[Humanist] 22.399 two talks

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Dec 23 11:34:26 CET 2008

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 399.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Arun Kumar Tripathi <arun.tripathi at waoe.org>              (18)
        Subject: Don Ihde on Trust in Technology

  [2]   From:    Arun Kumar Tripathi <arun.tripathi at waoe.org>              (58)
        Subject: Albert Borgmann on 'The Growth of Information and the
                Texture of Reality'

        Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 13:46:00 +0000
        From: Arun Kumar Tripathi <arun.tripathi at waoe.org>
        Subject: Don Ihde on Trust in Technology

Dear Prof. McCarty:

I am sending you an information, in the form of a talk by Professor Ihde on
"Trust in Technology"--which under the banner of "Templeton Research Lectures" he
gave at Stony Brook. In the talk, Ihde argues that trust is one of the most
important and essential features of the modern world. Without it, most human
activities - from interpersonal relationships and mailing letters to boarding
aircraft and taking medicines - would grind to a halt like machines drained of
oil. Many institutions, from science to religion, have been shaken recently by
controversies involving trust. Yet trust is difficult to examine in a
comprehensive and systematic way. 

The Trust Institute at Stony Brook seeks to carry out an innovative and
interdisciplinary inquiry into trust and its role in human life.

Listen Ihde's talk at
by clicking "Podcast: TRL_Ihde 2.m4a" on the above site.

Don Ihde's talk is informative and constructive in the areas of philosophy of

        Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 13:48:01 +0000
        From: Arun Kumar Tripathi <arun.tripathi at waoe.org>
        Subject: Albert Borgmann on 'The Growth of Information and the Texture of Reality'

Dear Prof. McCarty:

"The unintended consequences and dangers of technologization are real, and they
deserve reflections and replies. Meanwhile the deeper danger of cultural and
moral devastation goes unnoticed and is to some extent eclipsed by attention to
the overt dangers (which, to repeat, need to be addressed forthwith)." (Albert

Albert Borgmann, somewhat in the spirit of French technologist Jacques Ellul,
finds technology to be a double-edged sword. He writes that while technology
conspires against the gospel, it also bears possibilities of contributing to a
rich public life of celebration and personal life of focal practices. However,
the commodification that accompanies technology makes a promise of liberation
that it is unable to keep. Borgmann outlines contingent aspects of social and
political life that remain open to fundamental choices, which can lead us to
engagement with our reality. As argued in Power Failure: Christianity in the
Culture of Technology (2003), technology is shown to be a moral issue with
implications of disengagement and loss of meaning. In his book, Real American
Ethics: Taking Responsibility for Our Country (Uni. of Chicago Press, 2007),
Borgmann demonstrates, in the words of Robert Bellah, "how an increasing tendency
for Americans to live in a virtual world undermines our very understanding of
ethical responsibility. In a dangerous world and an often unhappy society we need
to face reality (or 'get real' as current jargon would put it) if we are to do
the right thing." Albert Borgmann argues that modern philosophy has come to see
practice as a primary element of human activity, as opposed to the largely
theoretical concerns of traditional Western philosophy. Marx, of course, famously
argued that material conditions (esp. economic practices and structures) form
human being. However, Borgmann suggests that philosophy is still blind to the
characteristics of contemporary material culture. Our reality today is dominated
by the device paradigm, in which everything bears a surface functionality that
distances us from a real human interaction with the other and our environment.

Philosophers point out the liabilities, what happens when technology moves beyond
lifting genuine burdens and starts freeing us from burdens that we should not
want to be rid of, says Albert Borgmann. Albert Borgmann is Regents Professor of
Philosophy at the University of Montana, Missoula where he has taught since 1970.
On the eve of event of "The Habitat of Information: Social and Organizational
Consequences of Information Growth" (The 8th Social Study of ICT workshop (SSIT8)
at London School of Economics, 25 April 2008, Professor Albert Borgmann gave a
talk on "The Growth of Information and the Texture of Reality" where he argues
that traditionally information has served to illuminate and enrich our world. It
has lent the texture of reality definition and splendor.  Writing and printing
have increased the benefits of information. So have the explosive developments of
computers, communication, and media. But they have also rendered the texture of
reality brittle and opaque. Its surface has become both glamorous and ambiguous,
its substructure both powerful and impenetrable. We feel overwhelmed by
information commodities and ruled by the information machinery. The texture of
reality can become newly luminous and intelligible if we balance the glamour of
its surface with physical and social engagement and lift the opaqueness of its
underside through technological literacy. The growth of information will then
find its appropriate channels and levels and fulfill its promise of clarity and

Borgmann's talk is available at

The talk of Borgmann's video is available at

If any humanities member wants to read Borgmann's essay on 'The Growth of
Information and the Texture of
Reality'--please let me know.
With kind regards,

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