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Why Can’t Johnny File? And What Can We Do to Help? (SIGs CR, USE)

Marcia J. Bates, mjbates@ucla.edu.  William Jones, williamj@u.washington.edu.  Carol C. Kuhlthau, kuhlthau@scils.rutgers.edu.  Jens-Erik Mai, jemai@u.washington.edu.  Gary Marchionini, march@ils.unc.edu.  

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


Abstract

There is ample evidence to indicate that the creation and use of classification schemes are fundamentally difficult activities and that the reasons for these difficulties have deep philosophical underpinnings. Yet, in our daily interactions with information, we perform a related and equally difficult activity. We file. Most of us maintain several different folder structures in different places (home and workplace) to organize various forms of information including email (sometimes in several accounts), web bookmarks, electronic documents and paper documents.

In a world where information is critical to so many of life’s activities, the ability to file must surely be regarded as a basic skill much like reading or writing. And yet few of us receive any training whatsoever in the basics of filing. It shows. Studies reveal that people often make mistakes when filing and that these mistakes are costly. People file too much, too little, in the wrong ways or people “file and forget” so that the information is not retrieved again until long after the period of its usefulness has passed.

What are the basics of good filing or, more generally, information organization on a personal level? Practical guides on filing or “getting organized” are largely the province of paperbacks written by people with little or no formal training in relevant disciplines such as library and information science, cognitive psychology or knowledge organization. What can the research communities for these disciplines add?

Panel participants address this general question through several more specific questions: 1 What guidelines are there for the organization of personal information? 2 What teachable techniques and strategies can promote effective management of personal information? 3 What empirical evidence do we have for the goodness or badness of different techniques and strategies? 4 What tools can help to make filing and information organization easier? ...


  
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