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Information Anxiety Hardcover – January 21, 1989

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I was about to give book two stars. As several reviewers have pointed out, IA2 wanders off into superficial discussions of self-help and managerial principles, and is full of self-promotion from cover to cover (literally). You expect a conference registration card each time you turn a page.
But just as RSW must have been trembling in his black turtleneck with the prospect of receiving such a low rating on Amazon, I realized that it is precisely his ego that made the experience great. The undiluted point of view stemming from genuine interests, with ample random and not-so-random diversions, raises enough questions and opens enough doors to be more than worth the baggage.
The book is like one of those flights where you skip ordering cocktails until you pass out, because you have been seated next to someone interesting -- it requires a bit more effort, but is ultimately more rewarding too. So four it is.
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I read Wurman's first Info. Anxiety years ago and hungrily gobbled up the great reviews of this sequel. The book, however, is a crashing disappointment. While Wurman evinces the appreciation for the obvious that makes all high-priced consultants worth their fees, he hasn't stretched himself with this work.
Wurman offers nothing new either to expand upon or address his theories of Information Anxiety. Strangely, I have found this book to be all but unreadable except in very short bursts. The marginalia are rarely illuminating, occasionally thought-provoking, and frequently distracting. Even the book's size, weight, and the design of it's massive-flapped cover make it difficult to handle -- issues which one would think Wurman would have addressed.
This guy's past his prime.
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