book reviews:  Digital Ground


In this well-written book, McCullough, associate professor of architecture and design at the University of Michigan, leads us through a well-reasoned argument for embracing good design as a way of offsetting many of the intrusive effects of computers in our lives...
[A] way to think about how we might intelligently respond to the computer kudzu without letting it take over the garden.
-- Michael J. Crosbie, Architectural Record

[An extraordinarily deep dive into design theory and the impact of digital, interactive technologies on architecture...
The book is as rich, dense, and layered as an Italian Hill town."
Leo Frishberg, UX Matters

This is an important book. Not so much for what it achieves for architecture specifically, but for its detailed scholarly critique of the present level of ubiquitous, embedded computing devices generally.
--David Harle, Leonardo Digital Reviews

The interaction design literature has too often been limited by the need to explain the basics of the field to new readers, or by the immaturity of the discipline. By imagining digital design as a new layer within an old discipline, McCullough gives us an important and sophisticated analysis that both ties the field to a history and opens up new vistas. Anyone with an interest in interaction design or the future of pervasive computing will find much worth thinking about in this book.
Michelle Tepper, netWorker


Malcolm McCullough's new book Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing is a readable and timely contribution to current interaction design. Using ideas drawn from architectural and design theory, cognitive science, and philosophy, McCullough significantly extends current ideas about pervasive computing and so-called experience design, while building on the foundation of traditional task centered interface design. It's the best current book on interaction design, and should appeal to both designers and theorists.
--Andrew Otwell heyotwell

This is a serious work on technology written with sensitivity to both marketing new things and the social impacts they have. . . There is a Zen in the book
Andrew Allentuck  Globe and Mail

I bought and read one standout book this year, Malcolm McCullough's Digital Ground, mixed in with many more that I enjoyed. Digital Ground stood out as it combined a lot of things I had been thinking about, but had not quite pulled together.
--Thomas Vander Wal,, full review


Like it or not, our physical environment is beginning to fill with embedded and ubiquitous computing devices. Are we attending sufficiently to their design and to their effects on our lives? How will they change our traditional notions of architecture? Questions largely ignored because they are too difficult -- or too painful -- to answer are confronted head-on in McCullough's thoughtful and provocative essay.
--B.J. Novitski, Managing Editor, ArchitectureWeek

In Digital Ground Malcolm McCullough elegantly summarizes the past and present relations between architecture and computing, and constructs a solid foundation for future interaction between the two fields.
--Casey Reas, Interaction Design Institute Ivrea

This is one of the most thoughtful books in the emerging field of interaction design. It is well argued and solidly grounded in both the literature and experience of computing. McCullough provides a powerful explanation for why design -- and interaction design in particular -- is emerging as a liberal art of the twenty-first century. Digital Ground is important for the professional designer, the student of design, and the general public.
--Richard Buchanan, Carnegie Mellon University

Malcolm McCullough's book charts a significant, unexplored terrain confronting architects and society at large. Pervasive computing is embedded, networked, ubiquitous, and capable of not only sensing and processing, but acting as well. This new form of computing holds the potential to restructure physical space and our relation to it, and McCullough provides an articulate and readable introduction to this new world, both promising and troubling. Digital Ground is a solid, early contribution to what will quickly become an important field of study for architecture, planning, and urban design.
--Dana Cuff, Professor of Architecture, University of California, Los Angeles