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Inhabitable Information

In a 1970 announcement, the president of Xerox (a company which was at the avant-garde of computer systems and whose innovations allowed to produce the first successful personal computers) Charles Peter McColough speaks of the inhabitability of information environments1:

The basic purpose of Xerox Corporation is to find the best means to bring greater order and discipline to information. Thus our fundamental thrust, our common denominator, has evolved toward establishing leadership in what we call the architecture of information. What we seek is to think of information itself as a natural and undeveloped environment which can be enclosed and made more habitable for the people who live and work within it.

Charles Peter McColough, 1970

To quote a question from Molly Wright Steenson:

What does it mean for information to be inhabitable? This is an explicitly architectural problem.

Molly Wright Steenson, 2013

We live in the clouds and graphical interfaces (although some people still spend their days in dark-screen terminals) where we are more than ever exposed to “friendly”, fallacious metaphors; notifications extract our attention; we use digital tools to think, work and communicate (which in return are also working on our thoughts, according to Kittler).

The architecture of information environments was not born yesterday, and yet we seem to be completely helpless in front of it.

To understand what it means to “inhabit” information, we need a language: the language of information architecture.

CCA / Sternberg Press, 2017.
Quand le numérique marque-t-il l’architecture?

CCA / Sternberg Press, 2017.

  1. Xerox: Searching for an Architecture of Information, an address by Charles Peter McColough, President, Xerox Corporation, before the New York Society of Security Analysts, March 3, 1970, via Louis Murray Weitzman, The Architecture of Information, 1995. ↩︎