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Holding on to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium

Author: Albert Borgmann
Publisher: Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999
Review Published: September 1999

 REVIEW 1: Douglas Kellner
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Albert Borgmann

Douglas Kellner has been a fair and insightful reader of my work as is evident once more. However, in this particular case he also shows the anxiety of those who are heavily invested in information technology and react with haste and alarm to arguments that the Internet stocks are overrated.

Thus Professor Kellner overlooks my appreciation of information technology as a technical achievement (ch. 12) and as a scientific and technological instrument (ch. 13). And he must have lacked the time or the patience to read carefully the detailed analysis of the peculiar ambiguity (ch. 14) and fragility (ch. 15) that beset the realm of leisure in cyberspace (leisure and work more and more bleeding into one another).

As for reality, Professor Kellner misses the distinction between the general case for its eloquence and the special case I make, drawing on the Jewish and Christian traditions (in a fairly traditional rather than millennarian way, incidentally). The general question of reality needs to be answered rather than judged. Constructivists typically beg the question, demanding a persuasive construction of reality.

At an ecofeminism conference a couple of years ago here at the University of Montana-Missoula, I suggested to a skeptical audience that constructivism does well only on paper, in cyberspace, and in windowless lecture halls. I said this in a well-fenestrated room with the windows open. And as I went on to plead the eloquence of reality out in the mountains, there was a roll of thunder. The audience responded with laughter, some of it knowing, some of it rueful. I may be a poor advocate of reality. But in the end that's not the issue.

Albert Borgmann


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