James Hollan

University of California, San Diego
Paris IAS
Psychology & Cognitive Sciences
10 months

Research interests: Human Computer Interaction and Information Visualization

Research Project

Catalyzing A Human-Centered Information Research Program: Beyond Application and Document-Centered Views of Information

The sophisticated cognition demanded by contemporary information work has outpaced innovation in user interfaces. In modern computing systems, information is still encapsulated in application silos, leaving users to shuttle files between applications, cobbling together workflows, requiring troublesome context switching and increasing attentional demands. In short, we lack a cognitively convivial space for intellectual work.

Human-centered information is both an idea and the motivation for a novel computational environment. It is the idea of a cognitive workspace—a desktop for intellectual activity—reified as a computational environment that actively supports the coordination of information-based work by developing awareness of the structure of a user’s action: how she accomplishes activities through discrete tasks across devices, programs, and working sessions. Through use, information in the environment will accumulate and represent context: not only who accessed it and when, but concurrent activity and semantic relationships to other data. Just as awareness of the past influences human behavior, the content and context of the history of activity will drive the behavior of information. To the user, her information should seem alive, have awareness, know where it came from, how it got there, what it means—and behave accordingly.


James Hollan is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at the University of California, San Diego. He received the ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award and is founding co-director of the Design Lab and the Distributed Cognition and HCI Lab. His research explores the cognitive consequences of computational media and addresses questions of importance for today’s increasingly technological society: How does technology shape our minds? How should what we know about our minds shape technology?