Cover image for Holding on to reality : the nature of information at the turn of the millennium
Holding on to reality : the nature of information at the turn of the millennium
Borgmann, Albert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
274 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1480 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
P90 .B638 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Holding On to Reality is a brilliant history of information, from its inception in the natural world to its role in the transformation of culture to the current Internet mania and is attendant assets and liabilities. Drawing on the history of ideas, the details of information technology, and the boundaries of the human condition, Borgmann illuminates the relationship between things and signs, between reality and information.

"[Borgmann] has offered a stunningly clear definition of information in Holding On to Reality . . . . He leaves room for little argument, unless one wants to pose the now vogue objection: I guess it depends on what you mean by nothing."--Paul Bennett, Wired

"A superb anecdotal analysis of information for a hype-addled age."-- New Scientist

"This insightful and poetic reflection on the changing nature of information is a wonderful antidote to much of the current hype about the 'information revolution.' Borgmann reminds us that whatever the reality of our time, we need 'a balance of signs and things' in our lives."--Margaret Wertheim, LA Weekly

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Borgmann, a philosophy professor, looks at the pros and cons of the Internet as a means of transmitting and receiving information. He sees great democratic promise in the Internet (with users unhindered by race, sex, or age, all the factors that can disadvantage in face-to-face contact) but acknowledges the continued disparity in access to computers. Borgmann gives historical context to information gathering and interpretation, citing early religious use of signs to convey information and discussing the evolution of spoken and written language. He looks at an incredible array of examples (the Bible, Plato, Ptolemy, Aristotle--everything from mathematical principles to literature) as a means of conveying information. Borgmann examines the natural, cultural, and technological aspects of gathering and relating information and finds uncertainty and hesitancy attending every change in the way we seek to make ourselves understood. --Vanessa Bush

Table of Contents

Introduction: Information vs. Reality
Pt. 1 Natural Information: Information about Reality
1 The Decline of Meaning and the Rise of Information
2 The Nature of Information
3 Ancestral Information
4 From Landmarks to Letters
5 The Rise of Literacy
Pt. 2 Cultural Information: Information for Reality
6 Producing Information: Writing and Structure
7 Producing Information: Measures and Grids
8 Realizing Information: Reading
9 Realizing Information: Playing
10 Realizing Information: Building
Pt. 3 Technological Information: Information as Reality
11 Elementary Measures
12 Basic Structures
13 Transparency and Control
14 Virtuality and Ambiguity
15 Fragility and Noise Conclusion: Information and Reality