If you’ve been listening to our podcast or you saw my webinar for North House last Thursday (the recording of which is available here), you know I can go on and on about Albert Borgmann’s book Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. This book, more than any other, has helped me think through a way that a person’s philosophy of technology can work out in practical life. Though many technology critics and philosophers make astute observations, I’ve found that few are able to give much real-world advice.
Borgmann is one of the exceptions. Though no lightweight in the intellectual arena (he is one of the leaders of his field), Borgmann has a real concern to teach people how to embrace sweaty, tangible “engagement” with the world over against the allure of our technological devices. If you’ve wondered how it is that our technologies shape us, there is no better place I could send you than Borgmann.
This book is so good and so important that we have decided to stock it in our store. Here’s our write-up:
“Technology is not neutral. The new displaces the old and changes the way society functions, for better or worse. This tendency can be seen in very simple practices, such as flipping a switch to illuminate an electric light bulb (displacing the practice of lighting a candle or oil lamp) as well as in overcoming larger challenges such as disease and hunger. Philosopher and author Albert Borgmann builds a strong argument cautioning against the power that technology wields in our lives. He believes that the benefits offered by technological advancement should not be discarded, but the danger of following along blindly can lead to rampant consumerism and the loss of much that is good in society. In exploring the idea of basic “focal practices” – sharing a homemade meal, going for a run, working with our hands – Borgmann unveils a model of engagement that can both embrace the good that innovation offers while holding fast to that which most strongly joins us all together in this world.”
I’m not going to lie – this is not a light read. Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life was written for folks who are willing to wade into deep waters. His argument is complex, and his prose is at times poetic, but its profoundness compels the reader to keep pressing on. And the rewards are so worth it. I open my copy regularly and almost every page is full of highlighting and the margins are covered in notes. It would not be too strong to say that this book has reshaped the way I look at the world.
And we want you to read this book too.
If you’re willing to dive into a rich work that might just change your life, we recommend you order a copy of Borgmann’s book. It’s $34.00 that couldn’t be better spent.