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User Error
Resisting Computer Culture

Rose, Ellen
Publisher:  Between the Lines, Toronto, Canada
Year Published:  2003  
Pages:  204pp   Price:  $24.95   ISBN:  1-896357-79-2

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Ellen Rose holds the McCain/Aliant-Telecom Chair in Education and Multimedia at the University of New Brunswick. Her premise is that as users, we willingly grant authority to the creators of software, support materials, and the infrastructure. Her examples are as up to date as the beginning of 2003, and now this review itself will be two years later. In addition, by the time you, the reader, buy or rent the book, it may be as much as three years. Books will always be late, and out of date. That goes with the territory.

To use Rose's words, we willingly grant authority to the book publishers to create out of date information. Her topics include computer anxiety, artificial intelligence (but no mention of Eliza or Julia programs), intelligent agents, hackers, computer knowledge, user documentation (always good for a joke), obsolescence, software development, upgrades, and user interfaces. I'm not really sure what her point is, since users in other areas don't need to know what goes on under the hood. We don't know about internal combustion engines or VCRs either. Have you ever tried to read a car manual? Her material makes for a couple of good magazine articles, which can also be updated more frequently, too.

Audience or interest level: the curious, Luddites, technophobes seeking validation.

Some interesting facts: "As users we tend to be dismissed by software producers as error-prone and mindless, but as consumers of high-technology we seem to be highly sought after and cherished."

What I don't like about this resource: her "conclusion" chapter is all about the future: pure speculation, and inconclusive at best.

What I do like about this resource: there is a large bibliography with endnotes, although the index is mainly to personal names.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 85.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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