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Hardcover | $29.95 | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262018807 | 368 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 58 b&w illus.| March 2013
Paperback | $19.95 | £13.95 | ISBN: 9780262528399 | 368 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 58 b&w illus.| August 2015
Ebook | $20.95 | ISBN: 9780262313469 | 368 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 58 b&w illus.| March 2013
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Ambient Commons

Attention in the Age of Embodied Information


The world is filling with ever more kinds of media, in ever more contexts and formats. Glowing rectangles have become part of the scene; screens, large and small, appear everywhere. Physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented. Amid this flood, your attention practices matter more than ever. You might not be able to tune this world out. So it is worth remembering that underneath all these augmentations and data flows, fixed forms persist, and that to notice them can improve other sensibilities. In Ambient Commons, Malcolm McCullough explores the workings of attention through a rediscovery of surroundings.

McCullough describes what he calls the Ambient: an increasing tendency to perceive information superabundance whole, where individual signals matter less and at least some mediation assumes inhabitable form. He explores how the fixed forms of architecture and the city play a cognitive role in the flow of ambient information. As a persistently inhabited world, can the Ambient be understood as a shared cultural resource, to be socially curated, voluntarily limited, and self-governed as if a commons? Ambient Commons invites you to look past current obsessions with smart phones to rethink attention itself, to care for more situated, often inescapable forms of information.

About the Author

Malcolm McCullough is Professor of Architecture at Taubman College, the University of Michigan. He is the author of Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand and Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing, both published by the MIT Press.


Ambient Commons is quiet, patient and profound; through 12 pithy chapters, it asks us to ponder information contexts.
Times Higher Education

Ambient Commons sizzles with provocative ideas: attention theft, right to undisrupted attention, peak distraction. It's a call for responsible urbanism. . . . Given the recent hype about the rise of the 'smart city'—courtesy of large technology companies pitching solutions to innovaton-hungry mayors—McCullough's advocacy of technologically mediated but humane urbanism is timely.
Evgeny Morozov, The New Yorker

The book is both a delight to read and a call to action in two ways. Civilized human beings need to disengage from their glowing rectangles and appreciate the world around us, and design professionals need to pay attention to the information content of our environment.
User Experience Magazine

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