. We suggest opportunities to improve the user experience by focusing on the user rather than the applications and devices; making devices aware of their roles; and providing lighter-weight methods for transferring information, including synchronization services that engender more trust from users."

Mar 3, 2009

(behind the) information made simple

Visual and voice translation of the History of the Internet: complex information made simple. Inspiring.

What we see is a finished product. Much more interesting was to see the amount of information required until the end product was done. In my work I would like to follow someone during all the phases that where needed to make this 8 minute video, looking to all the information used.

Permanent captures of temporary information

Temporary information recording that becomes permanent by photo capturing. Also an example of notes-to-self that become available to others:

Feb 23, 2009


... with artefacts that carry a lot of embedded tools and information within them.

Not so long ago (15 years), a PC would carry mainly a set of very restrictive production tools. Today we have a plethora of installed tools (and gadgets) available in our computers, and an open door (internet access) of millions of other available for us to play with and/or install.

How does this affect PIM? How distracted are we? Does this explain, for example, the difficulties of reading an entire PDF on the computer without interrupting to:
  • open another pdf
  • find papers from the same author
  • search database for (new concept found, .... ) before finishing the reading
  • ... constant switching between reading pdf and other (available/competing)  information
Are there gender differences in how these distractions affect PIM efforts? Do they have any relation to multitasking?

Jan 21, 2009

Gender self-perceived differences in digital literacy

Eszter Hargittai & Steven Shafer (2006). Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender. Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 87(2), pp. 432-448:
"Our data suggest that overall men and women do not differ significantly in their abilities to find various types of information online. However, we do find that women are much more likely to shortchange themselves when it comes to self-perception of their online skills. The gender effects appear to be significant with respect to self-perceived skill levels. Our findings are consistent with Correll’s (2001) work, which found that net of actual skills, young women are less likely to perceive themselves as skilled in these domains, which in turn biases their propensity to pursue math- and science-related careers. Similarly, we find that net of actual skills, women tend to rate their online skills lower than do men. Women’s lower self-assessment vis-a-vis web-use ability may affect significantly the extent of their online behavior and the types of uses to which they put the medium." (p. 444)

I wonder if this self-perceived skill differences between gender also aply to other skills beyond digital literacy (by David Bawden). For instance, when building their own resumes (CV) do women also shortchange their skills?...

Jan 20, 2009

ICT changing the meaning of being «at work»

"Nomadic use of ICT will challenge the meaning of ‘at work’ Nomadicity will make work patterns less fixed in time and space. This will create major challenges for both employers and employees. Making working life and education more sustainable in terms of working and studying from home intensifies the need for realising the nomadicity that ICT can provide."