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Shaping Things (Mediaworks Pamphlets) Paperback – October 7, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0262693264 ISBN-10: 0262693267 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Series: Mediaworks Pamphlets
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (October 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262693267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262693264
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.6 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Now, with Shaping Things, design gets full-court consideration in a powerfully argued thesis tracking the profession's trajectory toward a new product order.... On top of being one of the most strikingly insightful little volumes on the design shelves, Shaping Things, designed by Lorraine Wild, is one of the most originally and empathically crafted pieces of evidence that artifacts do evolve, and that designers may hold the keys to a more sophisticated relationship to the things around us we take for granted." Architect's Newspaper

" Shaping Things is full of entirely readable large ideas, made palatable by Lorraine Wild"s clean but evocative book design. The whole project exudes a confidence-building, you-too-can-be-an-architect-of-the-future tone, much like the work of Buckminster Fuller, who like Sterling was a practical visionary and often had to create a new language to describe his ideas.... In the end, Shaping Things asks us to consider how we can create a sustainable future, using all the information available to us as consumers, without the preachiness that accompanies the environmental and sustainable lifestyle movements." Los Angeles Times Book Review

" Shaping Things is really about shaping experiences. Sterling brilliantly makes you more aware of experiences that your customers have-or don"t have-with objects.... Shaping Things presents a robust typology of technologies to inspire marketers and provoke innovators into rethinking their market offerings" essential qualities." Michael Schrage Across the Board Magazine

"It's the most thought provoking thing I've read all year....I can tell that this is a book I'll return to again and again and get more out of it each time I do. It's a wonderful and timely work that is a must-read in an age of ubiquitous computation, universal information resources, and hacker-activist renaissance, there's no better primer for putting it all together." Cory Doctorow BoingBoing

"A manifesto for the future of design, impeccably crafted by Bruce Sterling and enhanced by the delicately emphatic graphic intelligence of Lorraine Wild....*Shaping Things* hovers between science fiction and design fact, pushing forward into the future and showing how design happens."--Bill Moggridge, Cofounder, IDEO

About the Author

Hugo Award-winning science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling has been called by Time "perhaps the sharpest observer of our media-choked culture working today in any genre." Three of his novels have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and he has been a contributing writer for Wired since its conception. In 2005 he is "Visionary-in-Residence" at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena. Bruce Sterling's blog Beyond the Beyond has been active since 2003.

More About the Author

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic,
was born in 1954. Best known for his ten science fiction
novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews,
design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions
for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne.
His nonfiction works include THE HACKER CRACKDOWN:
and SHAPING THINGS (2005).

He is a contributing editor of WIRED magazine
and writes a weblog. During 2005,
he was the "Visionary in Residence" at Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena. In 2008 he
was the Guest Curator for the Share Festival
of Digital Art and Culture in Torino, Italy,
and the Visionary in Residence at the Sandberg
Instituut in Amsterdam. In 2011 he returned to
Art Center as "Visionary in Residence" to run
a special project on Augmented Reality.

He has appeared in ABC's Nightline, BBC's The Late Show,
CBC's Morningside, on MTV and TechTV, and in Time,
Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times,
Fortune, Nature, I.D., Metropolis, Technology Review,
Der Spiegel, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gordon E. Anderson on December 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
A "Spime" may or may not eventually exist in the real world of the near future. A Spime is an object plus it's RFID or wireless ID that tracks the object during it full lifecycle.

What Sterling is trying to do is close the loop on manufacture and design in the modern age. No wait, scratch that: He's really saying that closing the loop via a Spime or something like it will be inevitable.

What do I mean by "closing the loop"? In the book Sterling makes the convincing case that the full impact of industrial output and design is not currently accounted for in the cost and design of objects made and sold. Rather, we "export" a lot of the impact into the future in the form of industrial waste and so on.

Spimes will allow intelligence and statistics about the full impact and lifecycle of objects to be fedback into future capitalism and industry. In fact, Sterling argues that, for future designers and manufacturers, the data representation of an object is potentially far more valuable than the sale price or the object itself. And as crazy as that sounds, in some industries (most notably credit cards) that's already true.

And the strength of this book lays not in the eventual reality of Spimes or the industrial environment Sterling envisions, but in the fact that Sterling attempts to sketch out something akin to a solution to current social & envionmental problems that actually makes sense in the current economic climate of the world. It's a good try, at least.

In terms of the layout, typography and design of the book, it is a hell of a lot of fun. There's plenty of pithy, epigrammatic phrases sprnkled thoughout the book, but over against a backdrop that is large convincing. It's a cute little book that you will definitely spend some time thinking about.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel W. Miller on June 4, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...or perhaps it's just that "design" is an extremely broad category. Sterling presents a futurity that is at once realistic and utopian, frightening and hopeful.

This book would be useful for not just anyone designing anything, but anyone concerned with the future, how to achieve real sustainability, or how all that geeky stuff (you occasionally read about in the Wired you pick up at the airport) will really effect you.

I agree with another reviewer that the actual print design of the book is a hindrance, which is ironic; my distaste for it was only made worse by having already heard Sterling brag on it during a talk. But even with this beef, I have to give it a full five stars based on the content alone.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Scott Klinker on May 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
In `Shaping Things' Sterling shifts gears from fiction writer to activist. This concise book was written to inspire designers to visualize radical scenarios connecting information technology and sustainability. Sterling suggests new connections between the virtual world and the physical world that will have you rethinking many of your assumptions about how we relate to products. If you design artifacts, machines, gizmos or products, then read this book!

SPIMES = Wired.

Post-Industrial = Tired.

Industrial = Expired.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alex Tolley on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
This slim book, readable in a few short hours is, IMO, a very thoughtfull view of the issues facing design in a post modern world, with some insightful guideposts about designing in this world. I think it is way ahead of the curve in the area, discussing issues that I never see in any amount of design magazines and books that populate the shelves of bookstores. This is not a book about the form of things - the typical fetishist approach of most books about design - but the information that is wrapped around stuff as it makes its way through its cycly of production, use and discard.

Sterling writes clearly and concisely on the future and design of informational products, something he calls SPIMES, which contain information on time, place and state.

His ideas are thought provoking. I have already recommended this book to some designer friends - I hope they pick up a copy and read it.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Toronto Reader on March 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is a high-level exploration of some ideas around design. While intelligent, the book is ultimately disappointing. It bites off more than it can chew, as it were, which leads to a frustrating reading experience. On the positive side, the author is well-informed and committed to his work. On the negative side, the book is badly written, needlessly biting in tone, and ungrounded in the very design constraints that the author would say make designers tick. Also, it seems like the author's view of designers verges on hero worship at times, which some other design critics and researchers have avoided. The book contains some interesting ideas, but the ceaseless neologisms and the slightly eccentric page design distracted from these ideas. All in all, a potential reader may prefer to tackle a classic such as "The Reflective Practitioner" or "Designing for People" on the design side, or perhaps "Our Choice (by Al Gore) on the environmental side.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mvk on December 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a book on sustainable design, the intertwining of the informational and the material, and RFID, look no further.

Sterling's account is more than a book for designers. Though some angles tend to originate from design-related topics, the implications and responsibilities pertaining to design cannot belong to a community of designers per se.

That's a pretty self-evident idea of course, but allow me to elucidate.

When Sterling argues that "we need a designed metahistory", this pertains to the idea that the information that is related to objects / spimes / shaping things needs to be designed. Given the fact that more and more objects are tagged, and thereby enrolled in a global information architecture, this implies that 'design' has the ability to influence the way we relate to object-data.

And this is by no means a scenario that is sci-fi: take the EPCglobal architecture as an example. Sterling is perfectly aware of this.

For me, the book provided a framework in which many more things can be deployed.. But I suppose the book's effects will depend on the mindset of the reader. The capacity of the book to create new concepts and new levels of thought is obviously there. To me, the ability of a written work to do this is what makes a book great.
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