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Information Anxiety Hardcover – January 21, 1989

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Information might want to be free; but, why should we free it? We've got enough trouble keeping track of all the petabits that already run around untethered, and risk a computer counterrevolution if we let the situation get much crazier. Information architect Richard Saul Wurman swept the field clear in 1989 with his groundbreaking book that foresaw the problems of data clutter and proposed a radical new means of organizing and presenting knowledge humanistically; for the new century, he has revised it substantially as Information Anxiety 2. This book is sparklingly clear and readable--it'd better be, after all--and offers insight not only to designers, educators, and content developers, but also to anyone who needs to communicate effectively through dense clouds of facts. If Wurman occasionally indulges in New Age-y pop psychology, his analysis is never muddy, and the more hardheaded reader will forgive him soon enough. The discussion alternates between describing the deeply stressful task of absorbing poorly organized data and exploring solutions that require a bit of rethinking, but that reward such an investment with improved understanding and, maybe, a state change from information to wisdom. We could do worse--if we don't pay attention to Wurman and his colleagues, we almost certainly will. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Wurman identifies a special ailment of this age of communicationsso-called "information anxiety," caused, in his view, by an overwhelming flood of data, much of it from computers and much of it unintelligible. The author, a graphic artist and architect, argues that "learning is remembering what you are interested in," and proposes to help the anxious individual to select personally relevant information from the body of raw data or "non-information." He also demonstrates how to "access" resources and take advantage of experiences, suggesting specific information-processing skills and media habits. His breezy, colloquial style using short, headlined paragraphs is sprinkled with graphics and notes, imaginative quotes and anecdotes. This stimulating book is worth reading in or out of sequence if only for Wurman's views on education and the need to "transform information into structured knowledge." Author tour.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (January 21, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385243944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385243940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Otwell on January 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well, sure, it's good. Wurman did come up with the term Information Architecture (as he reminds us), and has some good insightful stuff to say about it. Too bad that much of this book is pretty much the same kinds of information that you find on the web about IA: Mark Hurst and Nathan Shedroff have pieces nearly identical to stuff on their sites, and there are copious quotations from familiar online voices and sources. A chapter about online commerce as "conversation" is derived pretty much wholesale from the Cluetrain Manifesto. In the end, it all pretty much boils down to listen to your customers, take some risks, ask the right questions.
Some of Wurman's opinions sound a little disingenuous in light of his own online work: a chapter which contains the standard complaints about high-bandwidth sites that don't offer useful information (useless plug-ins, over-reliance on graphics instead of text, etc) also points us to Wurman's Understanding USA web site, which starts with a Flash intro animation, is built almost solely from graphics, and even uses a Java applet in its Site Map.
It's too bad, but this really comes across as an entry-level text about presenting information in multiple contexts, including online. There's more about management style than I'd care for, and less about what kinds of visual presentations support what kinds of information. It's admirably up-to-date: it's impressive that he managed to include the Florida ballot in a book printed in November 2000, for example.
Finally, I could have done without the frequent and lengthy references to TED, Wurman's own annual conference of designers, businesspeople, and entertainers. The thing sounds like fun, but in the context of the book, the relevance is rarely clear.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Robert T. Myers on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am taking the unusual step of rating this book "1 star" to express my extremely high level of dissatisfaction at its quality and usefullness. There is no question that Richard Saul Wurman is a highly gifted individual, and his ACCESS books are fabulous. But this poorly-edited, disorganized book fails to capture or convey any of the insights that went into that or other successful Wurman projects.
My guess is that this project was conceived as a quickie update to the original Information Anxiety to take advantage of Internet mania, and as such much of the work was delegated to others, but without sufficient review and editing. (There are too many editing mistakes to list here, but suffice it to say that probably few books have a misspelling in the Table Of Contents as this one does -- "Informatgion" instead of "Information".)
RSW tells us that it's important to always start off with what the question is. Problem is, he doesn't follow his own advice in that book. He careens uncontrollably from gushy predictions about the future, to cataclysmic warnings of information deluge, to superficial suggestions on software and web design, to facile pop management advice, The only thread connecting all these disjointed pieces is that he strictly limits himself to talking about how important something or other is, without ever giving specific advice about how to approach it.
I am personally interested in the field of localization and globalization. So naturally I was curious as to what insight RSW brought to this area. What I found was a single, lonely page on the topic, with a few lines of simplistic patter, and a strange, unexplained diagram of various fountain pens with country names associated with each.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
The basic theme of this book reinforces my long-held belief that the next killer app in computing will be some new way to visually display relationships between information. A new discipline is also going to spring up and those good at it will be in great demand. That new area of study will be a knowledge distiller, someone expert in taking the enormous amount of information about a topic and reducing it down to a base form. We see the initial steps in this trend with the extraordinary success of the ". . For Dummies" series of books. Their appeal is based on the basic formula of making things as simple as possible but no simpler.
As Wurman points out, while there is an information explosion, the real problem is a malinformation (my term) explosion. In other words, information that does not inform. This is not just a reference to that which is inaccurate, but information that is correct but so malformed or obscure to be misleading. He also argues that a critical rethinking needs to be done concerning how we learn. The premise is that the rewards for asking the right questions need to be improved rather than the continued emphasis on answering questions. We also need to rediscover much of our inner child.
At some point in our lives, we "mature" to the state where we will do almost anything to avoid embarrassment. This trait leads us to ignore inconsistencies and sit in silence when we don't understand. The childlike innocence that causes us to ask "obvious" questions goes away, replaced by fear of failure, which leads to an aversion to risk. Without the willingness to take a chance, many new things are not attempted, which limits the options for us all.
This is a book that you must think deeply about.
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