Why I wrote this book (and why you may wish to read it)
Providing access to information is only one of many reasons for constructing a global information infrastructure, but an essential one. The success of applications such as electronic commerce, electronic publishing, distance-independent education, distributed entertainment, and cooperative work depends upon the ability to discover and locate information, whether about products, services, people, places, facts, or ideas of interest. None of these applications are new. What is new is the process by which they are conducted. Activities associated with familiar physical spaces for working, shopping, browsing through bookshelves, wandering through galleries, playing games, or meeting friends for coffee are occurring in virtual spaces. Many activities associated with separate places are converging, all conducted from a single computer console. Yet other activities that were associated with a single place are now diverging, conducted over mobile and tetherless information appliances.
The success of a global information infrastructure will depend upon how well it fits into peoples daily lives. To be attractive, it should be easy to use, available, affordable, and fill perceived needs. But what do these terms mean, and to whom? What is known about information-related behavior, and how can that knowledge be applied to designing a GII that will achieve its promise of improving access to information? Therein lies the focus of this book. Much is known about the information-related behavior of individuals and institutions, yet relatively little of that knowledge is being applied to the design of digital libraries, national and global information infrastructures, or information policy. This book draws upon that body of research and practice to identify ways it can be employed in constructing a GII that is useful and usable to a broad audience.
I wrote this book for a couple of reasons. One is that I had long sought a book that provides a broad sweep of current thinking about information, technology, behavior, and policy. Few of my colleagues could recommend a general starting point, and it has been hard to find sources to which I could direct people -- so I wrote that book myself. The second reason is that Id reached a point in my career where it was time to consolidate and integrate my work into a larger conceptualization, pulling together disparate threads of design, behavior, and policy, drawing upon research and practice in computer science, communication, library and information science, education, law, information policy, sociology, history, political science, economics, business, archives, and museum studies. The book took 10 years from conceptualization through completion, a period of dramatic global changes in technology, business, and politics. My challenge was to write a thoughtful analysis that is current today and will be relevant five years from now, incorporating what has been learned about access to information over the last several decades, and in some cases, over the last several centuries.
This book raises more questions than it answers. But now is the time to be raising these questions. Individuals, institutions, businesses, and governments are making strategic decisions that will influence the design of information systems and services and associated applications in commerce, education, communication, entertainment, and government. The audience for this book is scholars, practitioners, and policy makers involved in making these decisions, as well as students, and yes, even users. I hope this book will stimulate discussion among all of these players, because decisions made now will influence access to information, for everyone, for generations to come.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.