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1: What Report? What Field?


Janet Murray's call for a new discipline of "interactive design"
(Chronicle, 4/23/99)


  • "The faster we propel ourselves into the digital future, the more likely we are to reproduce the cumbersome conventions of legacy media. We are still recreating the instrument panel, the card catalogue, the lecture, and the page, when we should be exploiting the potential of the computer to organize, segment, contain, retrieve, display, and juxtapose information in more-coherent and powerful formats."

  • "We do not need designers who can produce more-attractive interfaces with the same formats of communications. We need designers who can re-think the processes of communication, exploiting the capacity of the digital environment to be more responsive to human needs."

  • "Universities should be offering standardized professional training grounded in principles that do not change, even though the software and hardware environments may continue to morph in the decades ahead."
Two cheers for I.D.
  • Murray is right to disclaim overdependence on "legacies" from print and broadcasting. "Channels" and "pages" on the Internet do not connote what they once did elsewhere. Steve Case's "network" is not Gerald Levin's (or maybe it is, now).

  • Design is serious business and demands a professional approach. Once we think beyond pages and channels we enter into "interface culture" (Johnson), a common enterprise we cannot take lightly.

  • But "principles that do not change?" Eh? What would those be? And what do we do when they too become legacies?
Work in Progress
  • It seems too soon for "normal science" in this field. Digital communications were a glimmer in 1945 (Bush), a frontier in 1970 (ARPANET), and only began to seize the popular imagination from 1984-94.

  • In lieu of "principles" we might try observations and indications: reports FROM the field, not ON the field.

  • At the moment, everything comes down to cases...