As our machines are increasingly jacked into global networks of information, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine the dataspace at our fingertips, to picture all that complexity in our mind's eye -- the way city dwellers, in the sociologist Kevin Lynch's phrase, "cognitively map" their real-world environs.

Representing all that information is going to require a new visual language, as complex and meaningful as the great metropolitan narratives of the nineteenth-century novel. We can already see the first stirrings of this new form in recent interface designs that have moved beyond the two-dimensional desktop metaphor into more immersive digital environments: town squares, shopping malls, personal assistants, living rooms. As the infosphere continues its exponential growth, the metaphors used to describe it will also grow in both scale and complexity. The agora of the twenty-first century may very well relocate to cyberspace, but it won't get very far without interface architects to draw up the blueprints.

Steven Johnson,
Interface Culture (HarperEdge, 1997)


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