- Personal information management
Personal information management (PIM) refers to both the practice and the study of the activities people perform in order to acquire, organize, maintain, retrieve and use information items such as documents (paper-based and digital), web pages and email messages for everyday use to complete tasks (work-related and not) and fulfill a person’s various roles (as parent, employee, friend, member of community, etc.).
One ideal of PIM is that we always have the right information in the right place, in the right form, and of sufficient completeness and quality to meet our current need. Technologies and tools such as personal information managers help us spend less time with time-consuming and error-prone activities of PIM (such as looking for information). We then have more time to make creative, intelligent use of the information at hand in order to get things done or, simply, to enjoy the information itself.
For many people, this ideal seems far away. There are a bewildering number of tools available for managing personal information. But these tools can become a part of the problem leading to “information fragmentation”. Different devices and applications often come with their separate ways of storing and organizing information.
Interest in the study of PIM
Interest in the study of PIM has increased in recent years. One goal in the study of PIM is to identify ways to introduce new tool support without inadvertently increasing the complexity of a person’s information management challenge. The study of PIM means understanding better how people manage information across tools and over time. It is not enough simply to study, for example,
Personal Information Manager
A personal information manager (often referred to as a PIM tool or, more simply, a PIM) is a type of
application softwarethat functions as a personal organizer. The acronym PIM is now, more commonly, used in reference to Personal information managementas a field of study.
information managementtool, PIM applications are primarily used to facilitate the recording, tracking, and management of certain types of "personal information". Personal information can include any of the following:
* Personal notes/
* Lists (including
Appointments and meeting
* RSS/Atom feeds
The next generation of PIM applications will offer more comprehensive information management capabilities, including synthesizing and sharing information. Some PIM software products are capable of synchronizing data with another PIM tool over a
computer network(including mobile ad-hoc networks, or MANETs). This feature usually does not allow for continuous, concurrent data updates, but rather enables point-in-time updating between different computers, including desktop computers, laptopcomputers, and personal digital assistants.
Prior to the introduction of the term “PDA” (
Personal digital assistant) by Apple in 1992, handheld personal organizers such as the Sharp Wizardand the Psion Organiserwere also referred to as "PIMs". [ [http://memex.org/thereturnofthepda.html The Return of the PDA] , Marketing Computers, February, 1995] [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A2284229 History of the Personal Data Assistant (PDA)] , "H2G2, BBC", March 31, 2004]
PIM-related activities and PIM-related areas
PIM shares considerable, potentially synergistic overlap with disciplines such as cognitive science, human-computer interaction, information science, artificial intelligence, database management and information retrieval. PIM relates to but differs from other fields of inquiry that study the interactions between people, information and technology.
Cognitive psychology and cognitive science
Cognitive psychology, as the study of how people learn and remember, problem solve and make decisions necessarily also includes the study of how people make smart use of available information. The related field of cognitive science, in its efforts to apply these questions more broadly to the study and simulation of intelligent behavior, is also related to PIM. Cognitive science has strong connections to, some would say subsumes, the field of artificial intelligence.
There is great potential for a mutually beneficial interplay between cognitive science and PIM. Sub-areas of cognitive science of clear relevance to PIM include
problem solvingand decision making. For example, folders created to hold information for a big project such as “plan my wedding” may sometimes resemble a problem-decomposition (Jones, Phuwanartnurak, Gill, & Bruce, 2005) [Jones, W., Phuwanartnurak, A. J., Gill, R., & Bruce, H. (2005, April 2-7). [https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace/handle/1773/2031 Don't take my folders away! Organizing personal information to get things done] . Paper presented at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2005), Portland, OR..] . To take another example, signal detection task (Peterson, Birdsall, & Fox, 1954) [Peterson, W. W., Birdsall, T. G., & Fox, W. C. (1954). The theory of signal detectability. Institute of Radio Engineers Transactions, PGIT-4, 171-212.] has long been used to frame and explain human behavior and has recently been used as a basis for analyzing our choices concerning what information to keep and how – a key activity of PIM (Jones, 2004) [Jones, W. (2004). [http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue9_3/jones/index.html Finders, keepers? The present and future perfect in support of personal information management] . First Monday.] .
categorizationand concept formation. How are categories and concepts learned and used? Categories and concepts can be seen directly but may be reflected in the tags and folders people use to organize their information. Or consider the activities of reading and writing. Both are areas of study in cognitive psychology with clear relevance to the study of PIM.
Now large portions of a document may be the product of “copy-and-paste” operations (from our previous writings) rather than a product of original writing. Certainly, management of text pieces pasted for re-use is a PIM activity, and this raises several interesting questions. How do we go about deciding when to re-use and when to write from scratch? We may sometimes spend more time chasing down a paragraph we have previously written than it would have taken to simply write a new paragraph expressing the same thoughts. Beyond this, we can wonder at what point a reliance on an increasing (and increasingly available) supply of previously written material begins to impact our creativity.
As people do PIM they work in an external environment that includes other people, available technology and organizational setting. This means that
situated cognition, distributed cognition, and social cognitionall relate to the study of PIM.
Human-computer interaction/human-information interaction
The study of PIM is also related to the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). But PIM research puts emphasis on the broader study of how people manage their information over time using a variety of tools – some computer-based, some not.
The management of data, information, knowledge, time and tasks
The study of
information managementand knowledge managementin organizations relates to the study of PIM. Jones (2007) [Jones, W. (2007). Personal information management. In B. Cronin (Ed.), [http://www.asis.org/Publications/ARIST/vol41.php Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) (Vol. 41)] . Medford, NJ: Information Today.] notes that issues seen first at an organizational level often migrate to the PIM domain.
PIM can help to motivate and will also benefit from work in
information retrievaland database management. For example, data mining techniques might be applied to mine and structure personal information.
PIM also relates to what is sometimes called personal knowledge management(PKM).
Knowledge acquisition/elicitation has been an important area of study in its own right receiving special prominence in the 1980's as a way to define rules to drive expert systems. But knowledge elicited is usually written down in some form. Knowledge written down is information -- to be managed like other information.
By similar argument, a discussion of
time managementor task managementon a personal level quickly takes us back to a discussion of PIM. Both time and task management make heavy use of information tools and external forms of information such as to-do lists,, calendars, timelines, Gantt charts and etc. This information, to be managed like other information.
* Jones, W. (2008). "Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management". Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. "Book info at:" [http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780123708663 Morgan Kaufmann] | [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0123708664 Amazon] ISBN 978-0-12-370866-3
* Jones, W. & Teevan, J. (Eds.) (2007). "Personal Information Management". Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. "Book info at:" [http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/JONPEP.html University of Washington Press] | [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0295987375 Amazon] ISBN 978-0-295-98737-8
*See [http://kftf.ischool.washington.edu/publications.htm list of PIM publications] at the Keeping Found Things Found (KFTF) project website.
* Boardman, R. (2004). [http://www.iis.ee.ic.ac.uk/~rick/thesis/ 'Improving Tool Support for Personal Information Management'] .Doctoral dissertation, Imperial College, London.
More literature and a list of people involved can be found starting at the workshops:
* [http://www.pim2008.org/ PIM 2008]
* [http://pim.ischool.washington.edu/pim06/index.htm PIM 2006]
* [http://pim.ischool.washington.edu/pim05home.htm PIM 2005]
Keeping Found Things Found project
List of personal information managers
Personal information manager
* [http://www.iis.ee.ic.ac.uk/~rick/pim.htm Who's working on Personal Information Management?] Authored by Richard Boardman, Imperial College London (July 2003)
* [http://pim.ischool.washington.edu/ Resources for Personal Information Management] Community Portal managed by the University of Washington, features a link collection, workshops, books
* [http://www.memoria-mea.ch/ Memoria-Mea Project] , MISG/ICTI EIA-FR Switzerland
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