Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

by Steven Johnson

Representing all that information is going to require a new visual language, as complex and meaningful as the great metropolitan narratives of the 19th-century novel."--from "Interface Culture"In this hip, erudite manifesto, Steven Johnson--one of the most influential people in cyberspace, according to "Newsweek" bridges the gap that yawns between technology and the arts.

The result is a lush cultural and historical tableau in which today's interfaces take their rightful place in the lineage of artistic innovation.With "Interface Culture," Johnson brilliantly charts the vital role interface design plays in modern society.

Just as the great novels of Melville, Dickens and Zola explain a rapidly industralizing society to itself, he argues, web sites, Microsoft Bob, flying toasters and the landscapes of video games tell the digital society how to imagine itself and how to get around in cyberspace's unfamiliar realm.The role once played by novelists is now fulfilled by the interface designer, who has bridged the gap between technology and everyday life by providing a conceptual framework for the vast amounts of information and computation that surround us.Johnson boldly explores the past--a terrain few tech thinkers have dared enter, and one that throws dazzling light on the modern interface's roots.

  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.68
  • Pages: 264
  • Publish Date: October 29th 1997 by Harper San Francisco

What People Think about "Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate"

(Johnson45) As with any form of technology that came before the digital, it was formed to represent the cultural, social and political values of the people of that time. Interface Culture speaks primarily about computers and how the screen was picked specifically so that the user would feel like they were entering into another world, but it had things like the keyboard and windows to make the user feel more comfortable. Steven Johnson, says for the magic of the digital revolution to take place, a computer must also represent itself to the user in a language that the user understands.

Johnson has some interesting theories and paradigms for how we should conceptualize our digital world but you don't really need to read the whole book to learn about them.

This might have been reasonable in the old days of stand-alone desktop computers, but in the age of the Internet, using an interface that doesn't offer some vision of public life can seem less like a cutting-edge exploration through information-space and more like a visit to Miss Havisham's. The cramped and crooked side streets of Paris up until the late nineteenth century (still visible in parts of the Latin Quarter and the Marais) invoked a human scale of neighborhoods and face-to-face contact, more like village life than that of a great metropolis. (The crowded conditions also created public health problems, of course, as in the 1832 cholera epidemic.) The city had an improvised, organic quality to it: streets wrapped haphazardly around each other, neighborhoods evolved unpredictably. There were a few regal execptions to this rule, buildings or public environs laid out by princes or priests, but for the most part the city was a great celebration of self-organization, a design etched out by millions of small-scale, local decisions, with no master planner in sight.'' 3) ''What, then, are the blind spots of our own age? Perhaps more important, perspective centered the visual field on the human point of view, instead of a disembodied or divine locus, a shift that was imitated in countless disciplines throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as scholars and artists and scientists grounded their work in the physical, lived reality of the human body.

"Como meu livro fazia essa ponte entre os dois mundos, ele acabou sendo recebido como algo conciliatório" lembra Johnson, "quando na verdade eu estava defendendo uma tese bastante radical sobre a importância do design de interface". O livro foi um sucesso e acabou se tornando um ponto de partida para outras discussões que, com um pouco de sorte, vão acabar se cristalizando em uma teoria para a crítica das interfaces.

There were any number of these "technology and culture" books churned out in the 1990's for a mass market, but this one is a keeper.

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