University of Chicago Press;
April 15, 1999
We hear constantly about our current “information revolution.” Twenty-four-hour news channels and dizzying Internet technologies bombard us with facts and pictures from around the globe. But what kind of a “revolution” is this? How has information really changed from what it was ten years or ten centuries ago? Albert Borgmann offers some riveting answers to these questions in Holding On to Reality.
Borgmann has written a brilliant history of information, from its inception in the natural world to its role in the transformation of culture – in writing and printing, in music and architecture – to the current Internet mania and its attendant assets and liabilities. Drawing on the history of ideas, the details of information technology, and the boundaries of the human condition, Borgmann explains the relationship between things and signs, between reality and information. His history ranges from Plato to Boeing and from the alphabet to virtual reality, all the while being conscious of the enthusiasm, apprehension, and uncertainty that have greeted every stage of the development of information.
Holding On to Reality is underscored by the humanist’s fundamental belief in human excellence and by the conviction that excellence is jeopardized unless we achieve a balance of information and “the things and practices that have served us well and we continue to depend on for our material and spiritual well-being – the grandeur of nature, the splendor of cities, competence of work, fidelity to loved ones, and devotion to art or religion.” Holding On to Reality is an eloquent call for caution and historical understanding, and everyone concerned with the future of information technologies will find their thinking enlivened and enriched by Borgmann’s lucid and impassioned exploration.
Albert Borgmann is Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montana. His books include Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life and Crossing the Postmodern Divide, both published by the University of Chicago Press.