Towards A New View of Information: History-Enriched Digital Objects and Dynamic Work Materials

James D. Hollan, Computer Science Department, University of New Mexico

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 23, 1997


The future promises an ever richer world of computationally-based work materials that exploit task representations, semantic relationships explicit and implicit in information and our interactions with it, and user-specified tailorings to provide effective, enjoyable, and beautiful places to work. One of the barriers to achieving this vision is that most current user interfaces employ computation primarily to mimic mechanisms of older media. While there are important cognitive, cultural, and engineering reasons to exploit earlier successful representations, imitating the mechanisms of an old medium strains and underutilizes the new.

For quite some time I have been involved in a research enterprise to look beyond imitation as the fundamental strategy of interface design. This has led to an investigation of:

In this talk I give an overview of this work and argue that there is evidence for the beginnings of a paradigm shift for thinking about information, one that starts to view information as being much more dynamic and reactive to the nature of our tasks, activities, and even relationships with others.


Professor James D. Hollan received a Ph.D. from the University of Florida and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. He was on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) for a decade. During that period he directed the Future Technologies Research Group at NPRDC and, in collaboration with Professors Edwin Hutchins and Donald Norman, led the Intelligent Systems Group in the Institute for Cognitive Science at UCSD.

Professor Hollan left UCSD to become Director of the MCC Human Interface Laboratory and subsequently established the Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Research Group at Bellcore. In Fall 1993, he became Chair of the Computer Science Department at UNM. His primary research interests are human computer interaction, computationally-based media, and computer-mediated communications. For more information see


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