Special Issue on the Social and Psychological Aspects of Personal Information Management

Deborah Barreau
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Inquiry into our personal information management (PIM) behaviors has focused largely on finding, keeping, and re-finding information and on the design of systems to support these behaviors. Certainly, one of the goals of PIM research is to develop better tools to support it, yet the focus on search has largely neglected such broad issues as how people use and reuse information, how our memory for events and personal knowledge of our information space affect that use, and how our engagement with our objects and interaction with our colleagues affect our PIM behaviors and contribute to our learning. The purpose of this special issue is to address some of these broad issues and to encourage additional research into these areas. These three papers address one or more of the above issues.

In the first paper, Designing Personal Information Management Systems for Creative Practitioners, Tim Coughlan and Peter Johnson examine the information needs and practices of film makers and offer a tool, the Associative Scrapbook, for managing information as part of the creative process. They highlight what I believe is vital to developing comprehensive PIM support - the need to group, link, and display information in varied ways to support reflective thinking and creative reuse of our digital objects.

In On Understanding the Relationship Between Recollection and Re-finding, Elsweiler, Baillie, and Ruthven analyze the relationship between a person's memory of email and re-finding that email. While their findings are somewhat atypical of subjects in other studies, they offer a method for modeling the relationship between memory and re-finding that is worth further examination.

Hardof-Jaffe, Hershkovitz, Abu-Kishk, Bergman, and Nachmias examine Students' Organization Strategies of Personal Information Space. They present a technique for applying data mining to identify the broad file organization strategies of more than 500 students in a university setting. Most PIM studies are qualitative studies conducted on a small sample of users, and this work suggests that we may be able to validate those early findings on a broader scale.

Undoubtedly, these papers will raise more questions than they answer, but I hope they will stimulate dialogue on the social and psychological issues that affect our personal information management behaviors. I am grateful to Scott Phillips and Cliff Knight, as well as to the anonymous reviewers, who made this issue possible.