Activity Histories

Design Lab

Activity Histories is a research group based in the Design Lab at UC San Diego. We develop tools to help people track, resume, and reflect on their everyday work. We work closely with groups at the University of Maryland, and Université Lyon 1.


Our working lives are increasingly interrupted by meetings, emails, notifications, and colleagues. These interruptions foster collaboration but fragment time and attention, making it difficult to work on any one project for more than a few minutes. Restoring our physical, digital, and mental workspaces after each interruption takes significant effort. While we have tools to help us get our desks and desktops back in order, it is much harder to recover those thoughts and intentions that guide and motivate our activities. We believe that interacting with visual summaries of past work activity can help people recover this mental context and get back to doing deep, meaningful work.


Jim Hollan

Aurélien Tabard

Adam Rule

Amy Fox

Karen Boyd

Rizwan Ahmad

Past Members

Jonas Kemper
Azeem Ghumman
Kendall Youngstrom
Maxime Guillaux
Audréa Malialin


Rule A, Tabard A, Boyd K and Hollan J. (2015) Restoring the Context of Interrupted Work with Desktop Thumbnails. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.


We keep all of our code on Github.