PIM related areas

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Related activities and areas from Wikipedia

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 solving and decision making. For example, folders created to hold information for a big project such as “plan my wedding” may sometimes resemble a problem-decomposition.[1] To take another example, signal detection task[2] 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.[3]

Or consider categorization and 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 cognition all relate to the study of PIM.

Human-computer and 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.

Management of data, information, knowledge, time and tasks

The study of information management and knowledge management in organizations relates to the study of PIM. Jones notes that issues seen first at an organizational level often migrate to the PIM domain.[4]

PIM can help to motivate and will also benefit from work in information retrieval and database management. For example, data mining techniques might be applied to mine and structure personal information.

Relation to time management and productivity

By similar argument, a discussion of time management or task management on 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, etc. This information, to be managed like other information.

Comparison between PIM and Related Terms by Richard Boardman

Boardman collected several comparisons from the literature in his theses.[5]

Information Management

Information Management (IM) has been described by Wilson as "the application of management principles to the acquisition, organization, control, dissemination and use of information relevant to the effective operation of organizations of all kinds"[6]. Based on this definition, IM typically relates to an organizational context. PIM, on the other hand, focuses on an individual user.

General Information Management

Bergman et al. [7] compare PIM with what they term General Information Management in which a professional – such as a librarian - manages information for other people. PIM is differ-entiated by its focus on an individual managing information for his or her own use. Managing information for other users is outside the research scope of this thesis.

Collaborative Information Management

Collaborative Information Management (CIM) refers to collections of information managed by multiple users. Like colleagues who share information via a communally managed network drive, or a family photo albums managed by several members. Berlin et al. note that CIM raises numerous issues such as the need for a shared vocabulary for naming and categorizing items [8]. PIM is performed by an individual for their own dedicated use and might overlap with CIM where a part of personal information space is collaboratively managed.

Information Retrieval

Information Retrieval (IR) has been defined as "the study of systems for indexing, searching, and recalling data, particularly text or other unstructured forms" [9]. PIM can be considered a high-level activity which involves IR in two of its sub-activities: acquisition and retrieval. Firstly, the acquisition of an item may involve the retrieval of the item from a remote information system such as a website. Secondly, the PIM sub-activity of retrieval is equivalent to IR within the context of an individual’s personal collection.

Areas built on top of PIM

Besides sub areas of PIM research (like information retrieval, categorization, personal taxonomy, etc.) and overlapping areas (HCI, cognitive psycholoy, etc.) there are areas that build on top of PIM.

Task-centered Information Management (Task Information Management)

The focus in this area is on personal information managed in task-centered environment. It extends simple Task Management (or project management) form to-do lists and calendar to all personal information. This means that personal information management is integrated in a task information management.[10]

Personal Information Management (PIM) aims to support users in the collection, storage and retrieval of their personal information. In such a framework the focus is mainly on how better to handle the information collected. Task Information Management (TIM) on the other hand adopts a more user- centric view and aims to support users in performing their tasks. Possible ways of achieving this are to automatically find data users need in order to perform a task, to automate the execution of tasks and the synthesis of new more abstract tasks by identifying tasks users carry out often. PIM and TIM can be seen as complimentary since an efficient organization of personal information can help in the discovery of data relevant to a task.[11]

Personal Interaction Management System

Figure 1: Basic Outlines of a PIMS

Akrivi Katifori et. al.:[12]

The motivation of our work on personal ontologies has been the vision of more activity-centric computing and the general aim of moving from systems focusing on the management of personal information (i.e. PIM) to systems focusing on the management of personal interaction. We define Personal Interaction Management System (PIMS) to be a system that supports the user in executing tasks in an interactive and efficient way, providing at the same time effective and transparent mechanisms for maintaining the user’s personal document collection.

In order for a PIMS to be effective, it should provide mechanisms for user profiling, semantic storage of documents and context inference. Figure 1 shows a sketch view of the main components a PIMS must include to support this functionality. The information sources side (documents, emails etc.) is linked to the computation side (actions) through two main components:

  • A recognizer finding suitable fragments of the raw information that are semantically meaningful and that can be used to initiate or feed into actions
  • A personal ontology that contains knowledge specific to the user (people, projects, etc.).


  1. Jones, W., Phuwanartnurak, A. J., Gill, R., & Bruce, H. (2005, April 2-7). 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.
  2. Peterson, W. W., Birdsall, T. G., & Fox, W. C. (1954). The theory of signal detectability. Institute of Radio Engineers Transactions, PGIT-4, 171-212.
  3. Jones, W. (2004).Finders, keepers? The present and future perfect in support of personal information management. First Monday.
  4. Jones, W. (2007). Personal information management. In B. Cronin (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) (Vol. 41). Medford, NJ: Information Today.
  5. Richard Boardman, 2004, Improving Tool Support for Personal Information Management, Doctoral dissertation, Imperial College, London
  6. Tom Wilson. Definition of information management. In J. Feather and P. Sturges, editors, International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science. London: Routledge, 2002.
  7. Ofer Bergman, Ruth Beyth-Marom and Rafi Nachmias. The user-subjective approach to personal information management systems. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(9), 2003.
  8. Lucy M. Berlin, Robin Jeffries, Vicki L. Q'Day, Andreas Paepke and Cathleen Wharton. Where did you put it? issues in the design and use of a group memory. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, pages 23–30. ACM Press, 1993.
  9. Scott Weiss. Glossary of information retrieval, 1997. http://www.cs.jhu.edu/~weiss/glossary.html.
  10. TIM Task-centered Information Management
  11. George Lepouras, Alan Dix and Akrivi Katifori. OntoPIM: From Personal Information Management to Task Information Management. PIM workshop 2006
  12. Akrivi Katifori et. al. Personal Ontology Creation and Visualization for a Personal Interaction Management System. Workshop on The Disappearing Desktop: Personal Information Management 2008. 5th&6th April 2008, CHI2008, Florence, Italy