A Theology of Technology
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I recently attended a seminar on the subject of "A Theology of Technology" at the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. It was an occasion for me to be able to reflect upon issues that impact my daily life both vocationally and philosophically. The focii of the seminar included the impact of technology on the ideas of "self", "community", and "embodiment" as well as the effects of current technologies upon our understanding of metanarratives and the differences in the modernist and postmodern attitudes toward technology itself. Propaedeutic reading for the seminar included Neil Postman's Technopoly as well as Douglas Groothuis's bookThe Soul in Cyberspace. The speaker for the seminar was of the Swiss L'Abri, Director Jim Ingram.
I have been a developer of content for the internet for five years, and a developer of multimedia educational media since 1983. In my current position as Senior Instructional Designer for St. Louis Community College, I have been placed in a position concerned with the vanguard of educational media. I consult with educators on the possibility of appropriating technological advancements in supplementing or enhancing existing pedagogies, and train them in their use. I have a background in art, education, theology, learning theory, and instructional design. From my varied experience, which is filtered through a Christian perspective, I have formed a number of opinions on the subject matter which do not necessarily coincide with those of the authors and lecturer I cite.
My first exposure to Neil Postman was an educational seminar I attended many years ago when he was still a proponent of "Teaching as a Subversive Act." I first read Technopoly in 1993, and his The End of Education in 1996. Postman is a compelling lecturer and has the ability to turn a phrase. While I would fight for his right to change his mind, what I have observed over time from Postman is a bandwagon, reactionary responsiveness to whatever issue he can make a buck off of currently by exhibiting his remarkable ability to be a contrarian. Too often he offers criticism (in the sense of censure) in lieu of critique, and his few proposals of solutions are pedantic and superficial. He moves from hot topic to hot topic such as educational reform and television in books Amusing Ourselves to Death (for a better treatment of that medium, imho, I recommend Gregor Goethals' The Electronic Golden Calf.) Yet, there are times I agree completely with him. We are operating from a different world view, however, and this is where we consistently diverge. Postman's forte is that he always talks long enough to say something most everyone will agree with.
I have a high estimation of Groothuis. He has shown himself to be a clear thinker in areas where he is well informed. I have been thankful to have participated in Jim Ingram's lecture series and to hear voices from the Christian community on some of the issues. Almost all the literature available fails to take the spiritual aspects of technology into consideration in a right way. As Owen Barfield has said, "Mere perception without imagination is the sword thrust between spirit and matter." The perceptions that have been communicated in the series have been both imaginative and spiritually informed.
Ingram shows much promise as a foil to the utopian/dystopian flavor of the dialogue. He needs to have time, as we all do, to reflect deeply on the issues and form more of his own original contentions rather than relying on the many voices originating from diverse worldviews.
Against the Pomo Dystopians
The Hypertextualization of Literacy
Technology and Community