By Topic


Mark S. Ackerman

Associate Professor
School of Information
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

University of Michigan

(Last updated 3/31/04) Papers appear in html and Adobe pdf. Click here for instructions.


By date (selected publications, with exact citations)

Find publications by topic (papers appear in multiple topics)

Very recent publications

Getting registered for new paper notifications


Organizational memory, knowledge management, expertise management (and collaborative help)

    The latest paper is at the bottom of this section.

  • The earliest Answer Garden paper (pdf) from the ACM Conference on Office Information Systems, 1990 (COIS'90). This is an organizational memory application with some interesting properties.

  • A field study of Answer Garden (pdf, html) (html has no figures) from the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW'94). This paper describes Answer Garden and reports usage data and social observations from a field study of two research sites over three months. This is my thesis, boiled down to 10 pages.

    The canonical reference for Answer Garden is the journal paper that appeared in the ACM Transactions on Information Systems, July, 1998 (digital library link).

  • Meta-issues in organizational memory (abstract, pdf, html). This papers deals with the social use of organizational memory. The paper argues that there are some serious contextual issues when trying to store and recover organizational, group, and community memory. Based on additional field studies.

    A later version of this paper appears in Information Technology & People. That version is not available online.

  • The ASSIST, a sibling application to the Answer Garden, described (pdf). This paper overstates the organizational memory side to this application, but it's a really cool system to support a scientific community.

    A substantially later journal paper (pdf of preprint) describes the ASSIST system and its support for task-oriented memories that are embedded within important organizational tasks (i.e., what we call memories in the small). Written with Eric Mandel.

  • A field study of the Zephyr Help Instance, in pdf and html. Zephyr is a chat-like system at MIT, and its Help Instance is a successful collaborative help application. The paper explores why the system has continued to be successful over time. Written with Leysia Palen.

  • A brief description of The Cafe ConstructorKit (pdf, html). The Cafe ConstructionKit is a CSCW toolkit that includes information retrieval and computer-mediated communication components. It has been used to build the Answer Garden 2 application (below).

  • An examination of social activity indicators, user interface components to promote activity in CSCW systems. The paper includes a longer description of the Cafe ConstructionKit. In pdf and in html (html is without figures). Written with Brian Starr.

  • The description of Answer Garden 2, the successor system to Answer Garden (pdf, html). Written with Dave McDonald.

  • A field study of how people find expertise in a medium-sized software company (pdf) Written with Dave McDonald (thesis work).

    Relatively little work has been done in how people use others to answer questions. This study examines how people search out expertise. The paper describes the identification, selection, and escalation behaviors found, and considers the resulting design implications.

  • Analyses of organizational memory. Written with Christine Halverson.

    In these papers we develop an analytical framework to examine what memory in an organization really is. Based on an ethnographic study of a telephone hotline group, these papers present micro-level analyses of hotline calls, the work activity surrounding the calls, and the memories used in the work activity. We do these analyses from the viewpoint of distributed cognition theory, finding it fruitful for an understanding of an organization's memory.

    The CSCW'98 paper presents the data and discusses the distributed nature of the memory in more depth; the HICSS'99 paper frames a theoretical language for describing and analyzing organizational memory. The Computer-Supported Cooperative Work Journal paper supercedes (and combines) both. The Communications of the ACM paper is a short version of the analyses.

      "Organizational Memory: Processes, Boundary Objects, and Trajectories." (A pre-press pdf version of the journal article and a official Kluwver-Springer version.) This is the full analysis and analytical framework (4/2004).
      "Considering an Organization's Memory" (html, pdf). From the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW'98).
      "Organizational Memory: Processes, Boundary Objects, and Trajectories" (pdf). From the HICSS'99 conference.
      A shorter version can be found in the Communications of the ACM (digital library link) (1/2000)

  • A recommender system for finding people called Expertise Recommender (ER) (pdf). This is part of Dave McDonald's thesis work.
  • A study of technical support in a large aircraft manufacturer. Also a study of boundary objects in use. (pdf) Part of Wayne Lutters' thesis work.
  • A study of a particular memory artifact and how it evolved - a "cheat sheet" used by air traffic controllers (pdf). With Christine Halverson.
  • A new system, iDiag, to collect and then distill community brainstorming sessions. (pdf)


  • Privacy Critics are small-scale agents that help safeguard users' privacy. They are meant to augment and warn the user, rather than to automate privacy protocols and interactions. This is a short paper from CHI'99 (pdf), written with Lorrie Cranor.

  • Before finishing the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project protocol (P3P from the World Wide Web Consortium), we conducted a survey study of what people actually want from a privacy protocol. The protocol design changed considerably as a result of this study. Of particular note to other privacy technologies is the finding that most users do not want complete automaticity of any private data exchange. Users want to okay any transfer of private data. Written with Lorrie Cranor and Joseph Reagle, and presented at the ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC'99) (pdf).

  • This is a general overview article about Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). The paper also positions privacy as a collective information problem and also shows why privacy is a "wicked" problem (i.e., a problem that cannot be fully solved or perhaps even stated) for CSCW and Human-Computer Interaction (pdf of pre-print).

  • This article situates the Privacy Critics in the general discourse about the possibilities for privacy-enhancing regulations and technologies in the US. From the ACM CFP'2000 conference (pdf).

  • A discussion of privacy in pervasive (or ubiquitous computing) environments - what someof the problems will be in next-generation computational environments. (pdf) With Danny Weitzner and Trevor Darrell.

  • Largely as a historical note, I was the editor of the original architectural overview specification for P3P.

Digital libraries and information repositories

  • A short paper on the digital library as social space (pdf, html).

  • A consideration of the institutional requirements of maintaining informal information inside a digital library, in pdf and in html (html is without pictures). Written with Roy Fielding.

The Web and agents

  • An agent that scouts for new information on known locations in a digital library on or the Web in a collaborative manner in pdf and in html. Written with Brian Starr.

  • A later paper (html, pdf) about the Do-I-Care agent (DICA). DICA is an agent that does collaborative discovery of interesting material from Web sites. Written with Brian Starr and Mike Pazzani.

  • Privacy critics are small agents that augment a user's capability to control their personal data on the Web, ensuring their privacy. (pdf) With Lorrie Cranor.

  • This paper, which discusses the iDiag system, briefly discusses a set of agents used to handle social maintenance and social facilitation in virtual communities. (pdf)

Virtual communities, electronic social spaces

  • An investigation of whether an audio-only media space, called Thunderwire, could form a suitable social space for use (html , pdf ). Written with Debby Hindus, Scott Mainwaring, and Brian Starr.

  • A description of a game MUD (in html). The paper describes how entertainment, the need for management, and computing all interact with the social place. Written with Jack Muramatsu.

  • A study of a online community of Disney "enthusiasts". The paper describes how "being local" in a geographical area and being online can create a synergistic system. (pdf) With Wayne Lutters.


  • And for something completely different, an examination of the use of metaphors in computer science (html, pdf).

As a reward for browsing this page, you might find this page amusing.


To use the Adobe pdf files, you need Acrobat Reader. It can be obtained free from Adobe.

The html versions for only the later papers have screen shots for reasons too gory to detail here.

If you have problems getting or viewing these files, please let me know. My email address is at the bottom of this page.


If you would like to be notified when new papers are available, please send me email at ackerm at umich dot edu. Let me know what topics you're interested in.



The documents distributed by this server have been provided by the contributing authors as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a noncommercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.


Back to my home page.

Mail me at ackerm at umich dot edu