Ambient Findability / Edition 1

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How do you find your way in an age of information overload? How can you filter streams of complex information to pull out only what you want? Why does it matter how information is structured when Google seems to magically bring up the right answer to your questions? What does it mean to be "findable" in this day and age? This eye-opening new book examines the convergence of information and connectivity. Written by Peter Morville, author of the groundbreaking Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the book defines our current age as a state of unlimited findability. In other words, anyone can find anything at any time. Complete navigability.

Morville discusses the Internet, GIS, and other network technologies that are coming together to make unlimited findability possible. He explores how the melding of these innovations impacts society, since Web access is now a standard requirement for successful people and businesses. But before he does that, Morville looks back at the history of wayfinding and human evolution, suggesting that our fear of being lost has driven us to create maps, charts, and now, the mobile Internet.

The book's central thesis is that information literacy, information architecture, and usability are all critical components of this new world order. Hand in hand with that is the contention that only by planning and designing the best possible software, devices, and Internet, will we be able to maintain this connectivity in the future. Morville's book is highlighted with full color illustrations and rich examples that bring his prose to life.

Ambient Findability doesn't preach or pretend to know all the answers. Instead, it presents research, stories, and examples in support of its novel ideas. Are we truly at a critical point in our evolution where the quality of our digital networks will dictate how we behave as a species? Is findability indeed the primary key to a successful global marketplace in the 21st century and beyond. Peter Morville takes you on a thought-provoking tour of these memes and more — ideas that will not only fascinate but will stir your creativity in practical ways that you can apply to your work immediately.

"A lively, enjoyable and informative tour of a topic that's only going to become more important."
—David Weinberger, Author, Small Pieces Loosely Joined and The Cluetrain Manifesto

"I envy the young scholar who finds this inventive book, by whatever strange means are necessary. The future isn't just unwritten—it's unsearched."
—Bruce Sterling, Writer, Futurist, and Co-Founder, The Electronic Frontier Foundation

"Search engine marketing is the hottest thing in Internet business, and deservedly so. Ambient Findability puts SEM into a broader context and provides deeper insights into human behavior. This book will help you grow your online business in a world where being found is not at all certain."
—Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., Author, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

"Information that's hard to find will remain information that's hardly found—from one of the fathers of the discipline of information architecture, and one of its most experienced practitioners, come penetrating observations on why findability is elusive and how the act of seeking changes us."
—Steve Papa, Founder and Chairman, Endeca

"Whether it's a fact or a figure, a person or a place, Peter Morville knows how to make it findable. Morville explores the possibilities of a world where everything can always be found—and the challenges in getting there—in this wide-ranging, thought-provoking book."
—Jesse James Garrett, Author, The Elements of User Experience

"It is easy to assume that current searching of the World Wide Web is the last word in finding and using information. Peter Morville shows us that search engines are just the beginning. Skillfully weaving together information science research with his own extensive experience, he develops for the reader a feeling for the near future when information is truly findable all around us. There are immense implications, and Morville's lively and humorous writing brings them home."
—Marcia J. Bates, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles

"I've always known that Peter Morville was smart. After reading Ambient Findability, I now know he's (as we say in Boston) wicked smart. This is a timely book that will have lasting effects on how we create our future.
—Jared Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering

"In Ambient Findability, Peter Morville has put his mind and keyboard on the pulse of the electronic noosphere. With tangible examples and lively writing, he lays out the challenges and wonders of finding our way in cyberspace, and explains the mutually dependent evolution of our changing world and selves. This is a must read for everyone and a practical guide for designers."
—Gary Marchionini, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

"Find this book! Anyone interested in making information easier to find, or understanding how finding and being found is changing, will find this thoroughly researched, engagingly written, literate, insightful and very, very cool book well worth their time. Myriad examples from rich and varied domains and a valuable idea on nearly every page. Fun to read, too!
—Joseph Janes, Ph.D., Founder, Internet Public Library

This eye-opening new book examines the convergence of information and connectivity. The book's central thesis is that information literacy, information architecture, and usability are all critical components of the new world order.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
“Search” is about more than Google: It’s closer to a metaphor for life. Ambient Findability is about how people search, and how they find what they’re looking for -- or, all too often, don’t. It’s about making anything more “findable” -- and, hence, more useful. In an era when humans are creating the information equivalent of 500,000 new Libraries of Congress every year, these ideas are urgently needed.

Peter Morville defines “ambient findability” as a world “where we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime.” To get there, he starts with where we’ve been: a brief history of wayfinding, from rats in a maze to academics in the Library of Alexandria to Sim City and the Web. He explores why “less is more” in information retrieval, and why people are so ready to sacrifice information quality for accessibility.

Next, he illuminates leading-edge ideas like “information shape,” cues, and the use of genre. There’s a full chapter on the implications of “intertwingularity”: the relentless, deepening interconnectivity between all manner of ideas, pages, sites, authors, formats, and media. (Don’t even imagine that neat, hierarchical information categories will suffice any longer.)

Morville offers thoughtful assessments of the “Semantic Web” debates, the value of metadata and taxonomies, and the lessons of artificial intelligence. Along the way, you’ll stop wherever compelling ideas can be found: with Isaac Newton and Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gerardus Mercator and Jakob Nielsen, Douglas Hofstadter and Clay Shirky.

This book immediately joins classics like Wurman’s Information Anxiety, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and Morville’s own Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Bill Camarda, from the December 2005 Read Only

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780596007652
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/12/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 427,158
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Morville is president of Semantic Studios, an information architecture, user experience, and findability consultancy. For over a decade, he has advised such clients as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, Internet2, Procter & Gamble, Vanguard, and Yahoo. Peter is best known as a founding father of information architecture, having co-authored the field's best-selling book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Peter serves on the faculty at the University of Michigan's School of Information and on the advisory board of the Information Architecture Institute. He delivers keynotes and seminars at international events, and his work has been featured in major publications including Business Week, The Economist, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal. You can contact Peter Morville by email ( You can also find him offline at 42.2 N 83.4 W or online at and

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Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • About the Author
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Lost and Found
  • Chapter 2: A Brief History of Wayfinding
  • Chapter 3: Information Interaction
  • Chapter 4: Intertwingled
  • Chapter 5: Push and Pull
  • Chapter 6: The Sociosemantic Web
  • Chapter 7: Inspired Decisions
  • Colophon

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2006


    Are you a designer, engineer, teacher, anthropologist or librarian? Well, you're in luck! Author Peter Morville, has done an outstanding job of writing a book that will be helpful to people who want to find their way through the current age of information overload. Morville, begins by explaining findability and findable objects with definitions, examples, and stories. Next, the author connects animal and human navigation in natural and built environments to transmedia wayfinding in the 21st century. Then, he exposes the long now of information-seeking behavior through the hard lens of evolutionary psychology. The author continues exploring findability, findable objects, and wayfinding at the wavefront of ubiquitous computing and corporal convergence. In addition, the author next describes how findability and the Web are transforming the marketplace and reshaping the rules of marketing. He also bridges the gap between social software and the Semantic Web by placing ontologies, taxonomies, and folksonomies into context. Finally, concludes with a safari through thetangled hierarchies of artificial intelligence, irrational decision making, and human behavior. The good thing about this excellent book, is that it can show you how to combine streams of complex information to filter out only the parts you want. Furthermore, the author has made an extra effort to make this book into an unusual journey into the emerging reality that lets you find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2011

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