Patterns from the physical world finding its way into the virtual one. Still relevant and urgent, after all these decades.
“Christopher Alexander has been a leading pioneer of academic research on architectural and urban design since the early 1960s. He is also a practicing architect and builder with a passion for creating and restoring life and beauty to our physical environment. In this essay I review, evaluate, and reflect on some of his particularly fruitful, promising, or problematic ideas. I will put forth some ideas of my own for clarification, and to indicate avenues for future research. I argue that Alexander’s notion of patterns (a verbal medium for capturing and conveying design knowledge in a systematic, reusable form) is in need of conceptual development along lines I suggest, even though Alexander downplayed the significance of patterns as he moved on to other theoretical ideas (mainly about aesthetics) later in his career. While I go into some detail about selected parts of Alexander’s work, the intended readership of this essay is not restricted to specialists. I have made an effort to provide guidance and background information to readers not already familiar with Alexander’s comprehensive body of theory.”
Per Galle a.k.a. /per-galle ~ She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 6.3 ★
This classic never disappoints.
“An examination of the original diagrams by Charles-Joseph Minard, and related materials by Léon Lalanne and Émile Cheysson in the ENPC Archives.”
Paul Kahn a.k.a. /paulkahn | | @pauldavidkahn ~ Nightingale
He certainly was a big launcher of solving collective problems collectively.
“His goal was building systems to augment human intelligence. His group prototyped much of modern computing (and invented the mouse) along the way”
Marc Weber ~ Computer History Museum ★
We need to look back to see the future.
“Imagine someone demonstrating a jet plane 15 years before Kitty Hawk. Imagine someone demonstrating a smartphone 15 years before the first cellular networks were even launched. Imagine someone demonstrating a controlled nuclear chain reaction 15 years before Einstein formulated e=mc2. On a crisp, overcast, and breezy Monday afternoon in San Francisco on December 9, 1968, before an SRO audience of more than 2,000 slack-jawed computer engineers, a soft-spoken engineer named Douglas Engelbart held the first public demonstration of word processing, point-and-clicking, dragging-and-dropping, hypermedia and hyperlinking, cross-file editing, idea/outline processing, collaborative groupware, text messaging, onscreen real-time video teleconferencing, and a weird little device dubbed a “mouse” — the essentials of a graphical user interface (GUI) 15 years before the first personal computers went on sale.”
Stewart Wolpin ~ Mashable ★
Know thy history.
“However, there was steady progress. It took longer than many expected, but we collectively built the world imagined by Vannevar Bush, J. C. R. Licklider, Douglas Engelbart, Ivan Sutherland, Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, and others. In the 1960s, a few engineers and computer scientists used computers. Yet a common thread in their writing was of a time when people in diverse occupations would use computers routinely. We’re there.”
Jonathan Grudin a.k.a. /jonathan-grudin ~ ACM Interactions XXIV.2 ★
Eulogy by the master of preso on the master of stats.
“The Zen Master of data visualization has died. I am sorry to have to report that Dr. Hans Rosling passed away today in Uppsala, Sweden. He was just 68. A profoundly mournful day for anyone who knew Professor Rosling, obviously. But it’s also a sad day for all of us in the greater TED community or data visualization/business intelligence communities as well. Dr. Rosling’s work was seen by millions and will continue to be seen by millions worldwide. It is incalculable just how many professionals Hans inspired over the years. His presentations, always delivered with honesty, integrity, and clarity, were aided by clear visuals of both the digital and analog variety. He was a master statistician, physician, and academic, but also a superb presenter and storyteller. (…) Let us all remember Professor’s Rosling’s contributions and continue to keep the dream of a more fact-based, rational worldview alive.”
Garr Reynolds a.k.a. /garr-reynolds | @presentationzen ★
Know your classics. Skeumorphism avant-la-lettre.
“Kai Krause was born 1957 in Dortmund. He came to California in 1976 with two friends. He worked as a musician for Disney Sound Effects. In fact Kai won a Clio Award for his sound effects in a Star Wars radio spot. Emerson, Lake & Powell bought sound systems from him and he is still working with Peter Gabriel today in order to fulfill his vision of visualized music as 3D sculptures.”
Matthias Müller-Prove a.k.a. /mprove | @mprove ★
Allways know where you’re coming from.
“Design thinking has an amalgamation of approaches, this is still quite unique — which is why sometimes — design thinking is applied as more of an umbrella term that catches multi-disciplinary, human-centered projects that involve research and rapid ideation. Most recently it has begun to monitor and measure itself in a quantified way, a trick its leant from the business and economics sectors.”
Jo Szczepanska a.k.a. /joszczepanska | @szczpanks ★
He’s getting into the mainstream of science journalism.
“More than a century ago, Belgian information activist Paul Otlet envisioned a universal compilation of knowledge and the technology to make it globally available. He foresaw, in other words, some of the possibilities of today’s Web.”
Sidney Perkowitz ~ JStor Daily ★
Great collection of favs.
“Otlet was a Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer and peace activist. He is one of the founders of information science, a field he called ‘documentation’. Otlet created the Universal Decimal Classification, one of the most prominent examples of faceted classification.”
The Turing of cybernetics.
“A review of the contribution of Gordon Pask, the resident cybernetician on Cedric
Price’s Fun Palace. He describes why in the 21st century the work of this early proponent
and practitioner of cybernetics has continued to grow in pertinence for architects and
designers interested in interactivity.”
HCI giants on whose shoulders we stand.
“In 1996 Don Gentner and Jakob Nielsen published a thought experiment, The Anti-Mac Interface. It’s worth a read. By violating the design principles of the entrenched Mac desktop interface, G and N propose that more powerful interfaces could exceed the aging model and define the Internet desktop. It’s been almost 20 years since the Anti-Mac design principles were proposed, and almost 30 since the original Apple Human Interface Guidelines were published. Did the Anti-Mac principles supersede those of the Mac? Here I reflect on the Mac design principles of 1986, the Anti-Mac design principles of 1996, and what I observe as apparent (and cheekily named) Post-Mac design principles of 2016… er, 2015.”
Adam Baker a.k.a. @twomonthsoff ★
Some really deep and historical thinking on design and systems.
“Beginning in the decade before World War II and accelerating through the war and after, scientists designed increasingly sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems that acted as if they had a purpose. This work intersected other work on cognition in animals as well as early work on computing. What emerged was a new way of looking at systems – not just mechanical and electrical systems, but also biological and social systems: a unifying theory of systems and their relation to their environment. This turn toward ‘whole systems’ and ‘systems thinking’ became known as cybernetics. Cybernetics frames the world in terms of systems and their goals. This approach led to unexpected outcomes.”
Hugh Dubberly a.k.a. /hughdubberly ~ Dubberly Design Office ★
The aboutness of content as a new type or category of metadata.
“For his book Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data, Ronald E. Day was honored with the 2015 ASIS&T Best Information Science Book award. In this afterword, Day explains that the book examines the concept of ‘aboutness’ in the modern documentary tradition covering information science and data science. In writing the book, Day wanted to sort out the relationship between subject and object, between user and document, the core of information science and prelude to information retrieval. He considers the transition of a text serving a group audience to a document serving individual user needs, facilitated by an array of digital technologies. Referencing historical precursors Paul Otlet and Suzanne Briet, he considers documentation as evidence that, depending on the viewpoint chosen, may be a construction or a representation of a concept. Day considers his book a dystopian work, asserting that information technology has been charged with answering both information and cultural needs and has given rise to users’ addiction to technology. He anticipates data and documents to both influence and be influenced by evolving technologies, cultural forms and social norms with the document form persisting, though transformed.”
ASIS&T Bulletin Dec/Jan 2016 ★
Know thy history!
“This work is a historical study of the Dynabook project and vision, which began as a blue-sky project to define personal and educational computing at Xerox PARC in the 1970s. It traces the idea through the three intervening decades, noting the transformations which occur as the vision and its artifacts meet varying contexts. The dissertation was for a PhD in education; the focus of this work is mostly educational, though I’ve tried to do justice to the technology throughout. I defended it successfully before a committee of profs from education and compsci on Halloween 2006.”
John W. Maxwell a.k.a. @jmaxsfu (courtesy of @worrydream) ★
On giants and shoulders.
“To give an idea of the scope of the demo, Engelbart demonstrated an early look at word processing, windowing, hypertext, and dynamic file linking, as well as using graphics in a computer program. It was also the first time many of the attendees had seen a mouse, although work on the mouse began in 1963.”
(Megan Geuss a.k.a. @MeganGeuss ~ Ars Technica) ★
The ideas are not new, the implementations are.
In the debate between structure and openness, 19th-century ideas are making a comeback ~ “The web has played such a powerful role in shaping our world that it can sometimes seem like a fait accompli – the inevitable result of progress and enlightened thinking. A deeper look into the historical record, though, reveals a different story: The web in its current state was by no means inevitable. Not only were there competing visions for how a global knowledge network might work, divided along cultural and philosophical lines, but some of those discarded hypotheses are coming back into focus as researchers start to envision the possibilities of a more structured, less volatile web.”
(Alex Wright a.k.a. @alexgrantwright ~ Nautilus Issue 21) ★
Never too much attention for one of our giants: Douglas Engelbart.
“If you are looking at a computer screen, your right hand is probably resting on a mouse. To the left of that mouse (or above, if you’re on a laptop) is your keyboard. As you work on the computer, your right hand moves back and forth from keyboard to mouse. You can’t do everything you need to do on a computer without constantly moving between input devices. There is another way.”
(Roman Mars a.k.a. @romanmars ~ 99%invisible)
“Always learn from history. Predicting the future is a waste of time.
InfoDesign gem #6,800 ~ “The PenPoint tablet was ahead of its time and too expensive and heavy, but had gestural syntax and personal-productivity benefits that we can still learn from.”
(Jakob Nielsen ~ Nielsen Norman Group) ★
Always go to the source to read the real intensions.
“The topic of this thesis is style sheet languages for structured documents on the web. Due to characteristics of the web – including a screen-centric publishing model, a multitude of output devices, uncertain delivery, strong user preferences, and the possibility for later binding between content and style – the hypothesis is that the web calls for different style sheet languages than does traditional electronic publishing. Style sheet languages that were developed and used prior to the web are analyzed and compared with style sheet proposals for the web between 1993-1996. The dissertation describes the design of a web-centric style sheet language known as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS has several notable features including: cascading, pseudo-classes and pseudo-elements, forward-compatible parsing rules, support for different media types, and a strong emphasis on selectors. Problems in CSS are analyzed, and recommended future research is described.”
(Håkon Wium Lie, 1994-2005)