Thinking Otherwise will become a classic like Jacques Ellul's Technological Society and Jean Baudrillard's Simulations. This erudite and innovative book totally reorients our thinking away from binary logic. The philosophical dimensions of information and communication technology have never been outlined better. The author is bilingual, knowing both philosophy and ICT's with brilliance. His critique of digital reason and his machine-as-other turn communication ethics on its head. In this post-metaphysical age skeptical of the humanities, Thinking Otherwise demonstrates perfectly how the history of ideas opens up an alternative pathway.
...Gunkel’s Thinking Otherwise asks readers to do just that. Engaged readers will confront topics and debates they thought they knew and arrive at the end of the chapter questioning the very nature of the debate itself. This is a text ideally suited to getting both students and faculty to challenge long-held assumptions and conventions, if they are willing to work at it. In the space of a few pages Gunkel can (and often does) draw examples from and connections to film analyses, diverse philosophical perspectives, cyber-punk novels, presidential campaigns, and ICT research. As I read Thinking Otherwise I was repeatedly struck by the breadth of research and knowledge Gunkel evokes in support of his arguments. This may unfortunately pose a challenge to readers whose interests and whose own literature reviews are more narrowly focused, or who are unwilling to engage a text that so ICT and Ethics clearly demonstrates just how cutting-edge and radically positioned Gunkel’s perspective is...
...One of Gunkel’s strengths comes in his adroit situating of contemporary discussions within a longer philosophical and historical trajectory. Throughout the book, he usefully contextualizes new media comfortably within the philosophy of Plato and Hegel. That Gunkel is more than conversant with other prominent thinkers like Derrida, Peirce, McLuhan, Levinas, and Nietzsche and how their ideas might contribute to our understanding of information computing technologies clearly demonstrates his erudition...
Thinking Otherwise promises more than it delivers, perhaps necessarily so. Gunkel (communication, Northern Illinois Univ.) provides endless documentation of how one is trapped within either/or thinking--only to conclude that it is inescapable. What to do? Throughout the author urges that one question the structure of various either/or controversies regarding information and computer technologies. Unfortunately, even according to Gunkel, escaping dualism is not possible. So all that questioning can do is to reconfigure the binaries, and that is not a negligible accomplishment if done well...Thinking Otherwise is clearly and accessibly written from a deeply responsible postmodernist perspective. Even where one disagrees, one will learn from this book.
If you are at all interested in understanding how and why we blog, twitter, post in discussion forums, write product reviews on Amazon, or submit scholarly papers to classroom professors then you need to read this book. It is a work that engages on many levels. On the surface, it is accessible and easily understood. Even if you have no formal background in communications studies, Greek philosophers, or postmodern semiotics studies, Gunkel makes all of these accessible in a way that sheds new light on old (sometimes ancient) topics. If you want to engage the work on a deeper level, Gunkel does not disappoint. He opens many doors to questions and invites you to think through, re-position, and reflexively question the answers as well as the presuppositions to the original questions. My only complaint is the lack of margin space in which to jot my own notes. I am not in the education field. I am not a professional scholar. I am a software developer, and this is a work to which I will go back many times. Slashdotters, Gizmodo-heads, Derrida fans, and anyone who uses the internet will like this book.
Gunkel (communication, Northern Illinois U.) argues that thinking about ethical and social issues raised by information and communication technology have gotten bogged down in binary stalemate while wider approaches to the issues—and more importantly the underlying assumptions and values—are being neglected.
© 2007 - David J. Gunkel