The annual January Series of Calvin College in Zondervan's hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is a delight for anyone excited by the intersection of faith and culture.
If you're intrigued by how technology transforms our behavior and brains, this year's January Series boasted a special treat. The presentation delivered by Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and clinical psychologist, was called "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other." (The lecture was related to Prof. Turkle's book of the same name.)
While I was not able to attend the presentation, Zondervan author Mike Wittmer was there, and he published an excellent summary of Turkle's points on his blog. I found this point particularly stirring:
[Turkle says] People who must constantly check their phone for new messages say that their mobile device feels like a place of hope. They desperately want the message they find there to make their lives interesting.
[Wittmer adds] This reminds me of what the medieval Christians called sloth. Sloth … is the sin of distraction, which is rooted in despair. Is it a coincidence that our Age of Distraction is also an Age of Despair?
People see their mobile device as a place of hope? I have felt a little tingle of hope before logging on to Facebook, and my shoulders slumped whenever new activity failed to deliver whatever abstract commodity I was looking for. I didn't think I was looking for sources of hope and joy, but I think that was (at least part of) my motivation.
But before we all throw our iPhones on a pyre, let's remember some salient points from Tim Challies's recent book on technology, The Next Story:
"[It] is not the technology itself that is good or evil; it is the human application of that technology."
"Rather than changing the technology to fit our understanding of what is right and wrong, we change ourselves and our society's rules and mores, and we reshape ourselves in the image of the mobile phone."
"That iPhone in your pocket is not an 'evil' device. Yet it is prone to draw your heart away from God, to distract you and enable you to rely on your own abilities rather than trusting God."
"Our task, then, is not to avoid technology but to carefully evaluate it, redeem it, and ensure that we are using it with the right motives and for the right goals."
From the 50-some pages I've read of Challies' The Next Story, it's valuable for helping us see how our favorite technologies affect us. (That's just my opinion. You can read an excerpt of The Next Story on Scribd.)
What do you think about all of this?
Are you more distracted, or less distracted, than you were ten years ago?
Mike Wittmer reminds us that medieval Christians linked distraction to despair. Do you think despair is a motivation behind some of your technology habits?
More about Tim Challies & The Next Story
A pastor, speaker, and author, Tim Challies (@challies) is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere. Over 20,000 people visit Challies.com each day, making it one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs in the world. Tim is also the editor of DiscerningReader.com, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. Tim is the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox. (Learn more about Challies's books and eBooks.)
More about Mike Wittmer
Michael Wittmer is professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and his books for Zondervan include Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything Matters to God, and Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough. Visit his blog at mikewittmer.wordpress.com.
Hear author Gabe Lyons & N.T. Wright at the January Series 2012
Listen to these Zondervan authors' presentations live-stream online:
- Gabe Lyons on January 11 (Learn more about his The Next Christians DVD Study)
- NT Wright on January 24 (Learn more about his his Surprised by Hope DVD Study).
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's opinions are their own, and are shared for information purposes only. To receive new blogposts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)