Cover image for Information ecologies : using technology with heart
Information ecologies : using technology with heart
Nardi, Bonnie A.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 232 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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T14.5 .N344 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An information ecology is a system of people, practices, technologies and values in a local environment. Like their biological counterparts, information ecologies are diverse, continually evolving and complex. This text aims to encourage the reader to become more aware of the ways people and technology are interrelated. The authors draw on their empirical research in offices, libraries, schools and hospitals to show how people can engage their own values and commitments while using technology. The case studies show avenues for participation and engagement with technology.

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Booklist Review

Two technology specialists and a science journalist offer alternative visions of how the information superhighway is being--and should be--constructed. Nardi and O'Day have solid credentials: Nardi is a researcher at AT&T Research Labs and has written two previous books; O'Day was a researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and is now a graduate student in anthropology. Together they examine how people actually live and work with technology in offices, libraries, schools, and hospitals. The authors suggest replacing the simple dichotomy of accepting or rejecting information technology with a deeper understanding of and engagement with it, stressing technology's impact on the local environment. They view librarians as a keystone species in new information ecologies; the profession's values of diversity and service are critical in rescuing technology from "the seemingly autonomous processes of technique." Instead, Nardi and O'Day insist that people affected by a particular information ecology (a system of people, practices, technologies and values in a local environment) should have input into its design and use. Shulman, a contributing writer for Technology Review and author of The Threat at Home: Confronting the Toxic Legacy of the U.S. Military (1992), here analyzes a new threat, the privatization of knowledge. Surveying trends in protecting intellectual property--from software and formulas to biotech soybeans and traditional medical remedies--Shulman argues that productivity as well as equity and democracy require development of new legal and economic terms that recognize that knowledge is not depleted by use. Shulman's last chapter offers lessons from a century ago (conservation sanctuaries, zoning, and antitrust) as potential guides in "defining . . . the conceptual commons." --Mary Carroll