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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium » User review

Now More Than Ever Before

  • Jan 11, 2000
Rating:
+5
Albert Borgmann examines "the nature of information at the turn of the millennium." In his Introduction, he examines Information vs. Reality. He then makes several distinctions which serve to organize the book into three separate but related parts: Natural Information: Information about Reality, Cultural Information: Information for Reality, and Technological Information: Information as Reality

What is Borgmann's ultimate objective? In his own words, "we need both a theory and an ethics of information -- a theory to illuminate the structure of information and an ethics to get the moral of its development." To achieve this objective, he creates a frame of reference within which to understand the evolution of "information" from primeval times when it served to disclose distant reality until now when it frequently seems to have a reality wholly apart from the actual world.

The importance of Holding On to Reality is perhaps most evident in its Conclusion when Borgmann invites his reader to reflect upon "The Lightness of Being" and "Adjusting the Balance" while hiking with him across his beloved Montana. Obviously, Borgmann struggles to hold on to the reality of his own world. With passion as well as eloquence and erudition, he inspires his readers to do so with theirs.

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About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #172
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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It's remarkable how far we've traveled into the Information Age without coming up with a very good idea of what information actually is. Technologists define information as bits and bytes, but that seems too precise somehow to get at the heart of the idea. Everyday speech defines it as just about any interesting piece of news, but that seems equally vague.Holding On to Realityis a philosopher's ruminative attempt to find the sweet spot between those two understandings, feeling for an idea of information that does justice both to its deep roots in human history and its broad implications for human culture at the edge of the 21st century.

For Borgmann, information is defined as much by the mind and cultural context of the people who behold it as by the physical traces (notches on a bone, voltages on a wire) that embody it. Fleshing out that notion, he tracks the changing nature of information across the face of history--from the natural signs that mattered most to prehistoric people to the alphabets and maps that shaped ancient and medieval culture to the mechanically logical forms of information that began to emerge in modern times.

Borgmann's observations suffer somewhat when he turns his sights on present-day information technologies and the cultural changes they have wrought. His cultural conservatism shows most strongly here and, at times, comes out sounding more cranky than critical. But on the whole, his insights are supple and thought-provoking. If we are ever going to ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0226066258
ISBN-13: 978-0226066257
Author: Albert Borgmann
Genre: Computers & Internet, Nonfiction
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
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