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Shaping Things (Mediaworks Pamphlets) 0th Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262693264
ISBN-10: 0262693267
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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.



Lorraine Wild is an award-winning designer, a founder of Greybull Press, and a member of the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts.

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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: 5.5 x 0.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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...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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Spime still isn't a recognized term, and probably never will be. But this book was written about concepts that are being realized right now (2014) and it was written before the technology making that possible was invented. RFID existed, but NFC did not. 3D printed existed for labs, but before it reached home end user acceptance. This is a valuable read, with a lot of insight, but you should know that its perspective is increasingly dated, although nonetheless relevant.
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Shaping Things is a pretty little book that packs a serious punch about history and the future. I first purchased it days after its publication. Loved the book, then went on to being engrossed in Kevin Kelly's Out of Control and What Technology Wants. I have since returned to reading Shaping Things and see it as one of the smartest of my futurist vision books.

Below are the frameworks and definitions Sterling proposes in Shaping Things, and I feel presenting them here is the best promotion of the book I can provide.

Chapter 2. Tomorrow Composts Today. Major terms and framework: Artifacts. Machines. Products. Gizmos. Spimes.

1) Artifacts: (def) Simple artificial objects. Made by hand, powered by muscle, created one at a time. People with an infrastructure of Artifacts are "Hunters and Farmers ".

2) Machines: (def) Complex, precisely proportioned artifacts with many moving parts tapped into a non-muscle power source. People using an infrastructure of Machines are "Customers".

Sterling the asks how to draw the line between an era of "hunters and farmers" and an era of "customers". How marks a "Line of No Return" and a "Line of Empire". I especially like the "Line of Empire".

Sterling dates the advent of Machine technoculture to the eclipse of the Mongols in the 1500's.
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Given the time that this was written (2005), it is very forward thinking, and is highly applicable now. Sterling writes very generally, and this book is highly accessible to the layman--interesting in content that lies mostly on the surface of the topic at hand (techno-social modes of production). I would recommend this book as a great introduction to the topic at hand.
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