combinFormation: Mixed-Initiative Composition of Image and Text Surrogates Promotes Information Discovery Academic Article uri icon


  • combinFormation is a mixed-initiative creativity support tool for searching, browsing, organizing, and integrating information. Images and text are connected to represent surrogates (enhanced bookmarks), optimizing the use of human cognitive facilities. Composition, an alternative to lists and spatial hypertext, is used to represent a collection of surrogates as a connected whole, using principles from art and design. This facilitates the creative process of information discovery , in which humans develop new ideas while finding and collecting information. To provoke the user to think about the large space of potentially relevant information resources, a generative agent proactively engages in collecting information resources, forming image and text surrogates, and composing them visually. The agent develops the collection and its visual representation over time, enabling the user to see ideas and relationships. To keep the human in control, we develop interactive mechanisms for authoring the composition and directing the agent. In a field study in an interdisciplinary course on The Design Process, over a hundred students alternated using combinFormation and Google+Word to collect prior work on information discovery invention assignments. The students that used combinFormation's mixed-initiative composition of image and text surrogates performed better.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Kerne, A., Koh, E., Smith, S. M., Webb, A., & Dworaczyk, B.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Kerne, Andruid||Koh, Eunyee||Smith, Steven M||Webb, Andrew||Dworaczyk, Blake

publication date

  • January 2009