The Author PhD Project
Understanding Media ~ Marshall McLuhan
The place I go to get to grips with "The medium, or process, of our time."
Laws of Media ~ Marshall McLuhan and Eric McLuhan
Subtitled, "The New Science". You bet. A seriously worthwhile study of media. The Tetrad makes things transparent in a very interesting way.
Essential McLuhan ~ edited by Eric McLuhan & Frank Zingrone
More meaningful insights.
The Medium Is The Massage: An Inventory of Effects ~ Marshall McLuhan
Yes, another fantasticMcluhan.
Things That Make Us Smart ~ Donald A. Norman
A great introduction to one of the main issues of interface design; it's all around us, not just on our computer screens. This is the book which started me on this great voyage! Read it or loose out :)
Darwin Amongst The Machines ~ George Dyson
"In the game of life and evolution, there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machine. I am firmly on the side of nature, but nature, I suspect, is on the side of machines." A very lucid look at the relationship between nature at large and machines.
The User Illusion ~ Tor Norretranders
Although not too well received by Wired (what were they thinking?!), this is a fantastic book which gives useful and intriguing insight to the nature of information and our minds. It really does illuminate aspects of consciousness which have both practical and philosophical implications. Should be required reading for any human.
Out Of Control ~ Kevin Kelly [Out Of Control quotes available here]
The co-evolution between man and machine is only one of the many very exciting and thought provoking ideas in this great book. And he understands the importance of building better information environments.
"We now see that no logic except bio-logic can assemble a thinking device, or even a workable system of any magnitude". This marks the introduction of the central premise of the book. He goes on: "A distributed, decentralized network is more a process than a thing. In the logic of the Net there is a shift from nouns to verbs. Economists now reckon that commercial products are best treated as though they were services. It's not what something is, it's what it is connected to, what it does. Flows become more important than resources. Behavior counts".
But my favorite quote is a quote attributed to Marvin Minsky and Douglas Englebart when they met at MIT in the 50's.: "Minsky: 'We're going to make machines intelligent. We are going to make them conscious!' Englebart: 'You're going to do all that for computers? But what are you going to do for people?"
Doug says of the quote though: "I don't know about meeting him in the '50s; I wasn't until '62 that I connected at all with the AI community -- a week (or two?) workshop on AI held at RAND, with Allen Newell and Herb Simon as major part of the "faculty." Minsky wasn't there. Probably didn't meet Minsky until summer '63 at a 6-week working group at MIT on timesharing, sponsored by ARPA. I don't remember much/any interaction directly with Minsky. Might have had that interchange. Did have a fair amount of interaction with Newell over those early years -- some of them were quite definitely having two different visions not aligning; but friends anyway." I still love that quote.
Global Brain ~ Howard Bloom
A well researched treatize on connectedness. "The instant of creation marked the dawn of sociality. neutron is a particle filled with need. It is unable to sustain itself for longer than ten minutes. To survive, it must find at least one mate..."
Tools for thought ~ Howard Rheingold [Available at: http://www.well.com/user/hlr/texts/tftindex.html]
An exciting and inspirational history of computers. Introduced me to Doug for the first time.
Weaving the Web. The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by its Inventor ~ Tim Berners Lee
The story and insights from the creation of the World Wide Web by the man himself. Excellent.
The Visual Display Of Quantitive Information ~ Edward Tufte
Amazon puts it well: "A timeless classic in how complex information should be presented graphically. The Strunk & White of visual design. Should occupy a place of honor--within arm's reach--of everyone attempting to understand or depict numerical data graphically. The design of the book is an exemplar of the principles it espouses: elegant typography and layout, and seamless integration of lucid text and perfectly chosen graphical examples."
Why, in this day and ago of sophisticated computer graphics, do only the most dedicated graphic designers study how to most clearly communicate?
We have an amazing visual bandwidth, yet waste it with poor informaiton visualizing. Designers, please go read...
The Age Of The Spiritual Machine ~ Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil simply extrapolates Moore's Law into the next century, with profound consequences.
The Day Before Yesterday ~ Colin Tudge. Called "The Time Before History" on Amazon.
Stopped me in my tracks. When I read about India crashing in to Asia changing the worlds climate, what we now so narrow-mindedly call pre-history came alive. It helps me think beyond my current projects...
The descriptions of evolution is also eye opening. Very much so in fact.
War In The Age of Intelligent Machines ~ Manuel De Landa
Not so much about the military, this book is more about the "shift in the relation of human beings both to machines and to information". It is written from the perspective of a future robot historian looking back.
Are we merely a catalyst in the evolution of machines reaching consciousness?
The book is also very much concerned with non-organic life and the spontaneous cooperation of parts previously unrelated, becoming a system. "...turbulence is now regarded as a process of self-organization".
I ask; can we develop interfaces to let us see what is happening to us, to humanity, our humanity, our are interfaces merely tentacles for the machines to wrap themselves around our minds?
The Future of the Book ~ Edited by Geoffrey Nunberg
Will computers replace books? I hope you are not asking that common and silly question. This book doesn't either, although it's title sure seems to.
Rather it is an investigation into what a book really is, what it does, what it represents, and how it fits in with other media, primarily computers. "..the critical distinction between 'the book' and other forms of printed matter is not the physical form of the printed word, or the implicit set of social actors that it requires (author, printer, publisher and reader), but rather the mode of temporality that the book establishes between those actors.
The book is a slow form of exchange. The book form serves precisely to defer action, to widen the temporal gap between thought and deed, to create a space for reflection and debate. The book, as Marcel Proust recognized, is a fulcrum that creates space out of time". It is not just the resolution of the computer screen which separates computers and books as is so often referred to when the issue of books becoming obsolete comes up.
It goes on to mirror "Out of Control" when it discusses the "eletronification of the modern literary system"; "Knowledge is no longer that which is contained in a space, but that which passes through it".
A History of Knowledge ~ Charles Van Doren
"The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity". " A book of many "Hmmm...'s" For example; "The Inca never discovered writing". Hmmm.... It serves to remind us, amongst other things, that 'interface' issues didn't just appear when PC's came on the scene.
The Artful Universe ~ John D. Barrow
"The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity". An examination of our place in the Cosmos. "Let us step back from the minutiae of biological evolution on Earth, where vast complexity is promoted by a process that we have come to call 'competition', whereby each species actually seeks a niche that will minimize it's need to compete with rivals".
"Whereas a work of Western art would be displayed continuously, a delicate oriental silkscreen might be unrolled only for occasional periods of silent solitary meditation". How we interface changes what it is.
Why Things Bite Back ~ Edward Tenner
A book which really treat computer systems as part of the rest of our world, not isolated pieces of machinery. If only more systems designers were to read it. "For both technophiles and technophobes, the best, and perhaps the only, way to avoid the revenge effects of computing is to maintain skills and resources that are independent of the computer. We can learn back-of-the-envelope calculation to beware of misplaced decimal points..."
Groupware in the 21st Century ~ Edited by Peter Lloyd
This is where we're going baby! Lets make sure it won't be groupware in virtual cement rooms filled with molasses shall we? "...groupware seeks to open up contacts and channels of influence." It's not about sharing calendars.
White Heat ~ Carroll Pursell
The sub title reads, "People and Technology". It would be easy to call this book a history of interface design since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Hardly computer orientated at all, except of course as we move in to its information age chapter. It's historical perspective is what gives it it's value, as "A History of Knowledge" above, but here from a more direct 'interface' perspective. "Like other technologies, those organized around the storage, transmission, and analysis of information are hardly neutral."
Bringing Design To Software ~ Terry Winograd
About bloody time! Here is a book outlining software design as a philosophy and a profession. Thought provoking and intelligent. "The real work lies in generating a change of perspective that can engender new directions and new ideas." And as in Tog below: "The literal meaning is but the shadow of the meaning in context."
Tog On Software Design ~ Bruce Tognazzini
Filled with great interface insights. "...commercial applications (called 'tool sets' in the Starfire world)," great terminology which helps shape our visions. "Julie's speech recognizer is aware of context" What does it take to give computers context? Not a lot, certainly not fully fledged AI, but it is oh so important.
The Fourth Discontinuity ~ Bruce Mazlish
People aren't separate from their machine. It's that simple.
The Making of Memory ~ Stephen Rose
"Computers process information, people process meaning." What more is there to say? Great insights into man, as machine.
The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design ~ Edited by Brenda Laurel
Lots of very simple, very cool and very thoughtful interface ideas. Has everyone at Apple involved with human computer interaction read it?...
Rob Swigart writes: " Unless we pause from time to time to consider how these metaphors work to create boundaries, and how they shift into new media, they will control us without our knowledge. Or our permission."
Alan Kay: "Though much of what McLuhan wrote was obscure and arguable, the sum total to me was a shock that reverberates even now. The computer is a medium!" And Kay on metaphors: "Fine as far as it goes. But it is the magic-understandable magic- that really counts."
Catching The Light ~ Arthur Zajonc
A book every artist, no scratch that, a book everyone who uses their eyes should read. It covers theories of light from poetic, scientific and spiritual perspectives throughout history, up to and including quantum physics. Very eloquent, very elucidating and very thought provoking.
"Newton had shown that if one extracted, say, yellow light from the spectrum produced by a prism, and mixed it with orange light similarly produced, then a color intermediate between the two-a yellow orange- appeared. Its particular hue depended on which color dominated the mixture, orange or yellow. (Edwin Land the inventor of instant photography) Land performed the same experiment but with a single important modification. He projected the yellow and orange light beams through black-and-white photographic transparencies. The transparencies depicted an identical still life scene but photographed through different-colored filters. With only the yellow image projected, one saw a purely monochrome -yellow still life on the screen. None of the original colors of the scene were present, only shades of yellow. The same was true when the second image alone was projected through the orange filter. Now however, the still life was entirely in shades of orange. With Newton in mind, what would you expect to see if both images were projected on top of one another? Hues somewhere between yellow and orange as before.? That is what I expected, and most members of the National Academy of Sciences expected the same. However, you do not see yellow oranges, far from it! Reenacting Land's demonstrations with Wilson, I saw what appeared to be a full range of colors I 'knew' simply could not be there! My eyes told me one story, my training as a physicist told me another. What was going on?"
We know so very little about how we input and process information.
The Mind's Sky ~ Timothy Ferris
A history of our view of our selves and the universe with a very interesting idea for the future. Not listed in Amazon, but his book; The Whole Shebang is. "A picture without a frame is not a picture- René Magritte".
Tools And Human Evolution ~ (Scientific American Sep 1960) Sherwood L. Washburn
Don't Tell It magazine ~ August/September 95
For the great Timothy Leary article. I thought he was a nutter til I read this. Boy was I wrong! "The PC is the LSD of the 90's" is just the beginning.