Towards A New View of Information:
Designing the Intellectual Workplaces of the Future

James D. Hollan

Computer Science Department
University of New Mexico

The future promises an ever richer world of computationally-based work materials that exploit task representations, semantic relationships explicit and implicit in information and our interactions with it, and user-specified tailorings to provide effective, enjoyable, and beautiful places to work. One of the barriers to achieving this vision is that most current user interfaces employ computation primarily to mimic mechanisms of older media. While there are important cognitive, cultural, and engineering reasons to exploit earlier successful representations, imitating the mechanisms of an old medium strains and underutilizes the new.

In this talk I describe a research enterprise that attempts to look beyond imitation as the primary strategy for interface design. The first example examines recording on digital objects the interaction events that comprise their use so that on future occasions graphical abstractions of the accrued histories can be rendered as part of the objects themselves. The second example is Pad++, a zoomable graphical interface substrate for exploring multiscale information visualization. I discuss the motivations for Pad++ and present prototype applications. Finally, I will argue that there is evidence for the beginnings of a paradigm shift for thinking about information, one that starts to view information as becoming much more dynamic and reactive.


Professor James D. Hollan received a Ph.D. from the University of Florida and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. He was on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) for a decade. During that period he directed the Future Technologies Research Group at NPRDC and, in collaboration with Professors Edwin Hutchins and Donald Norman, led the Intelligent Systems Group in the Institute for Cognitive Science at UCSD.

Professor Hollan left UCSD to become Director of the MCC Human Interface Laboratory and subsequently established the Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Research Group at Bellcore. In Fall 1993, he became Chair of the Computer Science Department at UNM. His primary research interests are human computer interaction, computationally-based media, and computer-mediated communications. For more information see