The Physical-Social Context in Information Refinding

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Virginia Tech

Modern operating systems allow users to organize and refind information using many contextual keys such as timestamps, content, custom tags, origin and even location. As humans naturally engage in activities with people and groups of people, we want to investigate how we can use the context of people's social interactions to support information archiving and refinding. Past research has tracked and used remote, social interactions through email communication; this work will concentrate on using physical, social interactions (i.e., face-to-face) to support information archiving and refinding. Research questions include: (1) How do we effectively associate one's information with one's social world? (2) How do we design a user interface that supports refinding information based on social contexts? and (3) How does our approach (i.e., system) affect the users information archiving and refinding practices?

This dissertation presents results from two user studies, exploring two refinding systems. The first, longitudinal study examines three participants using a custom refinding tool that tags information based on the people physically present with the user. Our second, diary-driven study examines a refinding tool that integrates information activity with a person's calendar.

Our contributions are threefold: (1) an exploration of adding physical social interactions as contextual keys for information archiving and refinding (2), an examination of two user interface designs that enable users to refind information through their physical-social interactions (i.e., people and groups), and (3), a diary-driven methodology for studying realistic refinding behaviors while reducing participant interruptions.

information refinding, social-context, human-computer interaction