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Project | Managed Forgetting


Sustaining Grass-roots Organizational Memories: Foundations and Methods of Managed Forgetting for Knowledge Workers

Introducing ‘forgetting’ into organizational knowledge management methods and practices promises to help overcome information overload and to ease focusing on and refinding the really important things. In this project, we will investigate foundations and methods of ‘managed’ forgetting - an evidence-based routine of intentional forgetting that does not require conscious will. Managed forgetting aims to translate cognitive mechanisms especially the focusing power of forgetting into the digital world, while at the same time complementing human remembering and forgetting. This is done by automatically collecting a variety of evidences for predicting the importance of information items and by combining the inferred information value - the ‘memory buoyancy’ - with a flexible set of forgetting actions.

A well-founded and usable concept of managed forgetting requires comprehensive interdisciplinary research of the foundations and methods as well as of its embedding into knowledge management processes. For achieving the objectives experts from three different domains – cognitive science, information analysis and retrieval and knowledge management – will closely work together in this project. Cognitive science experiments will deepen the understanding of relevant cognitive processes, namely the processes underlying saving-enhanced memory and compare them to directed forgetting. Based on the interdisciplinary foundations we will develop multifaceted methods for information value assessment, which help in understanding the current item importance. The learned memory buoyancy will be used to develop and evaluate ‘forgetful’ information access methods for a grass-roots organizational memory, which create conceptual alternatives to the keep-or-delete paradigm, e.g., information hiding or summarization. For embedding into organizational knowledge management we will link managed forgetting to tasks and investigate the extension to groups of knowledge workers. Finally, we will investigate the effects on the user, which incorporates empirical testing and investigating the interactions between human and digital forgetting.

Evaluation and experiments will play a crucial role in the project. Therefore, the Semantic Desktop is providing an ideal crystallization point for our interdisciplinary research: (a) It supports the typical activities of a knowledge worker, e.g. in administration; (b) it already maps the conceptual organization of the human cognitive system into a grass-roots organizational knowledge management system via an personal ontology and (c) it provides a testbed for technical, cognitive and interdisciplinary research and experimentation.

The project bridges two research areas of the Schwerpunktprogramm "Intentional Forgetting in Organisations" (SPP 1921), namely ‘Arbeitsfeld 1’ for investigating the personal and team view of knowledge workers on forgetting and ‘Arbeitsfeld 2’ to realize managed forgetting for a knowledge-based system.


  • Universität Hannover (L3S)
  • Universität Trier (Kognitive Psychologie)

Publications about the project


DFG - German Research Foundation

Schwerpunktprogramm **Intentional Forgetting in Organisationen** (SPP 1921)

DFG - German Research Foundation