Online Information Review v. 33, no. 2, 2009 is a special issue on personal knowledge management.

  • Personal knowledge management: Putting the “person” back into the knowledge equation
    David Pauleen (pp. 221-224)

  • Personal knowledge management through communicating
    Rachel Jones (pp. 225-236)

  • Personalising organisational knowledge and organisationalising personal knowledge
    Zuopeng (Justin) Zhang (pp. 237-256)

  • Crossings: Embedding personal professional knowledge in a complex online community environment
    Jocelyn Cranefield, Pak Yoong (pp. 257-275)

  • Developing Connectivity: a PKM path for higher education workplace learners
    Blanca C. Garcia (pp. 276-297)

  • Conceptual data structures for personal knowledge management
    Max Völkel, Heiko Haller (pp. 298-315)

  • Predictors of diverse usage behaviour towards personal knowledge management systems
    Her-Sen Doong, Hui-Chih Wang (pp. 316-328)

  • The effective use of technology in personal knowledge management: A framework of skills, tools and user context
    Raj Agnihotri, Marvin D. Troutt (pp. 329-342)

If you study PIM, make sure to add “PKM”. To your querying/information monitoring list.

No comment.

mind the gap.

Fodor on why Clarke and Chalmers’ Extended Mind Thesis is all wrongheaded.

Which leads me to want to underscore that when I talk about external or outboard brains, I do not mean that these things are actually part of brains (a term I am sloppily using to mean “minds” and not jiggly bundles of nerves).

I mean that the creation of external representations is epistemic action that lightens the cognitive load required to achieve our goals (1). The external representation is the product of mind + action; it is not mind.

Notebooks and iPhones and such are mind prostheses (2). A prosthetic, no matter how customized, is still “other.”

I put things in my .org files so that I do not have to remember them. I offload the task of memory because either I can’t remember or I don’t want to expend the effort to remember.

I create concept maps. I offload the cognitive work of holding a complex representation in working memory. This allows me to focus on thinking about the representation and what it represents, rather than trying to keep the representation itself in clear mental sight.

But my .org files and concept maps are no more a part of my actual mind than my dishwasher is somehow part of me standing at the sink doing dishes while I’m upstairs writing a blog post.

These things are just tools.

Just sayin…

p.s. Did you know there is a genus of moth named Prosthesis?
1. Kirsh, David & Maglio, Paul. (1994) “On distinguishing epistemic from pragmatic action.” Cognitive science 18(4): 513-549.

2. Prostheses isn’t the exact term that I want because it means a replacement for something lost or missing, and most of us are augmenting our cognitive processes, not replacing them. The most accurate term would be mind extension, but a) that is too easily confused with the Extended Mind Theory, and b) it sounds too much like spam I receive already.

the right idea, but…

Max Van Kleek; Michael Bernstein; David R. Karger & mc schraefel. (2007) “Gui — phooey!: the case for text input.” In UIST ’07: Proceedings of the 20th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology, pp. 193-202.

Abstract: Information cannot be found if it is not recorded. Existing rich graphical application approaches interfere with user input in many ways, forcing complex interactions to enter simple information, requiring complex cognition to decide where the data should be stored, and limiting the kind of information that can be entered to what can fit into specific applications’ data models. Freeform text entry suffers from none of these limitations but produces data that is hard to retrieve or visualize. We describe the design and implementation of Jourknow, a system that aims to bridge these two modalities, supporting lightweight text entry and weightless context capture that produces enough structure to support rich interactive presentation and retrieval of the arbitrary information entered.

I already have this. It is called Emacs org-mode with org-remember-insinuate.

Oh snap, I just saw that there is an org-mode <–> Freemind converter. must not play must not play must not play

Do you know how much I love Emacs?

No, you really have no idea…


How interesting. Lifehacker, den of PIM hobbyists, links to a Fleshbot post asking: How do you organize your porn?. The post currently has 49 comments. Personal Porn Management, a subactivity of PIM.

Don’t click on that last link if you are in a place where it is inappropriate to view porn. Or if you just think porn is inappropriate in general. There are some photos and ads. Of course, given the topic, one of the photos just had to be “a librarian.”


  1. Here is another example of people who are enthusiastic about a topic and/or activity engaging in meta-level information processes: stepping back and thinking about managing the information related to said topic/activity. It is clear from the comments that some people have thought a whole lot about organizing and managing their collections.
  2. Unsurprisingly, you see the same patterns you see in other PIM. You have the save nothing people who delete anything they download after a week. You have the save everything people who build collections.
  3. And when I say they build collections, I mean some really big collections. Several people have collections of hundreds of gigabytes. One person reports a 9 terabyte collection!
  4. You have pilers (I dump it all in a folder) and you have filers (all arranged or accessible by categories).
  5. You see the same kinds of fragmentation problems as in PIM in general: fragmentation by format (image, video, etc) and location (on hard drive, on remote server, on dvds, on hosted photo sharing service, on web and I keep a bookmark to it).
  6. Some of the people who are into organizing their collections are really into organizing their collections. Someone posted their classification scheme. My favorite is the 9TB person, who concludes the description of the elaborate organization system and custom built search apps used (emphasis mine):

    I actually don’t have much difficulty remembering where I’ve put things, even through 9TB of data (that’s 150x more stuff than the guy with 60GB) and even without my little search tool. The whole project of constructing this system has really been an ongoing project to teach myself about Enterprise-level data storage and information retrieval. There’s a whole system of failsafes and backups that I’m not even talking about.

  7. A major difference between PPM and PIM is, of course, some of the attributes of information used to organize collections.

I must admit that once upon a time this did briefly cross my mind as a dissertation topic. I knew what I wanted to study but hadn’t decided what context I wanted to study it in. I have an interest in the characteristics, organization, and availability of sex-related, sex education, and reproductive health information–information fraught with political and moral judgment. I also had a hunch that there was a lot of PIM stuff going on here, some of which is very different from other PIM and therefore interesting. There is a small number of studies around this topic already, but of course they focus on information seeking.

But then I thought about the reality of spending a year or more of my life thinking about people’s porn collections and it seemed rather depressing.

I’m glad to see there appears to be something to my hunches, though.

It took me forever to write this post because I was paranoid about making some horrid accidental double-entendre. I’m sure Simon will find at least one anyway.

And now I wonder what interesting searches will bring people to this post… I don’t think using “pr0n” instead really does anything to help.

back to the everyday.

So my literature review for comps has been distributed to my committee members. It’s a tome [1], so I feel a little bad about dropping in the collective lap of my committee. But it was a very useful paper for me to put together.

One of the things I argue in this paper is that the predominant conception of everyday life in LIS is limited in its negativity. In her dissertation [2], Jenna Hartel surveyed everyday life information seeking (ELIS) studies and found 80% of the ELIS-related studies in her analysis focused on information seeking in either compromised everyday life situations such as illness or crisis, or in the everyday lives of populations seen as marginalized or disadvantaged.

This problem-centered orientation also pervades much of information behavior research outside “the everyday.” Information need has typically been conceived of as “having a problem” that information can help you solve. Our models of information behavior are full of anxieties and gaps and anomalous states.

In a recent paper, Hartel and Jarkko Kari argued for a shift of research attention to the higher things in life, which they define as “usually positive human phenomena, experiences, or activities that transcend the daily grind with its rationality and necessities” [3, p. 1132]. I concur that LIS has a taken a negative view of information phenomena and that as a discipline we should also attend to the role information plays in the the higher things of life.

However, they contrast the higher things in life with the “lower things” of the everyday, described as “relatively drab, uninteresting, and involuntary basic events that dominate people’s behavior” and “dominated by conformity, rules, rituals” (p. 1131). This is where I disagree. This view may be the going thing within LIS but we need not keep it.

I argue, citing works in sociology and critical studies, that everyday life does not exclude the pleasurable and the profound. There are myriad ways in which people bring the pleasurable, the profound, and the creative into their everyday lives. Michel de Certeau views the ordinary person in everyday life as an active, creative individual making and seizing opportunities, triumphing over imposed order, and making joyful discoveries [4, p. xix]. This is what makes life worth living.

It is with all of this dancing in my head that I stumbled upon this article in the NYTimes: Unboxed: Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Yes we can, and it is good for us:

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

This bodes well for my creativity, as I am the queen of instituting new habits which are inevitably replaced with new and different habits. Heh.

Anyway, the connection with notions of the everyday is that even our habits are not thrust upon us. We can design our everyday routines creatively. Of course there are always constraints (money, limited time, the need to sleep at some point even though Provigil exists); but, we are not cogs in a drab machine. That everyday life provides us with opportunities for higher things, and not just a tedious daily grind, is supported by a further quote from the article:

The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder…But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider’ … to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities. … You cannot have innovation…unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.

Ah, this last bit brings to mind some of Henry Miller’s rhapsodies:

The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over. We are all guilty of crime, the great crime of not living life to the full. But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What the these powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything God-like about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything [from Sexus, I know not which page].

How amazing the everyday is! And when did I become such an optimist?

But if anyone asks, I’m going to chalk up the length of my lit review to innovative thinking and the need to explore many possibilities and connections. It’s not just that I appear to be constitutionally unable to write concisely.

1. Final version was 171 pages, citing 663 sources.
2. Hartel, Jenna. 2007. “Information activities, resources & spaces in the hobby of gourmet cooking.” PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
3. Kari, Jarkko and Jenna Hartel. 2007. Information and higher things in life: addressing the pleasurable and the profound in information science . Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58 (8): 1131-47.
4. de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The practice of everyday life. translator Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press

sousveillance and oligopticons

Dodge, Martin, and Rob Kitchin. 2007. “‘Outlines of a world coming into existence’: pervasive computing and the ethics of forgetting.” Environment and Planning B-Planning & Design 34, no. 3: 431-45.

Abstract: In this paper we examine the potential of pervasive computing to create widespread sousveillance, which will complement surveillance, through the development of life-logs—sociospatial archives that document every action, every event, every conversation, and every material expression of an individual’s life. Reflecting on emerging technologies, life-log projects, and artistic critiques of sousveillance, we explore the potential social, political, and ethical implications of machines that never forget. We suggest, given that life-logs have the potential to convert exterior generated oligopticons to an interior panopticon, that an ethics of forgetting needs to be developed and built into the development of life-logging technologies. Rather than seeing forgetting as a weakness or a fallibility, we argue that it is an emancipatory process that will free pervasive computing from burdensome and pernicious disciplinary effects.

I’m happy to find this article because I’ve been saying this about forgetting for a while now, but had nothing to point at.

interesting article.

O’Hara, Kieron, Richard Morris, Nigel R. Shadbolt, Graham J. Hitch, Wendy Hall, and Neil Beagrie. 2006. “Memories for life: a review of the science and technology.” Interface: Journal of the Royal Society 3, no. 8: 351-65.

Abstract: This paper discusses scientific, social and technological aspects of memory. Recent developments in our understanding of memory processes and mechanisms, and their digital implementation, have placed the encoding, storage, management and retrieval of information at the forefront of several fields of research. At the same time, the divisions between the biological, physical and the digital worlds seem to be dissolving. Hence, opportunities for interdisciplinary research into memory are being created, between the life sciences, social sciences and physical sciences. Such research may benefit from immediate application into information management technology as a testbed. The paper describes one initiative, memories for life, as a potential common problem space for the various interested disciplines.

personal digital preservation, ha.

Casey Bisson writes about his crisis in the preservation of his digital collections.

This is also a topic that keeps me up at night. Not just because I’m paranoid about losing my own personal history (I document and track everything on my laptop, in addition to keeping and collecting projects, photos, correspondence, music, videos, and more), but because it a HUGE problem in personal information management, and you can’t just build some tool to try to fix it.

There’s such an expertise component to being able to even attempt to keep stuff for the long term. Compared to a lot of my friends and all of my family, I am “a computer genius,” which makes me shake my head because to me it’s obvious there is so much I do not know. But if I can’t figure out what the best way to keep my stuff is, how can someone who doesn’t understand the directory structure of their computer, but has all of their digital images stuck “in there somewhere”?

There is also so much education to be done, just about the problems. So many people think that if you burn it to a DVD, you have it forever…

I’ve been following Cathy Marshall‘s work on this (footnotebegin)Marshall, Catherine C. (in press). How people manage personal information over a lifetime. To appear in William P. Jones, and Jaime Teevan, Eds. Personal Information Management: Challenges and Opportunities.Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. (pdf available here)(footnoteend), and it will come into my dissertation work to some extent.