Podcast #037: Making sense of technology

Learning to flourish in a digital world

Technology impacts and influences our lives in increasingly powerful and profound ways. How do I make sense of technology in a way that truly enhances and enriches my life? This podcast is a continuation of my conversation with author Pete Nicholas on the book he has co-authored with Ed Brooks called "Virtually Human: Flourishing In a Digital World".

In our earlier discussion (Podcast #036: Virtually Human Part 1) we looked at while new technologies hold awesome potential for good there is another side to them. Surprisingly the essence of technology is not technological, but what it truly means to be human. When we engage unthinkingly with the online world there is a danger we begin to become like the technologies we use, relating and thinking without human connection. We fall short of what we were made to be and become virtually human.

So technology is much more than just a tool by which we engage with the world. It also changes us in both subtle and profound ways. Those who uncritically promote technology are keen to tell a story of never ending human flourishing and progress (For an example see the short Facebook video: The Things That Connect Us). However, this is far too simplistic. We need to both affirm the good that technology provides us while at the same time being realistic about its limitations to change basic human nature.

On this podcast we particularly focus on how technology impacts our identity and relationships. Do join us as we discuss:

  • How digital technologies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram enable us to re-imagine and re-create who we are. What kind of online identity am I going to create and how much is it in integrity with who I am offline?
  • How Rene Descartes from 1639 has deeply affected our understanding of identity and the way we think of ourselves in the online world. We find ourselves caught between two conflicting narratives of 'be true to yourself' and at the same time 'shape yourself as you have no ultimate identity'.
  • While there is a very positive outworking of this in empowering someone like Malala Yousafzai to have a global voice in influencing and challenging the oppression of women there is another side in terms of raising questions around what ultimately is identity that can lead to loss of a sense of belonging anywhere.
  • How John Calvin from 1589  gives us a framework for understanding identity. We are made for worship - that is to find our ultimate identity and fulfilment in someone, something or some idea. We cannot stop ourselves from worshipping and the implications that has for us.
  • How social media has affected our relationships. There has been huge benefits in being able to connect with people from around the world and find out what friends and family are doing.
  • At the same time, quoting psychologist Sherry Turkle, "we have moved from conversation to connection, from talking to texting, from solitude to isolation, from interdependent to interconnected". (p.104)
  • How big business and huge amounts of investment and research is undertaken to make sure we stay connected to technology as much as possible.
  • The seriousness of these challenges when you consider how many Silicon Valley executives send their children to schools with a no device policy.
  • How technology makes it so easy to separate ourselves from people we don't like or whose views we disagree with. We lose the ability to work through problems we have with others and instead take the path of least resistance by dismissing them from our lives.
  • Why we need to learn how to dialogue with people who hold views different to our own without getting abusive or dismissive or demonising them.

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #025: Is there a difficult person in your life?

Discovering Silence and Solitude

More details on the book are available at the Virtually Human website here.

What questions and comments does our discussion raise for you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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