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Personal Information Management in the Present and Future Perfect: Reports from a Special NSF-Sponsored Workshop.

William Jones & Harry Bruce

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


Personal information management or PIM is attracting increasing attention as an area of study. In the ideal world, we have the right information at the right time, in the right place, in the right form, and of sufficient completeness and quality to perform the current activity. Tools and technologies help so that we spend less time with burdensome and error prone actions of information management (such as filing). We then have more time to make creative, intelligent use of the information at hand in order to get things done.

But significant challenges must be met if PIM is to approach this ideal. For example, information that people need to complete a task is often scattered across locations and devices. Information is further fragmented across separate organizational schemes – for paper, electronic documents, email, web references, etc.

The study of PIM itself is often fragmented in similar ways. Some research focuses on email; other research focuses on the use of the web; other research on the organization of paper and electronic documents; still other research focuses on the use of mobile devices. Good research relating to PIM is scattered across a number of disciplines including information retrieval, database management, information science, human-computer interaction, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence.

The members of this panel were all participants in a special workshop on PIM sponsored by the National Science Foundation (Jan. 27-29, 2005, Researchers from a variety of disciplines met to discuss PIM as a field of inquiry. Panelists will review the workshop and its aftermath. Among the workshop topics to discuss at the panel are the following:

• What does good and better PIM looks like? How do we measure? • What key problems and challenges must be met if we are to make progress in PIM? What about the interfaces between PIM and “Group Information Management”? • What approaches to PIM and its challenges look especially promising? Does it make sense, for example, to “record everything” even if we have the technology to do so? Is there a unifying layer of support for personal information? What should it contain? Will a shared persistent memory take us beyond “email as we know it”?

Panelists will also discuss what it means to foster a research community for the field of PIM inquiry. Although panelists will use their experiences at the workshop as a starting point, discussion will freely range beyond the workshop to a general discussion of PIM. The panel is structured to maximize interaction among the panelists themselves and with the audience.

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