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News & Events

09-16-2005

Clarkson Professor’s New Book Explores How Technology Users Work and Communicate Within Information-Saturated Spaces

[A photograph for newspaper use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/datacloud.jpg]

 Clarkson University Professor Johndan Johnson-Eilola has completed his latest book, Datacloud: Toward A New Theory of Online Work, published by Hampton Press and now available in soft cover online at Amazon.com, and through selected college bookstores and other online resellers.

Drawing on his extensive research on the interface of technology-driven data and human communications, Johnson-Eilola’s contribution to a growing field explores how users learn to work and communicate within information-saturated spaces (both physical and online). In the introduction to his book, Johnson-Eilola describes the computer revolution not as one definitive “event” in modern history, but rather “a dispersed network of subtle but profound changes in patterns of working, living, and communicating.” Further comparison, he notes, finds these shifts are not occurring within cutting-edge research and development centers or think tanks. “Even though inventions start there, it’s in the real world – on the street and in the workplace and in the home – that change begins to take hold.” Johnson Eilola

The intended target audience for Datacloud includes people interested in understanding how society is learning to deal with massive amounts of information, primarily students and faculty of technical communications, media studies, and computers and writing, though the book will also appeal to those with an appreciation of technological shifts in general.

“What I am hoping to achieve through Datacloud is to highlight the need to scrutinize benign technologies, benign in that they are too often being used simply to replicate things we already do, and to begin instead to recognize greater potential for their use,” says Johnson-Eilola. “Computers, for example, are wonderful in that they allow us to do routine things more efficiently, but there is a huge untapped potential that struggles to emerge; if we recognize the difference between the everyday and the revolution, we might learn how to do some new things,” he adds.

Noteworthy is the fact that Johnson-Eilola utilized the interface of technology and communications in the development of the book. Through a web log he established while writing Datacloud, (http://people.clarkson.edu/~johndan/datacloud/), the Clarkson professor was able to release draft versions of the book and integrate feedback from interested readers. Draft chapters were used as course readings at various institutions and Johnson-Eilola was invited to read sections of the books at several universities, which generated further discussion on various topics. This process, along with continued research, expanded the scope of Johnson-Eilola’s work.

“In the end, the book (and my research) focused less on computer-supported workers, such as database, spreadsheet and email users, but expanded to encompass also architects, composers, hip-hop musicians, college students, and more,” says Johnson-Eilola. “This gave me a better sense of how work is valued and defined in our culture, and how people’s work habits mesh with the tools they use and develop. I looked at how our culture values creativity in work and how people respond to those ideas in useful, sometimes very innovative, ways,” he adds.

Johndan Johnson-Eilola is a professor in the Department of Communication & Media. He teaches courses in information architecture and usability, technical communication, rhetoric, and mass media. He has gained international recognition for his contributions to finding intersections between practice and theory, and has published extensively on information work, hypertext theory and practice, computer-assisted writing, online communities, and the politics of technology. His research and scholarship has won several awards, including most recently the 2005 Computers & Composition Distinguished Book Award for his collaborative book, Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition, published by Utah State University Press.

PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson Professor of Media & Communication Johndan Johnson-Eilola has published his latest book, Datacloud: Toward A New Theory of Online Work (New Dimensions in Computers and Composition), which explores the need to utilize technology beyond simply replicating existing tasks at a faster rate in order to tap the greater potential for more innovative and creative uses of technology in working and living environments.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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