Book Review: Ambient Findability

Ambient Findability, by Peter Morville

This book was written about a decade ago, and it is intriguing to see that even in such a relatively short time that much of what this book speaks of as possibilities have already happened with regards to location-finding as well as device communicating. The book asks a sensible question of its readers at the beginning, and that is how did the reader come upon this book, given the larger number of books and the fact that one would easier win a lottery than to locate a particular book. For me, I came across the book because I was looking up books on data science in the county library online catalog and happened to find this one an interesting selection. And so it proved to be a worthwhile read, for even if it is a bit scattershot in its approach and its terms are not easy to relate to, it is a worthwhile book from a conceptual point of view.

In terms of its contents, this book is made up of seven chapters, many of which deal with the supposed evolutionary development of the brain [1], along with the way that people interact with information. There are chapters on wayfinding, on the way that human categories are hopelessly mixed, making it impossible to cleanly turn data into an organized and hierarchical fashion. Other chapters deal with the bounded rationality of mankind in terms of our decision-making, as well as the various push and pull factors of marketing and web design that make it hard for people to know who and what to trust when it comes to information. Overall, this book wrestles with fundamental issues of communication and trust that I wrestle with in life, and to see this problem related to my field of data science and also my avocation as a prolific blogger who likes to make it easy for others to find my writings through skillful use of metadata and search engine optimization only makes it a more practical and thought-provoking book.

In pondering the many issues of this book, it seems as if people, including the author, struggle with ways to bring people to the information they want, because we are so easily burdened with information and so keen on avoiding information from sources we do not trust. That said, is it an implication that follows that any information source we turn to over and over again is one we trust on at least some level, and ought that not to make us feel less anxious about life and about the people responsible for those sources? This book is a bit demanding, not only because it uses a lot of sources within the field to bolster its claims, and because it uses terms like ambient findability and intertwingled and sociosemantic that are not straightforward (and these are within the chapter and book titles alone!), but also because it discusses matters of how we struggle between a desire to find everything we want but not be found completely either, a tension that only promises to get more dangerous as we start facing the question of whether we are all to be equipped with RFID tags to be more easily found. And if you’ve lived in some of the places I’ve lived, you wouldn’t want to be found easily either. This book promises no easy answers, but it does raise interesting questions.

[1] Similar to this book:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: Ambient Findability

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