Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Soul in Cyberspace

Though we don't think about it much, technology surrounds our lives in modern-day America. Technology is even in my job title, so it is something I tend to think about frequently. However, I won't claim to have a full worldview framework through which to understand it, perhaps because I'm usually wrapped up in getting a particular technology to work. I recently finished The Soul in Cyberspace which has pushed me further to a broader view of technology.

A major point of this book is that much of the information technology we employ now (and back 13 years ago when written) disembodies us and decontextualizes information. And, this is bad. Bad for deep understanding and bad for community (among other things). Also, this technology makes information ethereal - easy to create, transmit, remix, and to delete either accidentally or purposefully.

I think of this in relation to keeping up with a few guy friends from Clemson. Most of us are on Facebook and post something at least on occasion. We also use e-mail to coordinate in-person gatherings. However, those electronic forms of communication don't let us share a beer together in person, pick up on the nonverbal cues during conversation, or give us memories (like staying in the house that had frozen water pipes for a weekend).

Certainly information technologies and the Internet can be used wisely and well, but Groothuis argues that we do not do so. More recent technology doesn't change this book - though it is 13 years old (a few web generations), the insights still hold and may have even better exemplars now.

I recommend reading it - it is a fairly easy read (most of the time) and will keep you thinking.

I'll also note that the author was interviewed not that long ago by Tim Challies.

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