A few months ago, in a post called From the Garden to the City, I briefly mentioned four aspects of technology that show up in the redemptive narrative of Scripture, and I’ve presented it at a few conferences. Drew Goodmanson recently asked if anyone had something like it, so I’m pulling a section from my book manuscript and putting it together as blog post.
McLuhan’s Tetrad of Media
After Marshall McLuhan died, his son Eric published Laws of Media: the New Science which contains what is now called the Tetrad of Media or the Four Laws of Media. McLuhan believed that when a new medium is introduced into an environment, it has four simultaneous effects: Enhancement, Obsolescence, Retrieval, and Reversal. We’ll use the mobile phone as an example:
- Enhancement: What natural function or older medium does the new medium amplify or intensify?
The mobile phone amplifies the human voice and our ability to communicate. It also extends the range of older land lines.
- Obsolescence: What natural function or older medium does the new medium drive out of prominence?The mobile phone makes land lines less important, but also other less instantaneous forms of communication like letter writing.
- Retrieval: What the older medium or practices are recovered by the new medium?
The mobile phone restores oral communication for those separated by physical distances who used to only be able to communicate via letters.
- Reversal: What happens when the medium is overused or pushed to its limits?
When overused, the mobile phone disconnects and isolates people. Users can also annoy those around them and no be truly present with those in their midst.
[Dyer’s] Tetrad of Technology in the Biblical Story
I would like to suggest a similar tetrad that addresses spiritual considerations with technology. It conveniently maps to the overarching biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Like a good DTS graduate, I’ve turned them into four ‘R’s. Continue reading Four Questions for Technology from the Biblical Story