Google Research

Sustainability of Bits, not just Atoms

  • Manas Tungare
  • Manuel Pérez-Quiñones
  • Pardha S. Pyla
  • Ben Hanrahan
  • Uma Murthy
  • Ricardo Quintana-Castillo
Proceedings of the CHI 2010 Workshop: Examining Appropriation, Re-use, and Maintenance for Sustainability


In this paper, we discuss sustainability as it applies to digital artifacts and personal information. We continually create and/or receive new information items in the form of emails, files, photos, media, etc., but once these artifacts enter our information ecosystems, they stay permanently and are rarely deleted even if their intrinsic value is no longer the same as earlier. This impacts information seeking tasks negatively, as users must now learn to navigate a larger corpus of information, and leads to information overload. We describe the technological causes of information overload in the context of existing finding, filing, and refiling practices and information heirlooms. We conclude with an example of a solution that can address this challenge.

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