Digital Culture

The Design of Digital Culture


Seminar for CHUCOL (Cambridge Certificate in Humanities Oriented Computing for Languages)

Alan F. Blackwell

Cambridge University Computer Laboratory


Seminar Topics


A technical(ish) introduction to Web 2.0

The prehistory of the Macintosh and Windows

The path to user-centred design

Digital societies

Research in e-Humanities

Digital aesthetics

Pervasive and ubiquitous computing

Visual language

The culture of electronic frontiers


Reading List:


Douglas van Duyne, James Landay and Jason Hong
The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principles and Processes for Crafting a Customer-Centred Web Experience.
Addison-Wesley 2003

A how-to handbook, which tries to tell you everything you would need to know to build good websites. The authors have a respectable pedigree in human-computer interaction research, and present their knowledge in an accessible and professional way.

Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers and Jennifer Preece
Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (2nd ed.)
Wiley 2007

This is the textbook that I use in my own introductory HCI course, selected because it provides advice that could be directly interpreted by a graduate finding him/herself in a job with responsibility for interaction design. This covers interaction with many other kinds of software and hardware, not just websites.

John Heskett
Toothpicks & Logos: Design in Everyday Life
Oxford University Press 2002

An excellent introduction to the idea of design as a coherent body of practice, ranging across the whole range of design professions, products and histories.

Kees Dorst
Understanding Design: 150 Reflections on Being a Designer
BIS Publishers 2003

A rather elegant book, which offers insights to people who do design, as well as to those who consume it or collaborate with designers. The title is self-explanatory, really.

Richard Coyne
Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor.
MIT Press 1995

An unusually constructive attempt to apply postmodern philosophy to the concerns of contemporary technology design. A good book to have at hand if you want to confuse or worry your acquaintances who are studying computer science.

Mark Warschauer
Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide
MIT Press 2003

The best single volume introduction to the diverse economic, educational, social and political factors that result in the exaggeration of existing inequalities when digital technologies are being deployed.

Charles Leadbeater
We-think: Innovation by the massess not for the masses
Profile 2007 (collaborative online publication)

We-Think: the power of mass creativity is about what the rise of the likes of Wikipedia and Youtube, Linux and Craigslist means for the way we organise ourselves, not just in digital businesses but in schools and hospitals, cities and mainstream corporations.

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (Ed)
CODE: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy
MIT Press 2005

The book of a conference convened by Alan Blackwell and the Arts Council of England at Queens' College in 2001. Authors from a wide range of academic disciplines consider the various problems that modern society must face in the management and exploitation of intellectual property. Although highlighted in the use of computers, many of these issues have more far-reaching consequences for our understanding of contemporary society.

Clarisse Sieckenius de Souza
The Semiotic Engineering of Human-Computer Interaction
MIT Press 2005

A work of applied semiotics, describing the nature of the user interface as a mediated conversation between the designer and user. Intended as a corrective to the "man-machine" systems view. although perhaps unsurprising to an informed student of linguistics.

John Carroll (Ed)
HCI Models, Theories and Frameworks: Toward a Multidisciplinary Science.
Morgan Kaufmann 2003

A textbook that I use myself, but mainly for the benefit of students who take an interest in what kind of research opportunities exist in the field of HCI. It describes a wide range of current research approaches (including my own), each in a chapter that extends from history and theoretical introduction to current research issues.

Paul Dourish
Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction
MIT Press 2001

Dourish is a computer scientist writing philosophy for a broad audience, attempting to develop a theory of interaction that will be adequate for new developments in ubiquitous computing and computer-mediated social encounters.

Malcolm McCullough
Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing and Environmental Knowing.
MIT Press 2004

A professor of architectural design from MIT addresses the topic of what happens "after cyberspace", as computing devices start to pervade our physical environment.

Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds
Explorations in Art and Technology
Springer 2002

A review of a long series of collaborations with visiting artists at the Creativity and Cognition Research Studio in Loughborough. Candy and Edmonds are now based in Australia, in the University of Sydney.

Anthony Dunne
Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design
MIT Press 2005

Dunne is a professor at the Royal College of Art, where he is responsible for their Master's Programme in Computer Related Design. This book describes many of the philosophical foundations of that course, particularly in changing the nature of our engagement with digital technology. The book is based on Dunne's PhD dissertation, and provides a valuable insight into the nature of "practice-based" research conducted in schools of art and design.

Sadie Plant
Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + the New Technoculture
Fourth Estate 1997

One of the few manifestos that apply the gaze of gender politics to digital technologies. Draws on eclectic sources ranging from science fiction to Foucault.

Richard Coyne
Cornucopia Limited: Design and Dissent on the Internet.
MIT Press 2005

Reflections on the ways in which the web and electronically mediated life can be viewed from the perspective of cultural studies, from an Edinburgh professor of architectural design.

John Markoff
What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
Penguin 2005

A journalistic expose of everyone who took LSD in the early days of Silicon Valley, and how idealists were eventually overtaken by money.

CHUCOL Seminar
Copyright 2006-11 Alan Blackwell