20.474 Borgmann on focal reality

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 09:26:51 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 474.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2007 09:24:27 +0000
         From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca
         Subject: Borgmann on focal reality


Recently Humanist provided a pointer to an artcile in Ubiquity. Although
it doesn't overtly highlight the question of "reading with a computer" the
lines it traces do bring the question to the fore.

In Volume 8, Issue 7 (February 20, 2007 =AD February 26, 2007) of
<i>Ubiquity</i> in a piece entitled "Cyberspace, Cosmology, and the
Meaning of Life" I follow the discursive dance steps of Albert Borgmann
and am enchanted by a peculiar skip if not jump.

The seductive distractions of cyberspace can in part be explicated by
comparing the spatial structure of focal reality with that of cyberspace.
The structure of electronic information is in an informal sense
topological. Cyberspace has structure. Sites are nested and linked on the
screen in a definite order. But there are no measurable distances between
them. Everything is equally near and far and equally and easily reachable,
and hence I easily slip from the important by way of the interesting to
the distracting. In focal reality, some things are near and others far.

There is a gap between structure and attention. The effect noted by
Borgman is not necessarily caused by a flattened topography. As well, the
discipline of topology points to phase space and permits the modeling of
the attention as part of the realm observed. Hence a cyberspace can be
understood as a form of hyperspace and both can be distinguished from the
space of hypertext. The minute a reader whether machine or human, enters
the flatland even space of hypertext and <u>reads</u> then the experience
begins to resemble those of focal reality. Sometime ago in a place not
here I wrote: "How "cyberspace" relates to "hyperspace" is a key to its

Borgman weaves a story about loss of focal reality and stresses the need
for a point of reference.

To deal with the confusing brilliance of technological information we need
a point of reference that enables us to discern what in cyberspace is
illuminating and what is distracting.

Could that point of reference be the clock and the system of time zones? A
system that allows us to navigate synchronicities. And mark the beginning
and ends of trips.
Received on Thu Mar 01 2007 - 04:35:56 EST

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