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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Information Design: Survival in a Virtual World

Alison Reynolds.

This paper argues that the greatest transformation in technology during the past 30 years has been the democratisation of users. Alan Cooper, from Apple (cited in Barnum, 2001, p. 3), describes this transformation in the user population as the “democratisation of consumer power”. The advent of the “silicon brain” in computing systems has made information easily accessible to “untrained amateurs” rather than the complex mechanical systems of the past that required highly trained expert users (e.g. ATMs replacing bank clerks). It this democratisation that allows individual freedom and choice when technology is viewed simply as a tool rather than being the domain of the technical elite.

Humanities has an opportunity to take a proactive role in continuing to promote this democratisation process by recognising the role that the expansion of information and technology plays in shaping the reality of civilisation. In turn, Information design offers an interdisciplinary approach based on problem solving, research and enquiry that can further champion this position.


Alison Reynolds  (New Zealand)
Principal Lecturer in Technical Communication
Faculty of Humanities
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology

Alison Reynolds is the principal lecturer and programme leader of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s online Graduate Diploma of Technical Communication that is delivered to students in New Zealand, Canada, US, Japan, India, Britain and Australia.
She teaches usability testing, information design at postgraduate levels. Alison’s research areas include information design and usability testing. She has presented seminars in China and India as part of the Society for Technical Communication’s initiative to promote technical communication in developing countries.

  • Information design
  • Technical communication

(30 min Conference Paper, English)