This is a paper that i may or may not have spent all night on, though it is the least of my worries right now. This what real education does though, in part, develop passion within its learners...
As with most “ologies”, I believe that there is a Christ-centered philosophy behind technology. (I wonder if the use of the made up word “ologies” would fit in to a Christian philosophy of etymology). Technology, to me, would be defined as any invention or convention that aims at improving or expediting any given process. The emphasis in that definition rests on the word “aims,” which is pivotal to a Christian view of technology. While technologies such as the written word, grade point averages, and the world wide web were created in an effort to advance the human race’s capacity to remember and analyze, to categorize and measure, and to communicate and share knowledge, their intended aim was not their only effect.
One may wonder why this matters to a Christian—to know the accidental effect of technology. It matters because Christian’s are called to be “in the world, but not of it.” Technology, while invaluable in some aspects, is still an unnatural part of this world that we should never cease to be wary of. When I say wary, I mean it in the least demeaning or negative way possible; it’s not that we should be constantly suspicious, but instead, hold to a healthy caution and attentiveness concerning all things man-made. This prudence can manifest itself in the most obvious manner—the disgust with immoral uses of technology, or in the most covert of ways—the awareness of a steady shift to a culture that reveres the god of high speed internet above the God who gave us the capacity the create the things we put on the internet, the internet itself. As Christians, there are very practical reasons to be aware of technologies positive and negative uses and effects—primarily because technology is in the world, and so are we. Though there may be some who hold to the idea or tradition that technology is a pervasive, corrupting force that should be shunned at all costs, technology is not, and cannot, be purely evil. It is my belief that all evil is a distortion of some good. It is important that we, as Christians, cling to the good that certain technologies afford us, without forgetting to recognize the ways in which they are corrupted or have the ability to corrupt.
Without a constant analysis of those things that influence us it is possible to miss out on the best that the Lord has created for us. Facebook? Not bad. Cell phones? Not bad. SAT scores and the grading phenomenon? Not bad. Cars? Not bad. It is important to remember, however, that each of these things play major role in our society, and each of these things contributes negatively in about the same capacity as it contributes positively. Therefore, though it may not be the fault of the technology, a healthy view of these technologies is integral to the Christian faith. As it says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.” The refrain “I will not be mastered by anything” plays over and over in my mind, reminding me of my addiction to those things that are not necessarily beneficial to me, to my relationships with those on earth, and my relationship to Him in Heaven. Technology has had a mastering effect on most, a sad statement when considering the number of Christians who are called to, ultimately, submit to one Master, but have failed miserably in an attempt to submit to both a master on earth, and Master in Heaven.
The question “why” is highly under appreciated in the Christian community. Why television? Why medicine? Why e-mail? This question may, initially, sound silly. Well, television—for entertainment, of course! Well, medicine—for healing, of course! Well, e-mail, for rapid communication, of course! The why question may be more aptly put, what is the why behind television, behind medicine, behind e-mail? Everyone with half a brain and one eye can see the obvious purpose of these technologies, what is behind, however, is altogether less forthcoming, it requires much less focus on what is being done, but what is being undone. Without attempting to sound trite, what are you not doing when you watch television? Probably a whole lot. What is being lost when you do not necessarily have to engage your mind, when words like “veg out” can become commonplace adjectives for those who sit in front of the TV? What context are you not getting when images portray “reality”? These kinds of questions beg to be asked, but often are neglected by those who wish to embrace reality and all its shortcomings. And, even when they are realized and television is blamed for obesity or failed intelligence, “never you fear, a new technology is here” to remedy those mal effects brought on by the previous technology. We have the advent of the diet pill and educational computer games (as if kids needed to stare at another screen to fix the maladies brought on them by their last screen addiction). It becomes a vicious cycle. Christians must be at the forefront of halting this ridiculous cycle, not by attempting to halt the production of technology (as if that would be a feasible solution), but instead, by attempting to halt the presence of technology without awareness. As a sidenote, non Christians can benefit from this awareness too, even without the belief in God, the creator of all things. Christians need not use technology as another ancient soapbox from which they thump their non electronic copies of their Bible’s on peoples’ botox ridden, braces filled, hearing aided heads. Christianity is relevant, Christianity is practical, but Christianity is also uncomfortable. And, as the chief end of many a technology is comfort—here this the rub. Sometimes, Christianity may have to speak out against the use of certain technologies, but the discomfort that could be caused should do nothing to avert the intentions of those who have considered technology’s possible inadvertent or even intentional consequences.
As an example, I would like to draw an awareness to the the way that community has evolved with technology. few hundred years ago, a web based community would have been a preposterous notion. Community meant getting together with loved ones and those in the surrounding areas to tell stories, explore ideas, orally debate political issues, enjoy each other’s company, and solve any problems that presented themselves within the group. “Community”, at its root, comes from the Latin word communitatus. There are three parts that comprise the word. “Com” is a Latin prefix that means “with or together”. “Munis” means “the changes or exchanges that link”. “Tatus” is a Latin suffix that means “diminutive, small, intimate, or local” This idea of community is not something that the modern world is familiar with because as technology advanced, so did each civilization’s idea of community. Once postal correspondence became a viable option, so did the notion of far-reaching community, that is, a community connected by ideas rather than physical presence. This had a positive impact on American society because of its ability to connect those who wished to keep in contact but were hindered by distance. However, the consequence of this advancement was a lack of face to face interaction, which was inevitable considering the medium. Technology evolved yet again and brought the world the telephone, a new, faster way to associate with others. Like writing letters, the telephone made face to face contact unnecessary. Although the telephone proved to be an even more efficient tool than writing letters, it also had its drawbacks. Contacting people became such a simple task, that it became almost too commonplace. Communication took little effort at best. When there is more work involved in communication, its significance increases, it means more. The next development in the technological scene was the cell phone. No longer did one need to remain in his household to place calls, but was granted the opportunity to become even more efficient by interaction while mobile. It furthered the ease of contact and made significance diminish even more so than the invention of the telephone. Another momentous technological leap was that of Electronic mail. Merging the idea of the letter with the newly created World Wide Web, the result was one that people of past eras could not have imagined if speculating about the future. As if “community” could not have come any farther from its original meaning, the web yet again redefined that idea. No longer did one have to utilize their vocal chords. Instead, simple strokes on a key board could conveniently convey any message imaginable. Not only did it replace the intonation involved with speaking, but it also traded in the personal touch of handwriting for cold, removed Times New Roman font. The most recent creation to further community is an entity called Facebook. Not only can users of Facebook interact through words, but pictures and self descriptions play a major role. It created not only a way to communicate, but it has become its own community.
It is in this newest technology that I would like to sit for a moment. Facebook, though with many a positive attribute, has the ability to erode, with great force, the idea of authentic Christian community—community in general. One aspect that draws people to this technology is that they are free to be whomever they wish to be on Facebook. John Locke, a political philosopher from the seventeenth century, produced a philosophy based on an imaginary situation. This situation, a state of nature, was one that possessed no overarching authority. A parallel can be drawn between Locke’s state of nature and Zuckerberg’s Facebook. A state of nature is a condition in which no government exists. Likewise, Facebook has no authority to check the validity of people’s actions. Facebook users have the power to make their own rules. They are able to disregard social expectations, and political correctness is thrown out the window. The unchecked ability to create one’s self adds to the desire to exaggerate, to portray one’s self in a better light, yet again proving that the Facebook community is not always genuine. This can prove to be problematic in a place where honesty and true vulnerability should be held as virtues paramount.
No matter how poorly or wisely one uses social networking sites like Facebook, there are still limitations on what the medium can do. Hipps explains, “It is not that content doesn’t matter, but it is true that if we only take note of content, we are missing much of the power of any medium” (Hipps). This is why it is important to put every new technology under heavy scrutiny. The questions: “What does it extend? What does it make obsolete? What does it retrieve? And what does it reverse into?” are helpful tools in beginning to understand what is gained and lost with entrance of every new innovation. Many times “we are…numb to the way our lives are impacted by the mass media and do not see the danger they pose” (Hipps). It is helpful to look at the progression of technology throughout history and to see the way societies changed due to the new system’s unintended consequences. As far as the current culture is concerned, many repercussions can already be seen. Loss of genuine communication and loss of understanding have resulted the hindering of the “getting to know you” process. These are effects of the limitations that are inevitable when communicating, or building community, via online networking. Nevertheless, Facebook has in many ways fulfilled its objectives by allowing for efficient time management, providing the means to reestablish forgotten friendships, and supplying the tools to expand one’s resources. Similar to all other new technologies, Facebook has, indeed, proved to be a combination of the advantageous and the undesirable.
Facebook is only one example of a way in which technology has changed our community. In some ways, we benefit, in others, we lose. The problem occurs when we fail to realize the ways in which, despite the progress, we are taking a step back.
I like thinking about this...end of story.