Summary of Calm Technology

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9 Overall

9 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Omnipresent technology presents the risk of overwhelming the people who use it.  The development of computing is at a critical stage, according to cyborg anthropologist and designer Amber Case. Now, she insists, the focus must shift to the human aspects of technology. As she notes, “Technology might not have a limit, but we do.” Case expounds on a little-known paper written by two Xerox PARC researchers in the 1990s to explain why “calm technology” provides the right path forward. She describes the “principles and patterns” of calm technology, provides tools and real-world examples of technology that fails to account for the human element, and discusses how to design this technology to interact more effectively with people. Anyone can apply Case’ calm ethos in the design and use of almost any technology. Her practical manual offers a different way to consider technology – that is, as a complement to human intelligence and creativity. Case asserts that calm technology has the potential to change fundamentally how you can relate to technology, reduce anxiety and enhance productivity. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why “calm technology” should be an essential part of design,
  • Which design principles calm technology follows, and
  • How to implement calm technology in product design and across your organization.

About the Author

Cyborg anthropologist and user-experience designer Amber Case studies how new technologies increasingly shape people’s values and culture.



What Is “Calm Technology”?

Technology has transformed how people live. Most of the transformation has been positive, bringing computing power and information into the palm of your hand in your home, car and workplace. Yet technology can be frustrating and can intrude to make life more complex. Users often encounter frustration trying to complete even simple technological tasks.

Enter calm technology, a philosophy researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown originally developed and wrote about at Xerox PARC in the 1990s. Calm technology represents a series of “principles and patterns” that focus on the human side of technology. It seeks to make using technology seamless, based on how people interact with the world. Good technology shouldn’t be intrusive; it should “disappear” into the background and communicate with users only when necessary.

Calm technology didn’t receive a lot of attention when Weiser and Brown published their paper. But now, the growth of technology in everyday life in the early 21st century requires revisiting calm technology to...

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