People create, share, and organize information in myriad ways and increasingly these activities, as well as much of our professional and personal life, involve computers. Yet for all their capacity and speed, using computers is often difﬁcult, awkward, and frustrating. Even after six decades of design evolution there is little of the naturalness, spontaneity, and context sensitivity that characterize other activities nor is there the spatial conviviality and ﬂexibility of working with tangible media. With computers, our speciﬁc needs must be anticipated in advance by programmers, and far too often we can look, but not touch, annotate, or personalize the information involved.
Even with the radical changes in information access enabled by the web and search engines, the legacy desktop interface metaphor, with its ﬁle and folder system, and the paradigm of speciﬁc-function applications, with its document-centric view of information, still remain. Typically each application provides only partial support for the real task it is being used to help accomplish. Completing a task can require reviewing multiple histories, consisting of disjoint collections of emails, instant messages, and papers, interleaved with examining spreadsheets, notes, websites, and other relevant documents. This requires jumping between applications to assemble the needed information. Users must not only decompose tasks into components appropriate for speciﬁc applications but also assemble the resulting fragments and maintain the overall context needed to complete the real task. Little of the history of computer-mediated activity is currently captured or made available. In addition, our activities are often interrupted, resulting in fragmentation and the need to reestablish their context when they are resumed. These are crucially important and systemic challenges of our times.
The intertwining of everyday life and computation also presents an unprecedented opportunity to capture data about human activity, extending it into situations that have typically not been accessible, and enabling examination of the detailed structure and dynamics of action captured in real-world settings. This ‘ubiquitous capture’ has fundamental implications for science and design. For science it provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand the dynamics and context of real-world human activity. For design it enables employing the history of past computer-mediated events in ways that engage visual and episodic memory to augment cognition, and radically improve how people work, communicate, and collaborate.
In this talk, I discuss the opportunities and challenges of history-enriched computing, describe our recent work on capturing and visualizing activity, linking paper and digital work materials, and speculate about an approach to help reinstate the context of interrupted activity.
Dr. Hollan is Professor of Cognitive Science and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD. He co-directs the Distributed Cognition and Human Computer Interaction Lab and the Ubiquitous Computing and Social Dynamics Research Group. His research spans across distributed and embodied cognition, human-computer interaction, multiscale information visualization, computer-mediated communication, and software for visualization and interaction. Dr. Hollan was elected to the ACM CHI Academy, an honorary group of leaders in the ﬁeld of human-computer interaction, for multiple contributions that have shaped the ﬁeld. His previous positions include Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of New Mexico, Director of Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Research Group at Bellcore, and Director of Human Interface Laboratory at the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation.