The following paragraphs are quoted verbatim from the sleeve:
“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 nineteenth-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 explained
a rapidly industrializing 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 hardly any tech tinker has 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 ten 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.
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.