Ambient findability

I promised to up some quotes from Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability,, a book that takes a closer look at some of the webdevelopments of the past two years, focussing on yes, findability, traceability, and wayfinding. What to say about a book like this one? Yes, I recognize the problems that Morville identifies, yes, he gives a good overview of current developments (the chapter on the Semantic Web versus folksonomies is balanced and therefore quite good), yes in this very American way that also will appeal to intelligent businessmen, he gets his message across and also refers to Wittgenstein of Lakoff & Johnson when he likes too, or to some obscure psychology-paper if that’s necessary. His writing style is maybe a bit too informal, too much talking-as-if-he’s-presenting-in-front-of-you, but I’m not unsympathetic towards such a pedagogic approach (because that’s what it is). So why does a book like this leave me unstatisfied? Firstly because he doesn’t have new information for me (but he probably has for others). Secondly because when he is critical — and Morville certainly is critical — he only skims the surface, doesn’t dig, doesn’t go into the entangledness of politics, economics and technology. It never becomes really dark and dirty: he believes in markets, intelligent customers and discriminating consumers — but abhors fastfood. He’s not always optimistic, he knows — and points out — that humans are blind and lazy in many respects, but he certainly believes that we have the power to design technology that is good for us, as the internet shows. Nevertheless, if one is not so up to date, this book might bridge the gap.

Well, some quotes then…

“This fast food approach to information drives librarians crazy. “Our information is healthier and tastes better too” they shout. But nobody listens. We’re too busy Googling.” p. 55

“The Web allows our information seeking to grow more iterative and interactive with each innovation. The berrypicking model [of aquiring information] is more relevant today than ever.” p. 60

“The human natural tendency in information seeking is to fallback on passive and sampling and selecting behaviors derived from millions of years of [evolution]” p. 61 (Actually a quote from Marcia Bates, 2002)

“Most of the world will never be ready for the Semantic Web. And We’re still waiting for the few that constitute the rest to catch up.” p. 133

“… most categories we emply in daily life are defined by fuzzy cognitive models rather than objective rules.” p. 133 [Morville pits Lakoff & Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By against the Semantic Web].

“How will we make sense of this tower of babble? In the midst of this cacophony, to whom will we listen? Who will we trust? Will we rely on formal hierarchy or free tagging, library or marketplace, cathedral or bazaar? Will we place our confidence in words or people? And are we talking about cyberspace or ubicomp? The answer lies in the question, for we will not be bound by the false dichotomy of Aristotelian logic. To manage complexity, we must embrace faceted classification, polyhierarchy, pluralistic aboutness and pace layering. And to succeed we must collaborate across categories, using boundary objects to negotiate, translate, and forge shared understanding.” p. 153/154

“Findability is at the center of a fundamental shift in the way we define authority, allocate trust, make decisions, and learn independently.” p. 162

Peter Morville, Ambient Findability, O’Reilly, Sebastopol Ca. 2005.

More Morville:


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