Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart is Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O'Day's thesis on how the average citizen has become distanced from the process of designing technology, resulting in technology that doesn't adequately serve the user's needs. Using the plot of the film Metropolis as their primary example, the authors explain how those who are creating technology are pouring their hearts into it, but aren't using their heads enough to anticipate whether "our creations can betray us."
Nardi and O'Day first draw on the works of prominent technology authors--such as Langdon Winner, Jacques Ellul, Nicholas Negroponte, and Clifford Stoll--examining various perspectives on technology design. Next, they define information ecology as "a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment." The book then urges readers to become involved in information ecologies and explains how to do so. Several case studies highlight successful information ecologies: a library setting, which emphasizes diversity of human personalities and technical resources without competition; Longview Elementary School in Phoenix, where students and educators collaborate to establish guidelines for responsible use of a virtual community called Pueblo; and a digital photography class, where the focus is on the value of the content being created rather than the sophisticated tools needed to perform the task of creation. A slim but inspiring book, Information Ecologies opens our eyes to the technology we use daily and prompts us to question how it could be better used or designed to meet our goals. --Cristina Vaamonde