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User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts

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User-Centered Technology presents a theoretical model for examining technology through a user perspective. Johnson begins with a historical overview of the problem of technological use from the ancient Greeks to the present day - a problem seen most clearly in historical discussions of rhetoric theory. The central portion of the book elaborates on user-centered theory by d User-Centered Technology presents a theoretical model for examining technology through a user perspective. Johnson begins with a historical overview of the problem of technological use from the ancient Greeks to the present day - a problem seen most clearly in historical discussions of rhetoric theory. The central portion of the book elaborates on user-centered theory by defining three focal issues of the theory: user knowledge, human-technology interaction, and technological determinism. Working from an interdisciplinary perspective, Johnson uses rhetoric theory to present a definition of user knowledge; human factors engineering to illuminate the ideological presuppositions built into technology design; and history, philosophy, and sociology to explain technological determinism, possibly the greatest impediment to user-centered technology development in modern times. The latter part of the book applies user-centered theory in two contexts: the nonacademic sphere, where the writing and design of computer user documentation is discussed, and the academic sphere, through a discussion of how user-centered concepts might drive university technical communication and composition curricula.


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User-Centered Technology presents a theoretical model for examining technology through a user perspective. Johnson begins with a historical overview of the problem of technological use from the ancient Greeks to the present day - a problem seen most clearly in historical discussions of rhetoric theory. The central portion of the book elaborates on user-centered theory by d User-Centered Technology presents a theoretical model for examining technology through a user perspective. Johnson begins with a historical overview of the problem of technological use from the ancient Greeks to the present day - a problem seen most clearly in historical discussions of rhetoric theory. The central portion of the book elaborates on user-centered theory by defining three focal issues of the theory: user knowledge, human-technology interaction, and technological determinism. Working from an interdisciplinary perspective, Johnson uses rhetoric theory to present a definition of user knowledge; human factors engineering to illuminate the ideological presuppositions built into technology design; and history, philosophy, and sociology to explain technological determinism, possibly the greatest impediment to user-centered technology development in modern times. The latter part of the book applies user-centered theory in two contexts: the nonacademic sphere, where the writing and design of computer user documentation is discussed, and the academic sphere, through a discussion of how user-centered concepts might drive university technical communication and composition curricula.

30 review for User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris Friend

    This is a frustratingly difficult text. Johnson spends too much time telling what he’s going to talk about and inflating the effectiveness of his argument when he’s through, rather than just saying what was on his mind. Johnson’s point here was to discuss the field and his ideas in general terms, to not fill a book with examples. He did that admirably: I swear there were only two clear case-studies that occupied a grand total of four pages. After reading the entire book, I have but a vague sense This is a frustratingly difficult text. Johnson spends too much time telling what he’s going to talk about and inflating the effectiveness of his argument when he’s through, rather than just saying what was on his mind. Johnson’s point here was to discuss the field and his ideas in general terms, to not fill a book with examples. He did that admirably: I swear there were only two clear case-studies that occupied a grand total of four pages. After reading the entire book, I have but a vague sense of what he would believe qualifies as “user-centered” technology, especially because he takes direct issue with Norman’s ideas of user-centered design, quoting and refuting concepts from Norman’s text that I felt was far more approachable, accessible, illustrative, and helpful. In short, the overarching thought I’m left with after reading this book is that Johnson believes he did a terrific job of clearly identifying his objectives, thoroughly elaborating on his ideology, and graciously revisiting key points after each discussion. Pity I don’t agree. I’ve spend the last hundred or so pages looking for him to make a point, only to be told by him that he’d already done so. --- Update three years later: I find that I refer to Johnson's ideas more than I would have imagined after my initial frustrations waned. I only cite a small amount of his text, but I do find it useful. Was my initial criticism too harsh? Yes. I did not have a good experience with the text my first time through. Do the points stand? I think so, yes. This text, while effective and influential, could have been more succinctly written and better supported. Granted, I say the same of my own writing. I've adjusted my rating from one star to three.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    Johnson's book is a cornerstone for re-imagining the relationships between users, developers, and the texts/spaces they create. Unfortunately, the field of technical communication is often seen as an arhetorical field that functions on the premise of a conduit. For technical documents to work, the writer merely has to get the information down with clarity. Johnson is making the argument that technical writers need to take into account the ecologies of use and consider users as situated, knowledg Johnson's book is a cornerstone for re-imagining the relationships between users, developers, and the texts/spaces they create. Unfortunately, the field of technical communication is often seen as an arhetorical field that functions on the premise of a conduit. For technical documents to work, the writer merely has to get the information down with clarity. Johnson is making the argument that technical writers need to take into account the ecologies of use and consider users as situated, knowledge producers. Though not a recent book in technological terms, the argument is still surprisingly relevant, especially as Web 2.0 and social software re-imagine user relationships to the web (even if we don't).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karla Kitalong

    I'm reading this again, in Sept. 2011, probably for the 4th time. I'm reading this again, in Sept. 2011, probably for the 4th time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Price

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

  6. 4 out of 5

    MAM

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  9. 4 out of 5

    carolyn rhea drapes

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bea

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rae Spencer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily January

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Simmons

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Golding

  20. 5 out of 5

    ThatCarlyGirl

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Flynn

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meg Davis

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neha

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna Kain

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shonell Bacon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Monty

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liza

  30. 5 out of 5

    Greg Bryan

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