A PREFACE CAN BE MANY THINGS; this preface is two things. First, it gives a practical introduction to what this book is and what you can learn from it. Second, it tells a personal story about my reasons for writing the book and what I hope it will mean to you.

The Practical Bit

This book is about how information shapes and changes the way people experience context in the products and services we design and build. It’s not only about how we design for a given context, but how design participates in making context. It begins with how people understand context in any environment. Then, it explores how language takes part in that understanding, and how information architecture helps to shape context, and to make it better. It’s also an exploration, where “understanding” is more verb than noun; it’s less about defining the right answers than discovering the right questions.
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Foreword by Peter Morville

It’s impossible to understand context. There’s always something we’re missing. Not long ago, during a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon, I was thinking deep thoughts about two thousand million year old rocks. They made me feel small. While we’re more stable than a tornado or a sandbar, we belong in the same category. We are delicate, imperfect patterns that come and go in the blink of an eye. But we’re also more ancient than rocks. We are made of stardust, indestructible matter as old as the universe.

That’s when I heard the rattle.

Lost in thought, I nearly stepped on a snake. In unfamiliar territory, it’s impossible to understand context, but it’s still vital that we pay attention.

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Listed below are most of the sources drawn upon for the book. A few may not be cited in the book itself, but were important research background nevertheless. Many other articles and other books were part of the research throughout the book’s writing, but would only make this list more unwieldy — it’s safe to say the most important background info is represented here in one way or another. Apologies for inconsistent biblio syntax and a lack of categorization or annotation; caveat emptor, etc.
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Advance Praise

“Andrew is helping us all to realize we’re not designing software or websites. Because ‘language is infrastructure’ and ‘the map is the territory,’ the things we build and inhabit are ‘places made of information.’ From the perspective of experience, these digital ecosystems are as real as the Grand Canyon.”
— Peter Morville (From the Foreword) Author, Intertwingled, Ambient Findability, and Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

“Andrew takes us on a journey from not knowing to knowing; he asks good, interesting questions about the role context plays in the design and architecture of understanding.”
— Richard Saul Wurman

“As computers become smaller they are becoming more ubiquitous. Computers and computing are not only in our mobile phones, but they are rapidly being embedded in everything. Cars, kitchens, street corners and shopping malls are becoming smart and connected. In this connected world, understanding context is more important than ever before. Andrew Hinton has written a thoughtful, well-researched and insightful book, full of key ideas to help you navigate the connected future.”
— Dave Gray Author, The Connected Company and Gamestorming; founder, XPLANE

“Andrew Hinton’s well-organized, useful, conversational approach makes this vast ontology of context not only accessible, but indeed like a long walk with J.J.Gibson himself. Come along for a day, come away better situated in a world remade (but not replaced) by technology, and get ready to give it better architecture.”
— Malcolm McCullough Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan, author of Ambient Commons and Digital Ground.
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