Making sense of digital footprints in team-based legal investigations: the acquisition of focus


Attfield, S. and Blandford, A. 2011. Making sense of digital footprints in team-based legal investigations: the acquisition of focus. Human Computer Interaction. 26 (1-2), pp. 38-71.
TitleMaking sense of digital footprints in team-based legal investigations: the acquisition of focus
AuthorsAttfield, S. and Blandford, A.

Sensemaking occurs when people face the problem of forming an understanding of a situation. One scenario in which technology has a particularly significant impact on sensemaking and its success is in legal investigations. Legal investigations extend over time, are resource intensive, and require the sifting and re-representation of large collections of electronic evidence and close collaboration between multiple investigators. In this paper, we present an account of sensemaking in three corporate legal investigations. We summarise information interaction processes in the form of a model which conceptualises processes as resource transformations triggered and shaped by both bottom-up and top-down resources. The model both extends upon and validates aspects of a previous account of investigative sensemaking (Pirolli & Card, 2005) and brings to the fore two kinds of focusing. Data focusing involves identifying and structuring information to draw out facts relevant to a given set of investigation issues. Issue focusing involves revising the issues in the light of new insights. Both are essential in sensemaking. We draw this distinction through detailed accounts of two activities in the investigations: reviewing documents for relevance and the creation and use of external representations. This provides a basis for a number of requirements for sensemaking support systems, particularly in collaborative settings, including: document annotation, dynamically associating documents of a given type; interacting with documents in fluid ways; linking external representation elements to evidence; filtering external representations in flexible ways; and viewing external representations at different levels of scale and fidelity. Finally, we use our data to analyse the conceptual elements within a 'line of enquiry‘. This provides a framework which can form the basis for partitioning information into hierarchically embedded enquiry 'contexts‘ within collaborative sensemaking systems.

PublisherTaylor and Francis
JournalHuman Computer Interaction
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Publication process dates
Deposited04 Jan 2011
Output statusPublished
Additional information

Special edition on sensemaking

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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