Subject Index

Culture and Technology
Covers issues of a broader social nature.

For related resources, see Information Architecture.

The following resources are our top picks in this category.

The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. G. Miller. From: Psychological Review. 63:2, 81-97 (1956)
The span of absolute judgment and the span of immediate memory impose severe limitations on the amount of information that we are able to receive, process, and remember. The process of recoding is a very important one in human psychology and deserves much more explicit attention than it has received.
Note: See Larson, Kevin and Mary Czerwinski. Web Page Design: Implications of Memory, Structure and Scent for Information Retrieval.

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. (1977)
This book offers a practical language for building and planning based on natural considerations. By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own.

Strange Connections. Peter Morville.
The author's bi-weekly column on the evolving definition of information architecture.

The Timeless Way of Building. Christopher Alexander. (1979)
This book explains the idea of patterns in architecture. A pattern is a way to solve a specific problem, by bringing two conflicting forces into balance.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Scott McCloud. (1993)
This book explains the details of how comics work: how they're composed, read and understood. More than just a book about comics, this gets to the heart of how we deal with visual languages in general.

The following are also excellent resources.

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Ray Kurzweil. (2000)
This book is focused on predictions about how and when computers will become smarter than humans. Much of the content of the book lays the groundwork to justify the author's timeline, providing an engaging primer on the philosophical and technological ideas behind the study of consciousness.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. Christopher Locke and Rick Levine.
This resource includes seven essays filled with dozens of stories and observations about how business gets done in America and how the Internet will change it all. It is for anyone interested in the Internet and e-commerce, and is especially important for those businesses struggling to navigate the topography of the wired marketplace.
Note: The book is available through

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built. Stewart Brand. (1995)
Kind of like the theory that a literary text is never closed, but is temporarily appropriated in its reading and rereading, the author proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can grow from artists of space into artists of time.

I Can't Stop Thinking! Scott McCloud.
This monthly/bimonthly feature is the author's way of expanding on the ideas in his book "Reinventing Comics." He has some especially interesting things to say on navigation.

In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. Shoshana Zuboff. (1988)
The author argues that today's computer revolution in the workplace confronts us with a momentous choice either to automate, dehumanizing work and alienating workers, or to informate, giving workers the knowledge to make critical, collaborative judgments.

Information Anxiety 2001. Richard Saul Wurman. 2nd ed. (2000)
The author examines how the Internet, desktop computing, and advances in digital technology have not simply enhanced access to information, but in fact have changed the way we live and work. In examining the sources of information anxiety, the author takes an in-depth look at how technological advances can hinder understanding and influence how business is conducted.

Information Ecologies: Using Technology With Heart. Bonnie A. Nardi and Vicki L. O'Day. (1999)
This book discusses how the average citizen has become distanced from the process of designing technology, resulting in technology that doesn't adequately serve the user's needs. The authors define information ecology as "a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment."

Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian. (1998)
The authors consider how to market and distribute goods in the network economy, citing examples from industries as diverse as airlines, software, entertainment, and communications. The authors cover issues such as pricing, intellectual property, versioning, lock-in, compatibility, and standards.

Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate. Steven Johnson. (1999)
This book shows how computer interfaces have transformed our lives. In up-to-the-minute examples, the author presents a compelling case for a cultural shift as important as the one that accompanied the rise of literacy or the fall of the church.

Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form. Scott McCloud. (2000)
This book chronicles the failure of the comic book industry to break through as a legitimate art form, but also explores how the movement can be restarted.

The Social Life of Information. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. (2000)
The authors cast their gaze on the many trends and ideas proffered by infoenthusiasts over the years, such as software agents; the electronic cottage; and the rise of knowledge management and the challenges it faces trying to manage how people actually work and learn in the workplace. Their aim is not to pass judgment but to help remedy the tunnel vision that prevents technologists from seeing the larger social context that their ideas must ultimately inhabit.

Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star. (2000)
This book is an attempt to sort out exactly how and why we classify and categorize the things and concepts we encounter day to day. With precise academic language, the authors pick apart our information systems and language structures that lie deeper than the everyday categories we use.

Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine. Donald Norman. (1994)
An examination of the complex interaction between the human mind and the "tools for thought" the mind creates calls for the development of machines that fit that mind rather than ones to which humans must tailor their minds.

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. George Lakoff. (1990)
What do categories of language and thought reveal about the human mind? This book has repercussions in a variety of disciplines, ranging from anthropology and psychology to epistemology and the philosophy of science.