Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine

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In Things That Make Us Smart, Donald A. Norman explores the complex interaction between human thought and the technology it creates, arguing for the development of machines that fit our minds, rather than minds that must conform to the machine.Humans have always worked with objects to extend our cognitive powers, from counting on our fingers to designing massive supercomputers. But advanced technology does more than merely assist with thought and memory—the machines we create begin to shape how we think and, at times, even what we value. Norman, in exploring this complex relationship between humans and machines, gives us the first steps towards demanding a person-centered redesign of the machines that surround our lives.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Building on the insights of The Design of Everyday Things and Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles , cognitive scientist Norman continues his lively assault on ``machine-centered'' design, arguing for appropriate technologies scaled to human need and cognitive capacity. A fellow at Apple Computer, Norman considers poorly or well-designed ``cognitive artifacts'' ranging from filing cabinets to medical prescriptions and the information displays used on electronic devices. He ponders the frustrations of using telephone voice-messaging systems, faults today's multimedia classrooms for gimmickry and suggests ``human-centered'' designs for computers, telephones and post-office stamp machines. Readers interested in making the work environment or the task fit the person (instead of the other way around) will find many tips in this thoughtful critique. Illustrated . (May)
Library Journal
By virtue of their design, machines shape the way we relate to the world. Moreover--as anyone who has been annoyed by voice message systems can testify--many technological ``advances'' that are efficient from the engineering point of view are of dubious value to those who must use them. In this highly readable book, Norman, author of Turn Signals Are the Facial Expres sions of Automobiles (Addison-Wesley, 1992), offers an intriguing look at the nature and characteristics of human intelligence. He argues that it is time for us to adopt a more human-centered perspective and to insist that informational technologies enhance and complement human cognitive capacities rather than undermine them. Entertaining anecdotes, puzzles, graphics, and speculations regarding future possibilities flesh out this wise and witty book. Recommended for academic and public libraries. --Elise Chase, Forbes Lib., Northampton, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201626957
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,047,782
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald A. Norman is Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, a former “Apple Fellow,” and a partner in the Nielsen Norman Group Consulting Firm, which consults with corporations on design. He is the author of a number of books on design, including Emotional Design and the best-selling The Design of Everyday Things. He lives in Northbrook, Illinois and Palo Alto, California.
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Table of Contents

Chapter Notes and Book Design 1
1 A Human-Centered Technology 3
2 Experiencing the World 19
3 The Power of Representation 43
4 Fitting the Artifact to the Person 77
5 The Human Mind 115
6 Distributed Cognition 139
7 A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place 155
8 Predicting the Future 185
9 Soft and Hard Technology 221
10 Technology Is Not Neutral 243
Chapter Notes 255
References 273
Index 281
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