Notes on Steven Johnson -- Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the way we Create and Communicate

Steven Johnson — Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the way we Create and Communicate (YRL: T58.5 .J64 1997)

"The idea of information-space had been around for thousands of years, but until Engelbart's demo, it was mostly just that: an idea"(11).

The Greek poet Simonides…was famous for his uncanny ability to build what rhetoricians call 'memory palaces.' These were the original information-spaces: stories turned into architecture, abstract concepts transformed into expansive - and meticulously decorated - imaginary houses"(12).

"The crucial technological breakthrough lies instead with this idea of the computer as a symbolic system, a machine that traffics in representations or signs rather than in the mechanical cause-and-effect of the cotton gin or automobile"(15).

"As our machines are increasingly jacked into global networks of information, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine the dataspace at our fingertips, to picture all that complexity in our mind's eye - the way city dwellers, in the sociologist Kevin Lynch's phrase, 'cognitively map' their real-world environs"(18).

"Representing all that information is going to require a new visual language, as complex and meaningful as the great metropolitan narratives of the nineteenth-century novel. We can already see the first stirrings of this new form in recent interface designs that have moved beyond the two-dimensional desktop metaphor into more immersive digital environments"(18).

"For the illusion of information-space to work, you had to be able to get your hands dirty, move things around, make things happen"(21).

Johnson is not quite correct in his analysis in these two quotes:
"For centuries, Western culture had fantasized about its technology in prosthetic terms, as a supplement to the body…"(23).
"For the first time, a machine was imagined not as an attachment to our bodies, but as an environment, a space to be explored"(24).

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License