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E2. Offloading Short Term Memory Effort Knowledge workers’ short term memories have inherent limits, even in the context of familiar work practices. To support key short term memory challenges in computer mediated work, product teams can envision concepts for persistently presenting workers with recent cues and information that is pertinent to their goals.


What information do targeted knowledge workers struggle to remember for short intervals while accomplishing the operations and larger tasks that your team is striving to mediate? How might your application concepts store and display relevant short term information in accessible and meaningful ways?

O�en, there are too many deals made in a single phone call to remember them all without somehow ge�ng them down on paper or my screen...

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Examples from three knowledge work domains: A financial trader uses a shorthand function in his trading application to enter key information about a list of deals that he is negotiating on the phone. After the call is complete, he is able to transform his quick notes in the shorthand function into a set of separate, fully detailed and booked trades (see illustration). A scientist zooms in on a progressively narrower set of clinical data in her analysis application. After spending a moment inspecting a small grouping of data at a very granular level, she quickly zooms out to remember which region of the clinical results set she was looking at. A small box traces the previous zoom area within its larger context. An architect stops what she is doing in her building modeling application to quickly place drafts of three structural features. She then flags each placeholder feature as work in progress, which changes them to a recognizable color. The presence of these colored volumes in her view reminds her what she wants to work on next. We all work from the understanding that people can only actively maintain so much new information at once. The limitations of short term memory are a well characterized aspect of human cognition. Although knowledge workers can become skilled at keeping domain information at the forefront of their thoughts, they may also develop opportunistic approaches for using external resources to mitigate their inherent memory limitations (A). For example, workers may keep relevant information “near to hand” by printing important screen contents (J7), leaving useful documents open (G5, F1, F2), and writing shorthand notes while they work (H4, J5). Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could support workers’ desires to their offload short term memory efforts (C3). This support can also take the form of targeted refinements of existing functional options. For example, applications can provide fast access to recent information either through continuous display or by on demand access via clear interaction pathways (C4, F9, G6). When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could influence workers’ short term memory burdens, opportunities to valuably reduce or eliminate certain types of unwanted memory effort can be lost. Resulting products may promote possibilities for error in recall (C9, G3) or force workers to create and enact effortful work arounds in order to prevent information from becoming “lost” (D2, D3). Conversely, explicit functionality and design responses in support of short term memory can be limiting or distracting (A9, D4), especially in cases where teams do not consider progressive disclosure of recent content as viable support. See also: B2, D, E, F8, G4, H, J2, M1, M4

What strategies do targeted individuals currently use to keep track of operative information that they need to have mentally available or effectively “nearby” to successfully accomplish their work?

Financial Trader

What artifacts do knowledge workers create in order to offload their short term memory efforts? How transitory are these objects? What types of “active” information do targeted workers often forget when they are interrupted?

So I try to type them into this shorthand func�on, designed specifically to help with big lists of poten�al deals...

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team’s ideas about how your computing tool might offload certain short term memory efforts? Basic Trade List

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? Where might navigation through your sketched functionality concepts introduce new short term memory load? How might persistently presenting recent and relevant information reduce or eliminate some of these burdens?

Then I can select an op�on to turn them all into full fledged trade �ckets, which automa�cally makes some assump�ons and fills in a lot of the informa�on...

What functionality concepts or smaller design responses might your team envision to allow workers to explicitly record or highlight specific information that they want to remember in the short term? Basic Trade List

What programmatic methods could valuably identify categories of “active” information and abstractly indicate these items with compact and learnable cues? How might your team’s concepts for supporting individuals’ short term memory influence common ground and collaboration is shared workspaces? What life expectancy could different types of short term information have? When could the persistent presence of this supporting content become a hindrance or source of clutter in workers’ activities? How might your application concepts provide additional short term memory support for an aging knowledge workforce?

Once they are turned into individual �ckets, I can review the informa�on on each one, make any changes that I want to make, and then complete each deal separately, like normal trades...

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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