Interface Culture by Stephen Johnson
How the Digital Medium--from Windows to the Web--Changes the way We Write, Speak

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Synopsis

"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 . . . 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. Drawing on his own expertise in the humanities and on the Web, he not only demonstrates how interfaces--those buttons, graphics and words on the screen through which we control information--influence our daily lives, but also tracks their roots back to Victorian novels, early cinema and even medieval urban planning. 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. From the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages to the rise of perspective drawing in the Renaissance, from Enlightenment satire to the golden age of television, Interface Culture uses a wealth of venerable "interface innovation" to place newfangled creations like Windows 95 and the Web in a rich historical context.

Controversial, clear-sighted and challenging, Interface Culture also looks at the future--from what PC screens will look like in 10 years to how new interfaces will alter the style of our conversation, prose and thoughts. With a distinctively accessible style, Interface Culture brings new intellectual depth to the vital discussion of how technology has transformed society, and is sure to provoke wide debate in both literary and technological circles.

 

About Stephen Johnson

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Steven Johnson has been named one of the most influential people in cyberspace by Newsweek, New York Magazine, and Websight magazine. He is the editor-in-chief and cofounder of Feed, the award-winning online cultural magazine. Johnson has degrees in semiotics from Brown University and in English Literature from Columbia University. He lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
 
Published October 8, 1997 by HarperOne. 272 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Computers & Technology, Education & Reference, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Interface Culture

Publishers Weekly

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Part of the problem is the hyperbole endemic to the field--a weakness to which Johnson is sensitive but susceptible (he criticizes techno-boosters who call the Internet ""the greatest invention since the discovery of fire,"" then writes two pages later that ""the most fertile analogy"" for the di...

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Spirituality & Practice

Still, the act of comprehending our infinite universe of data through the figureheads and symbolic gestures of the interface, the whole project of 'infinity imagined' — this experience runs parallel to the metaphors and sense-making narratives of most organized religions," writes Steven Johnson i...

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