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September 29, 2005

Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become

Sebastopol, CA--Intelligence is moving to the edges, flowing through wireless devices, empowered individuals, and distributed teams. Ideas are spreading like wildfire, and information is in the air, literally. And yet, with the profusion of instantly accessible information, we still experience disorientation. We still wander off the map. How do we make decisions in the information age? How do we know enough to ask the right questions? How do we find the best product, the right person, the data that makes a difference?

In Ambient Findability (O'Reilly, US $29.95), Peter Morville searches for the answers in the strange connections between social software, semantic webs, evolutionary psychology, and interaction design. And, he explains how the journey from push to pull is changing not only the rules of marketing and design,- but also the nature of authority and the destination of our culture.

"Findability is at the center of a quiet revolution that's changing who we trust, how we work, where we go, and what we want. And yet nobody's talking about it because they don't want to see the big picture," says Morville. "This book is my attempt to connect the dots and provoke discussion about how the Internet and ubiquitous computing are transforming business, education, and culture."

As president of Semantic Studios, an information architecture and findability consultancy, Morville has advised such clients as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Harvard, Internet2, Proctor & Gamble, Vanguard, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo. Morville is known as one of the fathers of information architecture, having coauthored the field's bestselling book, "Information Architecture on the World Wide Web" (O'Reilly). His new book is an unusual journey into the emerging reality that lets us find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime. Both roadmap and manifesto, Ambient Findability explains the economic and cultural impact of search and wayfinding technologies, using intriguing examples and full color illustrations throughout.

"At the crossroads of ubiquitous computing and the Internet, we’ve begun to create new interfaces for exporting digital networked information while simultaneously importing vast amounts of data about the physical world into these networks," explains Morville. "GPS, RFID, sensors, wearables, implants, ingestibles, and other emerging technologies are enabling an Internet of objects we can barely imagine. We’re headed towards ambient findability, a world in which we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime. "However, there are no revolutionary search technologies on the horizon," he adds. "As the search space grows exponentially, so will the findability challenge. Amazon, eBay, and Google all understand the profit potential of mining the millions of niches the Web makes possible. Those businesses that successfully lower search costs and drive their customers further down the tip of the Long Tail will reap tremendous rewards. In other words, findability will be key to competitive advantage in the coming years."

Thought-provoking and insightful, Ambient Findability will be of interest to any "user experience professionals" who design, build, and manage web sites and interactive products. But the book will also hold appeal for anyone interested in the future of architecture, business, communication, education, design, literacy, marketing, and other areas of work touched by the information age.

"I also hope the book will have an impact on what Brian Eno calls the 'Big Here and the Long Now.' I hope it will change how people thing about the world we are creating," says Morville. "These technologies will have profound social impact. They're already changing when we work, where we go, who we trust, and how we make decisions. I hope the book helps people anticipate the many possible futures that exist today, so we can more consciously and collectively shape the future we want."

The concept of "usability" has attracted attention in recent years, but Morville contends that findability will only grow more important as ubiquitous computing and the Internet converge. "I like to say that 'findability precedes usability, in the alphabet and on the web.' You can't use what you can't find," says Morville. "The shift from push to pull has huge implications for advertising and marketing. But that's just the half of it. At the bleeding edge of this revolution we see the scales tipping away from mass media towards the media of the masses. But blogs and Wikipedia are just the beginning. This revolution will transform business, politics, and education."

Ambient Findability is an amazing boundary spanner with insights that may forever change how you think, where you go, what you find, and who you become.

Early praise for Ambient Findability:

"A lively, enjoyable and informative tour of a topic that's only going to become more important."
--David Weinberger, Author, "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" and "The Cluetrain Manifesto"

"I envy the young scholar who finds this inventive book, by whatever strange means are necessary. The future isn't just unwritten--it's unsearched."
--Bruce Sterling, Writer, Futurist, and Co-Founder, The Electronic Frontier Foundation

  • Further reviews of the book
  • Additional Resources:

    Ambient Findability
    Peter Morville
    ISBN: 0-596-00765-5, 188 pages, $29.95 US, $41.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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