My (awesome) brother recently took me to a Coldplay concert, and we had a blast together. But before we get to Coldplay (and Snow Patrol), let’s introduce some ideas that can help us understand the nature of information and its relationship to reality. In his book
Information about reality – The first and simplest kind of information is that which describes the real world. Borgman includes in this category when Abraham builds an stone altar to memorialize where Yahweh had acted (Gen. 21:33). Abraham used physical objects to organize and inform him about the significance of a phsyical space. Other things included in this category would be things like a map or the periodic table of the elements which describe the physical world.
Information for reality – There is also a class of information that advises on what to do with reality. For example, a recipe that records how to make the famous Thai dish Pad Kee Mow or a proverb of Solomon that tells us how to handle money would be information that helps us best live in reality. Humans have used these first two categories for as long as their has been language.
Information as reality – Borgman argues that a third category is unique to the digital era. In the case of the Coldplay concert, information about reality would be details like the place of the concert and the list of songs played. Information for reality would be the sheet music and lyrics that describe how to replay the music. But information as reality is a digital recording of the music stored in bits of information which a device can turn back into a replication of reality.
In the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman contrasts the worries about future technology by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Though much has been made about the totalitarian government depicted inNineteen Eighty-Four, Postman highlights how Orwell and Huxley’s contrasting worries play out in information and importance. While Orwell worried that good information would be hidden by a scary government, Huxley worried good information would be hidden in a pile of insignificance.
The NYTimes has a new article on the effects of texting on youth which include anxiety, sleep deprivation, and hand injuries. Interestingly, as Andy Crouch points out, the article also mentions that teens send many texts to their parents, meaning that teens are now connected to their parents more often during the day – a time when teenagers of the past were developing independence. LG has also created a new site to help parents decode text messages.
One of Christianity’s greatest strengths is that it is deeply concerned with morality. However, when it comes to thinking about technology, this strength often turns into a major weakness.
It’s great for us to be thinking about how to please our Savior, redeem the world, and earn more crownage (2 Tim 4:8), but sometimes this leads us to putting everything we encounter into either a “right” bucket or “wrong” bucket. Then, when something comes along that’s neither clearly moral or immoral, the only “bucket” we have left is the amoral “how we use it” bucket.
If this is as far as we can go, then our moral thinking has put a major limitation on us.
All Hail McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan wrote,
Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. (Understanding Media, 17-18)
As Apple celebrates its billionth app download, its predecessors also celebrate anniversaries of when they shaped our world in ways we might not have expected.
Some Big Birthdays
On June 1, 1999, Napster was first released. I have fond college memories of Napster, but even better memories from ten years before.
On April 21st, 1989, the first Nintendo Gameboy went on sale. I immediately asked for one for Christmas that year and in late December, I faked that I was sick, snuck into my mom’s closet, unwrapped my Gameboy, played it all day, and then carefully re-wrapped it so she would never know. I did this for at least 3 days before she sent me back to school!
On July 1, 1979, the first Sony Walkman went on sale in Japan. Since I was just a few months old, I don’t have a fun story about it, but I have used its successors like the portable CD player, iPod, and now iPhone. To me, portable music devices, video game players, phones, and so forth are a completely normal part of life – but it was not always so!
Before the Walkman, there was no device specifically designed to make music an isolated, individual experience.
On my facebook profile, my favorite TV shows are A-Team and Airwolf because they are hilarious 80s references, Battlestar Galactica because it’s practically required for geek cred, and Arrested Development and Flight of the Concords because they are cool shows that cool people know about.
But I have a confession to make – I only saw like one video clip of Flight of the Concords, and I’m not sure I really got why it was so funny. Please, please don’t tell anyone!
A study from educational researches at the Ohio State University found that students who regularly used facebook only study 1-5 hours per week and had GPAs in the 3.0-3.5 range, while non-facebook users study around 11-15 hours per week with GPAs in the 3.5-4.0 range. I wonder how church education compares?
There has been quite a bit of recent discussion asking how “real” Internet community is. However, for me, it’s more helpful to ask, “What kind of community is the Internet distinctly good at creating?” One answer is that the Internet is good at fostering anonymity.
Of course, we all know that anonymity can have a very negative impact on a person and their actions, but it can also be a very powerful tool for certain kinds of ministry. The following video about Tim Kimberley, a pastor in Portland, OR who runs helives.com is a great example:
Tim, who is also a dear friend of mine, says,
There are many people who feel more comfortable behind their keyboard than behind a pew. The Internet seems like such an anonymous place. It seems like such a place where people can pretend whoever they’re going to be. What we found, especially with teenagers is that online a teenagers has no reason to lie.
They’re anonymous in the identity, but they’re not anonymous in their heart. And so we had teenagers say things to us that are so raw . I would think to myself, ‘A teenager would never walk up to me in church and ask me what they just asked me.’
With helives.com, Tim has harnessed Internet anonymity and used it to create a healing environment for teens.