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Shaping Things

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  459 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
" Shaping Things is about created objects and the environment, which is to say, it's about everything," writes Bruce Sterling in this addition to the Mediawork Pamphlet series. He adds: "Seen from sufficient distance, this is a small topic."

Sterling offers a brilliant, often hilarious history of shaped things. We have moved from an age of artifacts, made by hand, through c
Paperback, 149 pages
Published October 7th 2005 by MIT Press (MA) (first published 2005)
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Tim Belonax
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
A beautiful marriage of form and writing that still holds weight over ten years after its writing (which is impressive for technology writing).

I'd recommend this book to anyone entering digital product design or those interested in technology and its interplay with society.

Some of Sterling's language can feel obfuscated by his style, but writing clearly about a future yet to happen can be a complicated endeavor.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unextraordinary, but full of vocabulary that helps to prepare you to think about the future and how to perceive the paradigm shifts to come.
Yates Buckley
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essential
Internet of Things contrarian views from Bruce Sterling are more than a warning about the issues we open by transforming everyday objects into sensing machines. The book should shape the base criticism of IoT for any analysis of society and technology use in the future. The book is basically somewhere between a philosophical text and a manifesto, where the format can actually lead to confusion and makes some of the content easy to misunderstand.
In this book we miss the positive dream of IoT whic
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This guy is a genius.

Does that mean I agree with everything he says? Absolutely not. But damn, really was a cool read (esp for a class reading...)
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this book, Sterling proposes a very interesting idea that objects can remember its own journey of life. Some inspiring or thoughtful quotes are:

"Why do we want to make this effort? It's because a metahistory is the ultimate determinant of the shape of things. It's through metahistory that people come to realize that new things are proper things. New objects that can fit into a metahistorical context are seen as progressive advancements." -- p. 39

"They have the capacity to change the human rel
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design
Bruce Sterling is a science-fiction writer and he should stay that way. I still cannot understand why he was commisioned to write this book. He doesn't really seem to grasp what design really entails. Rather, he speaks about it like an outsider would speak. His comments are often unsubstantial--lacking much relevance. However, he does make some interesting insights into a future world of spimes and bots. And, on some level, I did appreciate his matter-of-fact way of discussing the field.[return] ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
Much like Bruno Latour, Bruce Sterling understands that neither sociology nor technology can be discussed as separate topics. There are even parallels in the way that Sterling personifies technology in his writing to Bruno Latour's Actor-Network Theory.

Technology acts upon society while society acts upon technology at the same time. He describes this system as "socio-technical". He lists off the 4 different ages of technosociety leading to the present day (Gizmos and End-Users) before going off
Paige Ellen Stone
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I just sat down and read this book in one sitting. Formally it is described as a "pamphlet," but how many pamphlets run on to 150 pages? I will make no secret of being a fan of Mr. Sterlings scifi work, but this is non-fiction that invites us into the world of a scifi like future. To quote liberally from the cover:
"This book is about created objects and the environment, which is to say, it's a book about everything.
The ideal readers for this book are those ambitious young souls (of any age)
Olaf Kowalik
Nov 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
This book is easier to read if you've seen Sterling talk about spimes. There are a couple of his talks on YouTube that give context. The upshot of the book is his vision of a technology called spimes which, by nature of their ability to track themselves and be recycled, are environmentally sustainable. He describes a set of technologies including digital fabrication and RFID that contribute to the goal of sustainability. His other point in the book is that designers are uniquely able to create t ...more
Craig Jaquish
Nov 12, 2010 rated it liked it
One disappointment I encountered--not quite a demerit--is that I'd really hoped Sterling would breathe a sci-fi writer's imagination into the topic, but it was on par with a Vint Cerf YouTube presentation (which would be a fair substitute for this book if you prefer--also, Cerf's "IP on Everything" T-shirt is much funnier than any of Sterling's humor). The book's continuing plus is that it's a short read, and even if you find it dull or passé, you'll have it finished before you can really hate i ...more
DWRL Library
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sterling offers a historical overview of “things,” a history, he says, that’s moved from more sustainable methods (in the age of handmade objects) to the unsustainable age of “gizmos” where we find ourselves today, and into the future of design. He argues that the next phase, or technoculture, we will enter will be an age of more sustainable “spimes,” which he characterizes as primarily virtual objects (information-based) that will materialize physically when necessary. Anyone interested in digi ...more
Joe Milazzo
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
More a manifesto that it might initial appear to be (it does take a while for Sterling to get to just what a spime *is*), Sterling here proposes a reification of informatics so radical it just might alter the infrastructure of our consumptiveness.

I wonder what might happen if Sterling were to put science fiction aside for a while and concentrate on something a bit less "generic".

The design of the book is crucial to the meaning it aims to make, and, while it might not be for every taste -- some
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Really, a design manifesto. Sterling sees the world unlike anyone else. His insight into design in this work completely changed the way I thought about environmentalism and the green movement.

Sterling's fiction can often be clunky and his characters awkward and wooden. He's at his best in a work like this where he's allowed to spin out future scenarios firmly rooted in a comprehensive grasp of the present.

The design of this book, appropriately, is also magnificent.
Shannon Clark
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good read even if it is a bit old - still paints a picture of a future that is rapidly approaching but not quite yet here. Worth reading if you are thinking about how 3D printing or more precisely personal Fabrication will change the future. But it isn't just about that, it is also a great example of a Futurist having fun - yet also painting a picture of a realistic and possible future. Not a perfect book in the least with a lot of neologisms (most of which haven't caught on - yet)
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Bruce Stirling's notions of the evolution of designed objects from Artifacts to Machines to Products to Gizmos to "Spimes" is an insightful and fascinating journey between our past and possible future, particularly significant is the idea that our designed objects will need to become rich with metadata and that this has within it the potential clues to sustainable design.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Andrew by: Warren Ellis
Sterling isn't just an amazing Sci-Fi writer, he's also a futurist, and this is the pure stuff; pontifications on where we're headed based on where we've been and where we are.

If you want to take peek at the coming "Internet of Things" then give this book a read.
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: christmas-2012
An interesting book, though a bit tough going in place. Lots of interesting thoughts. Nice physical item but I did find some of the highlighting, underlining and the like distracted from the text. Have made a lot of notes which I'm sure I'll refer back to.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
The illustration of the book is quite lovely, the projections not too far off the mark yet, but as he recently said in a conference talk, the whole rfid-as-panacea-enabler might never happen, that it's just too difficult to give each item all this contextual information.

Still, interesting read.
Nick DeMarco
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: nerd-jerks
This book is in parts a fascinating read on the way our interactions and objects will be radically different in the extremely near future. It is also, however, extremely annoying, condescending and dated.
Richard MacManus
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very thought-provoking. Futuristic theory.
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A zany, sometimes off the wall imagining of where the future lies for designed objects and technology. If you've ever wondered where the term "Internet of Things" came from, start here.
Janet Guss Darwich
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting quick read
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not everyone will be able to appreciate Sterling's vision. This should be required reading for any graduate student in any field of computer science.
Owen Hodda
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fun, light read. At time right on the mark, at other times so so off the mark. Fun to see what has changed in just 8 years, and a good call for better design practices.
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bring on the spimes! Recommended for people who design things, or care about how those things may work together and with people to support a sustainable society in the future.
Andrew Lovett-barron
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Manifesto for now. Hugely important book, very short and readable. If you're a designer, you need to read this to understand any modern or otherwise material context you might seek to explore.
Theodore Kinni
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I've been seeing a lot of books about the philosophy, ethics, and critical role of design lately. This one seemed like a good place to start digging in...and it was.
Ritchie Macapinlac
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it
It was an interesting read about Bruce Sterling's vision of the future based on his observations of trends of the past.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Imaginative take on where technology should, shouldn't, and will take us.
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Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.
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“Science fiction is not about the freedom of imagination. It's about a free imagination pinched and howling in a vise that other people call real life.” 6 likes
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