Information needs in technical work settings and their implications for the design of computer tools


We interviewed information workers in multiple technical areas of a large, diverse company, and we describe some of the unsatisfied information needs we observed during our study. Two clusters of issues are described. The first covers how loosely coupled work groups use and share information. We show the need to structure information for multiple, partly unanticipated uses. We show how the construction of information compounds helps users accomplish some of this restructuring, and we explain how structuring flexibility is also required because of temperamental differences among users. The second cluster of issues revolves around collections of tightly coupled work groups. We show that information shared within such groups differs from information shared across group boundaries. We present the barriers to sharing which we saw operating both within groups and outside, and we explain the function of resource and contact broker which evolved in the settings we examined. For each of these issues we propose implications for information tool design.

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Paepcke, A. Information needs in technical work settings and their implications for the design of computer tools. Comput Supported Coop Work 5, 63–92 (1996).

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Key words

  • Digital library
  • groupware
  • information sharing
  • information compounds
  • collaborative work
  • information brokers
  • knowledge workers
  • information search and retrieval