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How do people organize their desks? Implications for the design of office information systems

By Thomas W. Malone


This paper describes a series of interviews focusing on the way professional and clerical office workers organize the information in their desks and offices. A number of implications for designing "natural" and convenient computer-based information systems are discussed. Two principal claims are made: (1) A very important function of desk organization is to remind the user of things to do, not just to help the user find desired information. Failing to support this function may seriously impair the usefulness of electronic office systems, and explicitly facilitating it may provide an important advantage for automated office systems over their nonautomated predecessors. (2) The cognitive difficulty of categorizing information is an important factor in explaining how people organize their desks. Computer-based systems may help with this difficulty by (a) doing as much automatic classification as possible (e.g., based on access dates}, and (b) including untitled "piles " of information arranged by physical location as well as explicitly titled and logically arranged "files." Several other implications for the design of electronic office systems are discussed, and some differences in how people organize their desks are described. Categories and Subject Descriptors: H.1.2 [Models and Principles]: User/Machine Systems-

Topics: human factors, H.3.2 [Information Storage and Retrieval, Information storage--file organiza- tion, H.4.1 [Information Systems Applications, Office Automation~equipment, K.8 [Computing Milieux, Personal Computing General Terms, Design, Human Factors Additional Key Words and Phrases, Desk organization, personal information environments
Year: 1983
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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