Book Review: The Invisible Computer

The Invisible Computer
By Donald A Norman
Published By MIT Press

Review by Cassandra Mays

In The Invisible Computer, Donald Norman argues that “people are analog, not digital, biological not mechanical.  It is time for a human centered technology, a humane technology.”  He believes the computer industry is trapped by its own success, having to constantly produce faster more complex products.  The result, he claims, is intrusive and over-bearing technology.

Norman’s answer to this is to start over again with simple information appliances that are focused on the user.  Consequently, Norman argues manufacturers must develop a new approach to developing products by restructuring, changing processes and hiring people with human-centered skills in addition to technology-centered ones.  The result, if we are to take Normans word, is the “invisible computer” in which the technology disappears and humans can then focus on activities, learning, and doing their jobs.

Whether or not you agree with Norman, his arguments are well written and easily understood.  He does raise some interesting arguments such as, that “people should learn the task, not the technology.”  I believe, though, that  Norman is too idealistic, and as a result, his arguments can seem a little unbalanced.  For example, he fails to acknowledge that technology-focused companies have, and continue to make, very real contributions to simplifying our lifestyles and work processes.

Overall, Norman’s book, whilst both provocative and thoughtful, is too one-sided and ultimately one is left interested but unconvinced.

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