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Book Review: The Internet and Everyone
John Thackara, 19 Aug 10

I’ve been re-reading "The Internet and Everyone" by John Chris Jones.

I’ve been astonished once again by the sensibility of an artist-writer-designer whose philosophy – indeed his whole life - first inspired me when I was a young magazine editor more than 30 years ago.

Like another muse of mine, Ivan Illich, John Chris Jones was decades ahead of his time. The time is ripe now for a wider readership.

He wrote about cities without traffic signals in the 1950s – sixty years before today’s avant garde urban design experiments.

In the 1960s, Jones was an advocate of what today is called call ‘design thinking’; (then, it was called design methods).

He advocated user-centered design well before the term was widely used. He began by designing aeroplanes – but soon felt compelled to make industrial products more human. This quest fueled his search for design processes that would shape, rather than serve, industrial systems.

As a kind of industrial gamekeeper turned poacher, Jones went on to warn about the potential dangers of the digital revolution unleashed by Claude Shannon.

Computers were so damned good at the manipulation of symbols, he cautioned, that there would be immense pressure on scientists to reduce all human knowledge and experience to symbolic form.

Technology-driven innovation, Jones foresaw, would under-value the knowledge and experience that human beings have by virtue of having bodies, interacting with the physical world, and being trained into a culture.


This post originally appeared on John's blog Doors of Perception.

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