Manas Tungare

Mental Workload in Multi-Device Personal Information Management

Manas Tungare, Manuel Pérez-Quiñones

Selected to present at the CHI Student Research Competition, and ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2009 Works-in-Progress

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Abstract: Knowledge workers increasingly use multiple devices such as desktop computers, laptops, cell phones, and PDAs for personal information management (PIM) tasks. The use of several of these devices together creates higher task difficulty for users than when used individually (as reported in a recent survey we conducted). Prompted by this, we are conducting an experiment to study mental workload in multi-device scenarios. While mental workload has been shown to decrease at sub-task boundaries, it has not been studied if this still holds for sub-tasks performed on different devices. We hypothesize that the level of support provided by the system for task migration affects mental workload. Mental workload measurements can enable designers to isolate critical sub-tasks and redesign or optimize the user experience selectively. In addition, we believe that mental workload shows promise as a cross-tool, cross-task method of evaluating PIM tools, services and strategies, thus fulfilling a need expressed by several researchers in the area of personal information management. In this paper, we describe our ongoing experiment of measuring mental workload (via physiological as well as subjective measures) and its implications for users, designers and researchers in PIM.