Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book review: "Dangerous Games" by MacMillan

I am almost finished reading the book "Dangerous Games - The Uses and Abuses of History" by the historian Margaret MacMillan. This is not a book about interaction design or HCI or technology, but it is definitely a book on design, and in this case, the design of history.

MacMillan shows the importance of history in todays society, for instance as a "tool" designed to deliver comfort, identity, or nationalism. MacMillan really makes a strong case with numerous examples on how history can be misused and be a dangerous tool in the hands of those who want to control our present and future. It is fascinating to see MacMillan's examples of how history is, and has been, designed to serve certain particular purposes. The real historian has a different responsibility, according to MacMillan, and that is to simply explain what actually happened, when it happened and to present some explanations of why. This is a delicate task and requires a professional competence.

It is also exciting to read about the need for a constant re-design of our history. MacMillan shows convincingly how that is needed, not as a consequence of earlier "bad" history, but as a way for us to re-position the past in relation to the present and the future (this actually relates to my previous post on "The Evolution of What is Easy to Use").

Overall, this is a wonderful book, and even if it is not about my own professional fields, I found many interesting connections and it helps me to think about the history of relationship between technology and humans and how that history is constructed in order to predict and substantiate design actions of the future.

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