Ways of Thinking About Technology

image Two recent blog posts, one from Paul and Timothy Bible Conference the other from Justin Buzzard’s Buzzard Blog
offer some helpful thoughts about social networking. The conclusions
and recommendations are excellent, and I think there is room for developing a model for getting to these kinds of conclusions.

(Similarly, there has been a recent discussion of the pros and cons of Twitter at Christ and Pop Culture and a response by Owen Strachan.)

“This Can Be Used for…” Thinking

The
main idea in both articles is that “Facebook can be bad but, if used
properly, Facebook can also be a force for good.” Both authors offer
helpful lists of possible good and bad uses of Facebook. Buzzard’s is
very practical while P&T seems to be more high level. I think these
are the kinds of excellent conclusions and recommendations that we need to be
talking about in the church.

However, somtimes this kind of discussion can be a bit misleading. It has the possibility of making someone assume that because something “can be used for good” it automatically should. That can leave a reader or listener to think that we should primarly evaluate
technology on the basis of morality and usefulness. Buzzard writes,

Technology
(most, not all) is neutral and can be used for good or ill… Internet …
Dispense truth or porn… Approach technology with this lens: neutral,
good or ill.

Here, he means that technology is morally neutral. Buzzard's full presentation goes beyond this idea though to say that facebook itself is not really neutral and that it can have some effects on us just by using it.

Facebook and online life can make you more distracted, changes how you think/attention span (Buzzard)

Buzzard recognizes that Facebook itself – not just how it is used, but that it is used – tends toward distraction. This means that while Facebook may be morally neutral, it is not inherently neutral. This is an excellent way of thinking about a technology like facebook, and I think Buzzard has made some major strides in that direction.

“How Will this Technology Change Me?” Thinking

Instead
of limiting our thinking about technology to the possible moral ends,
we need to think of technology in terms of what it
demands of us and how it will influence us whether it is used for good
or bad ends.

In other words, when we evaluate a technology we need to begin, not on moral grounds or with possible good or bad ends, but with its inherent effects on us. Then we need to compare those influences to our theology of Christian Spirituality and Mission.

A Model for Theological Reflection on Technology

  1. Nature of the Technology
    – Start by asking questions like, What does this technology inherently
    demand of me? What influence will it have on me? How does it affect my
    thinking, my relating, my day-to-day actions?
  2. Theological Grounding
    Ensure that you your theology is robust and well thought out in the
    following areas: What is a human? What is a human relationship? What is
    way of being and doing for which God has made us?
  3. Theological/Technological

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

6 thoughts on “Ways of Thinking About Technology”

  1. John, I think had you heard the message in person (as my disclaimer stated, I taught from/posted a sparse outline and filled in many details while speaking and did a lot of nuancing)and known the theological grounding of our church you would’ve been less critical of the post.

  2. @Justin, I didn’t at all mean to be critical of your post. I really thought it was great and had some very thought provoking points. I just wanted to present a model for thinking about these things broader than just the single issue. Perhaps I need to be more clear about that. Thanks for pointing out how I came across.

  3. Your model on theological reflection on technology asks “What is way of being and doing for which God has made us?” which I think is probably the most important question of the section. It seems that much of the mantras/lies of technology are completely antithetical to the core message of the gospel. Thanks for providing this model.

  4. Greetings John!

    This is Carey from the Paul and Timothy guys. Thanks for your post. I thought it was very thought provoking and added much more to the discussion of Christian media.

    I’m assuming you went to Dallas to get your ThM? I’ll begin my ThM next fall at Western Seminary. Any thoughts to convince me to come to Dallas? :)

    Great to meet you, and blessings to you as we continue to spread the gospel of Christ in all contexts.

    Carey

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