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The Internet Book raises the following questions: Can we leave our vulnerable bodies while preserving relevance, learning, reality, and meaning? The latest book of Hubert Dreyfus examines in complete details the various perspectives -of the Net through the eyes of a Philosopher -the attraction of life on the Internet as a way of achieving Plato's dream of overcoming space and time as well as bodily finitude. Drawing on philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hubert Dreyfus discussed and seriously criticised the Net. In his criticism in the book, he explaines -that, in spite of its attraction, the more one lives one's life through the Net the more loses a sense of what is relevant, and so faces the problem of finding the information one is seeking. Also, in spite of economic attraction of distance learning, such learning by substituting telepresence for real presence (how much presence is delivered by the telepresence?), leaves no place for risk-taking an apprenticeship which plays a crucial role in all types of skill acquisition. Furthermore, without a sense of bodily vulnerability, one looses a sense of reality of the physical world and one's sense that one can trust other people. Finally, he discusses while the anonymity of the Net makes possible experimentation, the overall effect of the NET is to undermine commitment (what Kierkegaard spelled out in The Present Age) thus to deprive life of any serious meaning.
This fascinating discovery shows that the Internet has profound and unexpected effects. Presumably, it affects people in ways that are different than the way most tools do because it can become the main way someone relates to the rest of the world. Given the surprises and disappointments through the Net, Hubert Dreyfus explores the question, what are the benefits and the dangers of living our lives on line?
In the Internet book-the author tried to give answers in greater depth to the questions, which is important in field of humanities and Philosophy -that why reach beyond ourselves and our humanity? Why seek to become posthuman? Why not accept our human limits and renounce transcendence?
In my view, the book On the Internet discusses in greater depth the important question How does the Dreyfus's Skill developmental model and his non-representational learning relate to the Internet-facilitated education!
The book is divided into four chapters:
Chapter 1. Hyperlinks -In this chapter The hype about hyper-links Professor Dreyfus discusses the hope for intelligent information retrieval and the failure of AI. He raises one good question, how the actual shape and movement of our bodies plays a crucial role in grounding meaning so that loss of embodiment leads to loss of relevance.
Chapter 2. Distance-Learning -In this chapter, How far is Distance Learning from Education? Hubert Dreyfus discusses the importance of mattering and attunement for teaching and learning skills and phenomenology of skill acquisition. Apprenticeship and the need for imitation. "Without involvement and presence -he said we cannot acquire skills."
Chapter 3. Telepresence -The chapter, Disembodied Telepresence and the remoteness of the Real will let us know about -the body as source of our presence of causal embedding and attunement to mood. Hubert Dreyfus raises a question, how loss of background coping and attunement leads to loss of sense of reality of people and things. (I see something like you, but I don't see you and I hear something like you, but I don't hear you)
Chapter 4. Nihilism -The last chapter (most important), Nihilism on the Information Highway: Anonymity vs. commitment in the Present Age discusses in details about the meaning, requires commitment and real commitment requires real risks. The anonymity and safety of virtual commitments on-line, leads to loss of meaning. In this chapter, Prof. Dreyfus translates the Soren Kierkegaardian view of The Present Age to the Net.
Professor Dreyfus translates Kierkegaard's account of the dangers and opportunities of what Kierkegaard called the Press into a critique of the Internet so as to raise the question: what contribution -- for good or ill -- can the World Wide Web, with its ability to deliver vast amounts of information to users all over the world, make to educators trying to pass on knowledge and to develop skills and wisdom in their students? He then elaborates Kierkegaard's three-stage answer to the problem of lack of involvement posed by the Press -- Kierkegaard claim that to have a meaningful life the learner must pass through the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious spheres of existence -- to suggest that only the first two stages -- the aesthetic and the ethical -- can be implemented with Information Technology and Net, while the final stage, which alone makes meaningful learning possible, is undermined rather than supported by the tendencies of the desituated and anonymous Net.
In the aesthetic sphere, the aesthete avoids commitments and lives in the categories of the interesting and the boring and wants to see as many interesting sights (sites) as possible. In the ethical sphere we would reach a `despair of possibility' brought on by the ease of making and unmaking commitments on the Net. Only in the religious sphere is nihilism overcome by making a risky, unconditional commitment. Dreyfus concludes that only by working closely with students in a shared situation in the real world can teachers with strong identities, ready to take risks to preserve their commitments, pass on their passion and skill to their students. In this shared context students can turn information into knowledge and practical wisdom.
The risk-free anonymity of the Internet, Dreyfus said, makes it a good medium for slander, innuendo, endless gossip, and ultimately, boredom. "Without some way of telling the relevant from the irrelevant and the significant from the insignificant, everything becomes equally interesting and equally boring." He later argued, "The nihilistic pull of the new network culture doesn't prohibit such personal commitment but does inhibit.
As a philosopher Professor Hubert Dreyfus expresses his concern in not going to become involved in criticizing some specific uses of the Internet and defending others. His question is a more speculative one: What if the Net became central in our lives? What if it becomes what Joseph Nye, dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government calls an "irresistible alternative culture?" To the extent that we came to live a large part of our lives on the line, would we become super or infra human? In seeking an answer, to above questions, Hubert Dreyfus ellaborates..that..we should remain open to the possibility that, when we enter cyberspace and leave behind our animal-shaped, emotional, intuitive, situated, vulnerable, embodied selves, and thereby gain a remarkable new freedom never before available to human beings, we might, at the same time, necessarily lose our ability to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information, lack a sense of the seriousness of success and failure necessary for learning, lose our sense of being causally embedded in the world and, along with it, our sense of reality, and, finally, be tempted to avoid the risk of genuine commitment, and so lose our sense of what is significant or meaningful in our lives. In greater depth, the Internet book discusses the hope that if our body goes, so does relevance, skill, reality, and meaning. If that is the trade-off, the prospect of living our lives in and through the Web may not be so attractive after all.
The book is highly recommended to educators, techno philosophers and techno enthusiasts. Thank you.