Wednesday, October 02, 2013

My book Tracing Genres through Organizations is ten years old this month

Ten years ago, my first book, Tracing Genres through Organizations, was published by MIT Press. It's hard to believe that it's been that long—until I look at the ancient Windows screenshots.

Just a few reminiscences:

  • TGTO is still my most widely cited publication. But when it first came out, I noticed that most of the cites came from the first chapter. MIT Press had put that chapter online for free to publicize the book. Coincidence?
  • I didn't expect TGTO to be accepted by MIT Press. My original plan was to approach the most prestigious press first. Then, along with the rejection letter, I would get some solid reviews that would help me revise it for the next press. To my complete surprise, MIT Press accepted the book and sent me a contract.
  • I signed the contract on September 10, 2001. Needless to say, I didn't get to celebrate much the next day.
  • TGTO was my tenure book. During the tenure process, I sometimes referred to it as Trudging Grimly through Obligations. But despite that, I really enjoyed writing it.
  • TGTO was based on my dissertation. But it represents a complete rethinking. That's because, days after my defense, I read Beyer and Holtzblatt's Contextual Design and realized that I had to step up my game. The next 18 months were spent researching interaction design methodologies, a period that resulted in several side publications in methodology and especially participatory design. In the end, I replaced three chapters entirely and reworked the cases in the remaining chapters.
  • I told someone the other day that I study how people use sticky notes. That's not the whole truth, but it's close enough.


Shannon Baker said...
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Fredrik Matheson said...

And I'm grateful I came across your book!

While I too had read Beyer & Holtzblatt's Contextual Design in school, TGTO introduced me to genres and refreshed my interest in Activity Theory.

More importantly, perhaps, TGTO the book that helped me connect the usability problems I worked on as an interaction designer to the larger issues my clients encountered.

We obviously need tools to mediate information/knowledge work, and there's almost always a desire to make systems better but there remains an inability – also on my part - to articulate how work actually takes place and how the tools and genres we use shape the outcomes and future options available to us. TGTO was a great start, I'm glad I came across it.