20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Schneiderman's "Leonardo's Laptop" is singularly disappointing. Promising to raise our expectation of what we should get from technology, he instead uses a forced extended metaphor in the form of Leonardo da Vinci. What would Leonardo do?, we are repeatedly asked. Schneiderman attempts to answer the question. Sadly, his answers are neither new nor groundbreaking. I cannot believe that Leonardo would simply recount solutions that are already available and attempt to make such solutions sound visionary and forward-thinking.
The chapters in the book discuss the issues with usability today, activites and relationships, and attempt to discuss future directions in several fields: government, healthcare, business, and education. In these chapters, Schneiderman uses feel-good buzzwords like 'empowering' and 'enabling', but never moves beyond the feel-good buzzwords to suggest real solutions. In most cases, he suggests solutions that are already implemented; in others, he simply waves his hands at the problem and says that there has to be a solution.
Each chapter concludes with a skeptic's corner. This section could easily be re-labelled the strawman's corner. In that section, he constructs arguments that skeptics might use, but he must assume that skeptics are uniformly moronic. The so-called skeptical arguments are drawn with exceptionally rough strokes, which he dispenses of with little regard to very real concerns that can and should be discussed.
I had high hopes for this book. I wanted something that pushed the boundaries. I wanted something visionary. Instead, I got a repetitive book that somehow didn't say anything. I can only hope that future works give us something better than this.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2002
Ben Shneiderman's "Leonardo's Laptop" should be as inspirational to readers in the 21st century as Leonardo daVinci was in the l5th and l6th. Renaissance man possessed "virtu"-the spirit of the times reflected by freedom to choose, invent and create. Shneiderman exemplifies this same attribute today, probably termed "existential". One does not remain static but, freely innovative with all tools available. While Leonardo pioneered the arts and sciences which eventually enlightened society, Shneiderman suggests what the user can do with the computer as an application of modern day social science .
This book offers a model, the same process of Leonardo's thought - COLLECT, RELATE, CREATE, DONATE. (CRCD) Clearly, this process has unlimited applications and Shneiderman highlights education, commerce, medicine and of course government, itself, sa varied spectrum of political ramifications. Most computer users master the technical side. Shneiderman reminds us that if we just stop for a moment, in the imaginative Renaissance spirit of "virtue" or his modern model CRCD, this technical tool can benefit various aspects of social living. Leonardo did not have this opportunity yet,because he well understood the human condition, we still positively enjoy his legacy. Shneiderman's model serves this same inspiration in today's world. Since the computer is here to stay, let's use it well!
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2003
It is a sad fact that with the exception of deep academic and professional texts aimed at corporate programmers and computer science researchers, most books on computing have frighteningly short useful lifetimes. All too many of them are little more than glorified how-to guides in the use of specific versions of rapidly evolving commercial packages and ever changing industry standards. A few attempt to cover application areas in more generality, but very few indeed strike at the core of the really big picture while offering substantial value to both computing experts and End Users alike.
Ben Shneiderman's tour-de-force, Leonardo's Laptop, is just such a rare gem. It accomplishes the hat trick of meeting the needs of readers in academia, industry, and the general public by going beyond talk of the "in technologies" of the moment to conceptualizing a New Computing organized around the principle of putting human needs first.
It reminds us that while we may have become accustomed to buggy and brittle software, such bad designs - which cost both lives and dollars - impoverish the human spirit and need not be tolerated. By drawing on our scientific and artistic sides we can restore the balance to make technology use an ennobling experience.
Although the text is addressed to everyday computer users and decision makers whose purchasing patterns ultimately determine what the IT sector will produce, it offers a rich set of endnotes that will guide technically oriented readers to the resources they need to implement its vision. Moreover, researchers and business people will find Leonardo's Laptop to be an invaluable source of ideas for grant writing and business plan development.
This book is a must have that will lead to new insights with each reading.
If you are a High School Teacher or University Faculty Member whose students are looking at the role of computers in society or who aspire to creating the next generation of high tech, you owe it to them to evaluate Leonardo's Laptop for use as a required or recommended reading in your courses!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2006
Leonardo's Laptop Response:
I really dislike this book. At first, I was looking forward to reading it. I am very interested in technology's future, human computer interface design, and enabling better software through simplicity. The combination of technology and artistry suggested by the title led me to believe that it would be an insightful volume pointing the way to a better computing. Instead, this diatribe leads me only left with a feeling that the author is so full of himself as to be blind to the world around him.
This book does address real issues. As computing moves from the back server closet into the home, real changes have to be made. Software today is complicated, and is frequently frustrating to use and learn.
However, this author acts as if the computing world is ignorant of the cost of complexity. His book falls short of actual ways to achieve these goals, has no recognition of the technological, economical, or social challenges involved, and totally fails to recognize the work of the past pioneers in achieving these goals. He views computing solely from a consumer point of view, ignoring the vast gains in efficiency and choice made possible through the vast computing infrastructure supporting modern day life.
As Schneiderman puts it, "old" computing is concerned with technology. These researchers and practitioners are concerned with increasing speed, decreasing cost, and improving reliability. In contrast, he views "new" computing as a focus on improving people's experience with technology.
This is a perfect example of the author's lack of technical competence. The only way that reliability is increased, user interfaces improved, and the experience of using a computer made more artistic and enjoyable is through improved computer speed and reliability. As an example, the aesthetically pleasing effect (in the new iTunes version) of flipping through album covers relies upon powerful computing technology. Schneiderman's dichotomy between "old" and "new," and downright distain for people interested in the former, is counter-productive. In every field, there are different groups working on different problems. While it is reasonable to argue for one's particular area of interest, it is incredibly narrow-minded to argue that it is the only field of interest.
Lastly, I found the author's presentation of historical Leonardo anecdotes incidental to his arguments. Rather than being the basis for the book, Schneiderman descends into the meaninglessness of arguing that Leonardo would "put man at the center" of the design process, or would like portable devices of different size screens.
38 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2004
I am running three small internet and software interface venture businesses and avidly read anything anywhere that will in any way help me do a better job. If you put the word "interface" in your work, I will buy it just on the chance it will help me. My businesses are having all sorts of real problems with suppliers and customers and interfaces. We need help. So in that context I bought this book.
In about an hour it became apparent that this author has stopped thinking many years ago and now is famous enough to just sprinkle power cuties over his audiences instead of doing real work. I became more and more insulted by this author and his editor and publisher. It is one thing to dress up a title and table of contents wording to slant something falsely so it will look like something else and sell well--nearly all editors and publishers do this. However, it is something else to take casual ramblings and rantings of an old man who has not seen a trench much less been in one for a decade or more, it appears. and publish them just because marketing can get enough suckers to pull in some money for retirment.
This book is merely written to make money for its publisher and author and has no sincere intent to enlighten anyone about anything, as far as I can see. Nothing in it pertains to computer interface work in any serious sense. Each chapter expresses rage at some terrible aspect of current software. Rage is something I understand but I have it already and do not need more of it. I need solutions and ideas, preferably with experimental data backing some of them up. This book is just rage and out of date rage at that. I am sorry because this author ten years ago was a true pioneer and his early academic papers helped me a lot. It is sad to see commercial success ruin a good mind.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2005
Approximately 250 pages of hybridised vacuity build from snippets of information coralled together. I can best describe this work as almost entirely cliche ridden. It is further evidence that human computer interaction studies are largely 'solutions' in search of problems. The chapter on 'mega-creativity' is replete with casual opinion and banal anecdotes. Likewise chapters on the 'new education' and 'new medicine' are pitched several degrees below what the average Time or News Week reader would expect in content. Overall this is a poor piece of work in terms of content and I regret having wasted money on it. At some point in time, I hope that a Shokal equivalent emerges to debunk the self-aggrandising twaddle that typifies most HCI work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2008
The book's central thesis seems to be that something called "new computing" is eclipsing "old computing" ("new computing" is typified by the world of user-driven applications that are also rather nebulously referred to as Web 2.0, 3.0, etc.), and that new computing, being closer to the user, requires a more user-centric design methodology (such as Leonardo would employ).
There has definitely been growth in user-centric computing and a corresponding growth in interest in user-centric design in computing (which I agree is a good thing), but the trend started in the 80's with introduction of the PC and accelerated with the introduction of the Web in the 90's, so it's not really all that "new". And the "old computing", i.e., the more technical world of hardware-oriented system infrastructure development isn't going away just because user-driven computing is growing in popularity. Quite the contrary. Old computing provides a necessary platform for new computing and the latter makes the former even more important. It takes a lot of software and network engineering to make the "new computing" experience possible.
The author also jumps on the bandwagon of AI-bashing, claiming that the quest for machine intelligence is dead and is being replaced by human intelligence extension. The Turing Test notwithstanding, extending human capability has been the quest of most of AI research all along, and it's been quite successful (neural nets, fuzzy logic, expert systems, natural language understanding, computer games, search techniques, robotics, etc.). A few AI researchers are trying unsuccessfully to create HAL (and learning from the experience), but most are trying to create useful tools to empower humans and they're generally succeeding.
The book contains some interesting reflections on changes taking place in computing, but doesn't provide anything substantially new in terms of perspective.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
Ben Shneiderman presents a refreshing view of 'the new computing' as an aid to enabling people to develop attributes similar to those he admires in Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance genius in painting & sculpture (and the related science of anatomy), engineering, and scientific thinking, is used as an inspiration for promoting more usable computers, universal design, and more useful technology.
The book is easy and refreshing reading. The first 5 chapters are of general interest, providing some historical background and setting the mood. The next five, which can each be read independently, relate to learning, business, health, government, and creativity, respectively. They can be read for education/enjoyment, or used as guidebooks for activists to push for the proper use of computers to help us achieve our goals. In fact, they encourage us all to become activists to help us exploit computers for our good.
There is a good list of references for those interested to pursue these ideas in more detail, and counter arguments from other sources help to present the ideas in a fair and considered manner.
I can recommend this as fine reading for anyone, from the inquisitive computer user, to the academic "expert", and particularly for the potential activist.
on October 8, 2013
Ben does a great job at outlining the need of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). He has more books you may want to get too.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2003
Ben Schneiderman's book, Leonardo's Laptop, was a required text in a Cyberspace, Culture and Society course I taught this summer. The course was a combined upper level undergraduate and graduate seminar class that included students from a wide range of academic disciplines: English, sociology, psychology, anthropology, computer science, information systems, philosophy, interdisciplinary studies, Language, Literacy and Culture, and Policy Science. The students overwhelmingly indicated that the book was excellent: readable, inspiring, and thought provoking.
Leonardo's Laptop urges users to promote better design by getting "angry about the poor quality of user interfaces and the underlying infrastructure" and to think big about the ways computers could "support creativity, consensus-seeking and conflict resolution." Shneiderman urges designers to build technology guided by the principle of universal usability to insures that all types of people, young, old, novices, experts, disabled, will be able to use technology to enhance their lives.
Chapters dealing with e-leaning, e-commerce, e-health, and e-government suggest creative ways that technology can support humans as they seek to deal with pressing social issues. This book creatively explores a topic that, all too often, is dealt with in jargon and technical terminology that is not accessible to a wide audience and narrowly frames the discussion of technology and its effects. The book promoted interesting discussion between technical and non-technical students about the effects of technology on societies around the world. The students especially liked the "collect, relate, create, donate framework" that Schneiderman so skillfully uses to illustrate how technology can empower and liberate users.
This book is interesting reading for anyone who is interested in technology, people, and the future.