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E1. Offloading Long Term Memory Effort Certain information often needs to be “remembered” for some time by knowledge workers and their organizations. Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could record and store this valued content, allowing workers to refer to their computing tools instead of having to concentrate on keeping certain items mentally available.

As I’m looking at the data from our latest study, I’m vaguely reminded of how we analyzed the data from a big study last year...

An architect, when faced with a problem in her current work, opens up older versions of the same building project in her building modeling application. She uses the stored information to help her remember how she had worked with civil engineers to resolve similar issues in their past. A financial trader uses his trading application to view his group’s deals from yesterday so that he can see how much business he did with a particular entity. Without the tool’s stored record, he would probably only be able to recall a few of the bigger ticket transactions. Knowledge workers can face daunting memory burdens as their activities progress over extended periods of time (A). Luckily, people are not typically expected to recall everything; established work processes (A4, C6) and cultural norms (A1) often implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our long term memories. These accommodations can be especially visible when work activities revolve around high volumes of information rich artifacts (B1, I) or reference large and constantly evolving information resources (I5, G6). Since computers can excel at storing specifics, product teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers to record, locate, and recognize valuable information rather than attempting to engrain it in, and then recall it from, their long term memories (D4). Application functionality can usefully and meaningfully integrate existing forms of externalized long term memory (F2, G4, J2) that have historical trajectories within organizations and larger professions, such as online data repositories or the formats of certain paper records (J7, H1, H3). Additionally, team’s concepts for collaboration oriented features can indirectly help workers to distribute their remembrance efforts by enabling them to more easily reach out to colleagues’ for their recollections (B7, F1, J5, H3). When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could influence workers’ long term memory burdens, opportunities to valuably reduce or eliminate certain types of unwanted memory effort can be lost. Resulting products may increase possibilities for recollection error (C9, G3) or force workers to create and enact effortful work arounds in order to prevent information from becoming “lost” (D2, D3). See also: B6, D, E, H, J4, M1, M4

What information do targeted knowledge workers struggle to remember over extended periods of time in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? How might your application concepts structure, collect, preserve, and present valued long term information in accessible and meaningful ways? More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Examples from three knowledge work domains: A scientist opens a file in her analysis application that contains data from a previous clinical study. Since the old study shares some similar parameters with her current work, she reviews the stored information to remind herself which analysis processes had previously led to valuable insights (see illustration).


How do targeted individuals currently record and keep track of information that they would otherwise need to recall from their own long term memories?

Clinical Scientist

What artifacts do knowledge workers create in order to offload their memory efforts and make information available to multiple people over time? When do workers turn to these artifacts? What role do they play in targeted operations, tasks, and larger activities?

So I’m just going to open up that older study in our analysis applica�on...

What long term recollection errors are common? Could these problems present opportunities for your team’s product? How much emphasis do individual workers and larger groups place on the creation and maintenance of collective, organizational memories? What larger design and technology trends could influence your team’s ideas about how your computing tool might offload certain long term memory efforts? How might existing processes for personal and organizational memory be incorporated into your sketched functionality concepts?

And look at the analysis history to see what se�ngs and processes we used back then on this massive pile of results...

Which memory cuing features of existing artifacts could be enhanced within your application’s displays? How might your team tailor the representations of certain interaction objects in order to support workers’ own memory strategies? What new data in your application concepts could lead to new sources of memory load? How might your product usefully record and present this content in ways that could alleviate these potential burdens? During what tasks and larger activities could people benefit from being able to easily and directly access relevant stored information? What might these access points and pathways look like in your sketched functionality concepts? What life expectancy could different types of stored information have? Could stored content ever become a hindrance or source of clutter in workers’ activities?

Oh, that’s right, I had forgo�en that we did it that way. Great. That same approach should be useful in our current round of work...

How might your application concepts provide additional long term memory support for an aging knowledge workforce? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?

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