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Colloquium - Suchman

Putting Working Document Collections Online
Xerox PARC
2/8/1999
4:00pm-5:00pm

The Carquinez Bridge Replacement Project is a civil engineering initiative within the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), charged with the design of a replacement bridge over the Carquinez Straits at the north end of the San Francisco Bay. For the past two years I and my colleagues in the Work Practice & Technology area at Xerox PARC have been engaged in a collaborative research effort with engineers in the Carquinez Project group, focused on a collection of documents called the engineering project files. Together we're exploring what it would mean to create an electronic version of the files, currently maintained on paper in three ring binders.

The project files are an instance of what we've termed working document collections, occupying a niche between the active documents on one's desktop and those stored in an archive. Project files are maintained by every project team at Caltrans, and comprise a kind of cumulative documentary record of a given engineering project. The documents in the files are extremely heterogeneous, ranging from standard business correspondence to quite specialized charts, maps and other exhibits tied to the particular requirements of civil engineering. Documents are filed according to the Caltrans Uniform Filing System, a hierarchically arranged set of categories designed roughly to map the chronological course of a project.

Our intervention is aimed at defining the work practice and technology requirements for migrating the project files from paper to digital media, integrated with Caltrans' developing intranet. Our approach is to require minimal overhead for putting documents into the collection, while providing opportunities for arbitrarily extensible, iterative, and modifiable document coding, and multiple strategies for document retrieval.

Hosted by Leysia Palen.
Refreshments will be served immediately following the talk in ECOT 831.

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