Towards a Dynamic Multiscale Personalized Information Space
The historical moment when a person worked in front of a single computer has passed. Computers are now ubiquitous and embedded in virtually every new device and system, ranging from the omnipresent cellphone to the complex web of sociotechnical systems that envelop most every sphere of personal and professional life. They connect our activities to ever-expanding information resources with previously unimaginable computational power. Yet with all the increases in capacity, speed, and connectivity, information-based activities too often remain difficult, awkward, and frustrating. Even after six decades of design evolution there is little of the naturalness and contextual sensitivity required for convivial interaction with computer-mediated information.
We envision a future in which the existing world of documents and applications is linked to a multiscale personalized information space in which dynamic visual entities behave in accordance with cognitively motivated rules sensitive to tasks, personal and group interaction histories, and context. As a group of cognitive and computer scientists, we have come together jointly committed to this vision and convinced of the crucial importance of questioning the presupposition that information is fundamentally passive data disconnected from processes, tasks, context, and personal histories. We aim to redesignate the role that computers play in human life from devices with which we interact to partners with whom we collaborate.
The heart of the project is to rethink the nature of computer-mediated information as a basis to begin to fully realize the potential of computers to assist information-based activities. This requires challenging fundamental presuppositions that have led to today’s walled gardens and information silos. Our goal is to catalyze an international research comunity to rethink the nature of information as a basis for radically advancing the human-centered design of information-based work and helping to ensure the future is one of convivial, effective, and humane systems. In this paper, we propose a new view of information, discuss cognitive requirements for a human-centered information space, and sketch a research agenda and approach.