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On the Internet (Thinking in Action) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 21. Mai 2001

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..."sharp and stimulating discussion of the promises of the Intenet. Going beyond the hype of the cybercrowd, Dreyfus a celebrated writer on philosophy and technology, asks whether the Internet can really bring humanity to a new level of community and solve the problems of mass education. Dreyfus' critique of huper learning provides much food for thought and raises the level of the discussions amongst concerned educators and technologists."-" First Monday "A clear discussion of the promises of the Internet...brings a philosopher's eye to bear on an issue that affects all of us.."-"Ubiquity "Interesting and definitely much needed...a short and thought provoking book that can be read by any net enthusiast and/or scholar who is interested in the topics of learning, knowledge and identity in relation to the Internet.."-"Humanist "At a time when bookstores and magazine stands are saturated with titles about the internet, it comes as no small, blessed relief to read one that is actually interesting and realistic, whose arguments are worth thinking about and engaging with Whether you're a novice to the internet or someone deeply involved with it - as a user or developer - On the Internet will engage you in topics ranging from the seemingly mundane (hyperlinks) to current trends toward distance learning.."-"Tech Directions "This book is an important addition to the growing literature on the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet."-"Revue Philosophique


This work is a clear discussion of the promises of the Internet. Can it really bring humanity to a new level of community and democracy and solve the problems of mass education? Hubert Dreyfus, a writer on philosophy and technology, brings a philosopher's eye to bear on an issue that affects us all. Drawing on a diverse array of thinkers including Descartes and Kierkegaard, Dreyfus draws parallels between the Internet and the birth of a media-obsessed public in the 18th century and the Enlightenment quest for a universal, abstract knowledge. He shows how the Internet ignores essential human capacities such as trust, moods, risk, shared local concerns and commitment. He also uses compelling examples from the experience of teaching to show what "interactive" education leaves out.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A probing and valuable study 16. Januar 2010
Von Camber - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
In this book, Hubert Dreyfus presents a philosophical study of how the Internet experientially impacts our lives. His approach appropriately draws mainly on phenomenology and existentialism, so you'll encounter names like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Merleau-Ponty. The book is short and fairly easy to follow, especially if you have some background in Western philosophy.

In reading the book, I found that Dreyfus pretty much articulates views I had already formed on my own many years ago, so of course I agree with him and I like the book. Here are the main points:

* The Internet exemplifies technology in terms of its flexibility, and the more extreme Internet enthusiasts (wrongly) claim that it will eventually enable us to transcend our bodies. By contrast, Nietzsche argued for transcending our human limitations by using the emotional and intuitive capacities of our bodies.

* The hyperlinked informational structure of the Internet resists hierarchy and flattens everything to one level, thus obscuring qualitative differences and meanings relevant to the needs and interests of particular individuals.

* The Internet has value in education and supports distance learning, but only to the level of developing rudimentary competence. Development of real expertise generally requires the emotional involvement and richness of experience that comes from live face-to-face interaction between student and teacher.

* To avoid becoming detached spectators of life, we need to instead be embodied involved agents in the world, facing the possibilities of surprise and real risk. This involvement is what enables us to maintain a grip on reality, develop trust in others, and gain the context needed to function skillfully in diverse situations. Moreover, surveys indicate that people tend to feel more isolated and depressed as they use the Internet more, so psychological wellness is also at stake.

* The Internet fosters a situation in which anyone can express an opinion on anything, without having real expertise, genuine commitment, or tangible consequences. This can lead to trivialization, superficiality, and corresponding hazards, but it's still possible for people who are already knowledgeable and serious to use the Internet in ways that are more beneficial than harmful.

* The upshot of all this is that the Internet is a powerful but limited tool. To benefit from it, we need to control it and our use of it, rather than falling prey to it controlling us. This requires that we focus on our embodied existence, with all the pleasures and sufferings that entails, rather than naively fantasizing that we can meaningfully live in some sort of escapist cyberspace.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reflecting on how the Internet can impact our lived experience. And I especially recommend this book to people who spend too much time in front of the computer, rather than interacting with real live people, nature, and the rest of the real world.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Some Hard Facts about the Internet 5. März 2011
Von A. Sutono, a.k.a., Birdey The Observer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Despite a favorable finding that Internet has made life better (p. 137), at least one other survey indicates the opposite that it leads to greater isolation, indifference (p.137), depression and loneliness (p.3). It is in light of these studies that Prof. Dreyfus does a keen eye-opening analysis that weighs the benefits versus the dangers of Internet in our lives. He presents some interesting insights on the nature of conventional library-based versus online search methodology (p.13, 16), but I would like to focus more on his views in regards to the effects of Internet on education and human personality in general. Dreyfus's conclusion on distance education is that it has the ability to bring students to the level of competence, but not expertise (p.32-46). Emotional interactions between teachers and students as well as among students are essential for a learning process that leads to a thorough knowledge and practical skills usable in the field. Conscientious teachers will not settle or be satisfied with teaching remote students. Conscientious students acknowledge the limitation of online classes and yearn for an onsite instructor they can establish eye contacts with and treat as not merely a source of information, but also as someone who is willing to encourage, compliment, correct and rebuke them personally.

The most important diagnosis that Dreyfus provides is on the subject of telepresence and disembodied interactions (ch.3-5). What makes a human being unique and distinguishes us from machines is that we not only have an intellect, emotion and will, but also the ability for them to interact with each other within ourselves as well as with other human beings. The Internet may have an impressive and seemingly infinite intelligence to provide almost any information we need and the technology to bring people all over the world closer together via social networks, text, voice and video communications. But it doesn't have emotion and will and in my opinion, will never replace a true human emotion and face-to-face, physical interaction with a virtual one. A virtual interaction not only lacks these qualities but also poses some dangers as well. First, it tends to deceive us into thinking that the Internet provides all our emotional needs (p. 68-69, 136). Second, it discourages commitment (or unconditional commitment as Dreyfus puts it) and risk-taking (or bold experimentation to use Dreyfus's term, p.102-105) due to the comfortable and risk-free nature of online engagements. Third, it numbs our ability to discern what is important. It makes us lazy and indifferent to real needs. As a corollary of the second danger, it tends to paralyze us into perpetual observers and disable us from doing anything useful (p.76-77, 79, 81). The last thing we want to happen is we care more about our online friends who live thousands of miles away at the expense of neglecting our family in our household or the people who live in our neighborhood. The Internet is the best means to escape from reality.

In summary, Dreyfus warns against inordinate infatuation with the Internet that tends to adversely affect our human personality. I can think of at least three things we can do in response if we believe his conclusion is true. First, we ought to labor to seek physical rather than virtual interactions as much as possible. Prefer face-to-face conversations with people who are present physically in front of us to the use of electronic mediums such as chat rooms or applications like Second Life. Seek as close personal interactions as possible. For example, a video is better than a phone conversation. A phone conversation is better than a text message or chatting on Facebook. Second, we ought to labor to find wise mentors who live nearby. Seek counsel and learn from them often instead of relying solely on the Internet. There are information and skills that can only be acquired from people directly through a personal interaction. Third, we ought to prefer physical to online activities. It is more beneficial for our health to go hiking at the real Yosemite than the virtual one we find in Second Life. Serving meals at a homeless shelter is a greater blessing to others than counseling people online. Dreyfus does not imply that the Internet is totally worthless. He just encourages us to use it wisely, such as to advance the causes that are dear to us (p. 137), to communicate with our loved ones who live in a distant place, and to receive education when face-to-face learning is prohibitive.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Wonderful Essay on the Computer/Internet Age, and the Meaning of Life 23. Oktober 2013
Von J. G. Lewis - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This is one of the best essays I have read so far in the Routledge collection. Very well organized, and it went into reasonable depth. Additionally, Professor Dreyfus writes in a manner in which the reader is invited to draw his own conclusions.... In chapter 4 Kierkegaard's philosophy is covered nicely, and weaved into the topic: Dreyfus generally agrees with him. The conclusion arrived at is that computers and the Internet can do very much, but are no replacement for real life activities, and in all circumstances - this assuming perfect, or near so, virtual reality. The human being is too complex a creature for a machine to adapt to, and copy, even in principle, according to Dreyfus, though it may come close and perform many useful functions and ends. I found his reasoning superb; the essay is highly recommended.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Leaving the Body Behind 18. Januar 2009
Von Etienne RP - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
In this short essay, Hubert Dreyfus claims the authority of three philosophers. Friedrich Nietzsche teaches that "Man is something to be overcome", but he also warns the "despisers of the body" that they are no bridge to the overman. Maurice Merleau-Ponty completes him by noting that "the body is our general medium for having a world". Our body, including our emotions, plays a crucial role in our being able to make sense of things so as to see what is relevant, our ability to let things matter to us and so to acquire skills, our sense of the reality of things, our trust in other people, and finally, our capacity for making the unconditional commitments that give meaning to our lives.

The third philosopher is Soren Kierkegaard, who deplored the leveling of all meaningful distinctions, the dilution of all individuality's relativity and concreteness into a public sphere that is detached from passion and commitment. Witnessing the birth of the mass media, he saw the press as a cultural threat that encouraged everyone to develop an opinion about everything, but discharged everybody of their responsibility to act on these opinions. According to Kierkegaard, only a risky, unconditional commitment and the strong identity it produces can give an individual a world organized by that individual's unique qualitative distinctions.

These thoughts find echoes in contemporary debates about the internet. Some enthusiasts envision a future when each of us will be able to transcend the limits imposed on us by our bodies and will ultimately become disembodied, detached ubiquitous minds. More realistically, the internet is celebrated as the universal library that puts humanity's knowledge only one click away from one's computer screen. The net also revives the dream of distant learning as a solution to all the problems of the education system.

For Hubert Dreyfus, the promises of the internet claimed by technology pundits are mostly hype. The web offers us asymmetric trade-offs that place economy over efficacy in education, the virtual over the real in our relations to things and people, and anonymity over commitment in our lives. The ultimate choice is between disembodied nihilism and embodied meaning. For the author, the goal of a life full of meaning cannot be fulfilled by technology, and the net's supposed greatest advantage, freedom from the limits imposed by our bodies, is ironically its Achilles' heel.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Being on the 'Net 27. Oktober 2008
Von Eric B. Wolf - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Flat out: this is a short read that should be required of anyone attempting to understand the society/technology interface. Even if you disagree with Dreyfus' theories, On the Internet provides an approachable exposition of what he considers some of the most egregious claims.

Dreyfus' basic phenomenological context is similar to his arguments in What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason: humans are more than heuristic programs running on carbon-based computers. The essence of a human being (dasein) is more than the sum of it's parts. No matter how you disassemble those parts and digitize them, the end result is far from human - be it simulated intelligence, distance learning, or tele-presence.

The book is broken into four chapters, each of which can easily be ready independent of the others. The first chapter deconstructs the most atomic element of what makes the World Wide Web unique: the hyperlink. According to Dreyfus, the hyperlink is a flat connection that cannot convey the semantics intended by the person creating the link. This is, in some ways, a real problem but efforts to enrich hyperlinks with meaning haven't taken off to the degree that the meaningless hyperlink has. Interestingly, this flatness forms the basis of Google's search engine which attempts to identify relative meaning without actually understanding the meaning. I really wish Dreyfus would take up this idea, either in a revision of this book or a new edition of What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason.

After hyperlinks, Dreyfus takes up the issue of Distance Learning. This chapter was especially interesting to me because I completed my Masters degree through an entirely online program. I find I agree almost wholly with Dreyfus' critique except that he failed to mention how large university lectures aren't much better!

I am currently pursuing my PhD in a traditional residence-based program. The PhD requires essentially apprenticing with ones advisor. As Dreyfus points out, it is this apprenticeship that results in expertise and eventual mastery. But the master's degree involves more focused project work. The online courses I took focused on project work - encouraging the student to seek out local mentors. I think the future of education will be a blend of distance and local education. The student will work with a local advisor or mentor but will be able to complete "coursework" through online means. In fact, I used Dreyfus' excellent lectures on Heidegger he makes available in MP3 to help me better understand the subject.

After learning, Dreyfus takes on tele-presence. This, again, is a subject close to my own heart. I mostly work via telecommuting. I defended my master's thesis via a web conferencing system. But I "cheated". Even though most of thesis committee was across the country, I had an audience in front of me. I was able to gain the bodily cues of the people in the room in front of me. As an advantage, my family in two other states got to watch my defense. But I also find in-person work to be more productive when collaboration is important. To this end, I probably travel about one week out of every month. The net result, Dreyfus is right: telepresence will never really substitute for in-body experiences.

Finally, Dreyfus takes on identity in the digital world. There was a great New Yorker cartoon that showed two dogs at a computer, one saying: "On the internet, no one knows you're a dog!" What Dreyfus expounds upon here is not new or even particularly original. It's probably the low point of the book. What Dreyfus should have done was turn the argument inside-out and consider how the struggle with digital identity has impacted the world around us. People are much more aware of the challenge of identity than they were 20 years ago. But, at the same time, identity in the real world has developed new challenges: identity theft, terrorism, etc. I think these real world problems are much more interesting.

But now that you've read my take, get the book and read Dreyfus'. Like I said: even if you disagree, it's an easy ready and well-founded in classical philosophy.
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