Until recently, information systems have been designed around different business functions, such as accounts payable and inventory control. Object-oriented modeling, in contrast, structures systems around the data—the objects—that make up the various business functions. Because information about a particular function is limited to one place—to the object—the system is shielded from the effects of change. Object-oriented modeling also promotes better understanding of requirements, clear designs, and more easily maintainable systems.
Instant electronic access to digital information is the single most distinguishing attribute of the information age. The elaborate retrieval mechanisms that support such access are a product of technology. But technology is not enough. The effectiveness of a system for accessing information is a direct function of the intelligence put into organizing it. Just as the practical field of engineering has theoretical physics as its underlying base, the design of systems for organizing information rests on an intellectual foundation.
What do a seventeenth-century mortality table (whose causes of death include "fainted in a bath," "frighted," and "itch"); the identification of South Africans during apartheid as European, Asian, colored, or black; and the separation of machine- from hand-washables have in common? All are examples of classification—the scaffolding of information infrastructures.
Quintessentially American institutions, symbols of community spirit and the American faith in education, public libraries are ubiquitous in the United States. Close to a billion library visits are made each year, and more children join summer reading programs than little league baseball. Public libraries are local institutions, as different as the communities they serve. Yet their basic services, techniques, and professional credo are essentially similar; and they offer, through technology and cooperative agreements, myriad materials and information far beyond their own walls.
Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age puts the theoretical discussion of computer systems and information technology on a new footing. Shifting the discourse from its usual rationalistic framework, Richard Coyne shows how the conception, development, and application of computer systems is challenged and enhanced by postmodern philosophical thought.
Industry veteran Raymond Nickerson provides an extensive introduction to the information technology revolution that is transforming industrial society. He focuses particularly on the study of person-computer interaction, noting how computers are affecting their users and society as a whole, and describes a variety of ways in which information technology is expected to develop in the foreseeable future.