The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Technology as Spiritual Formation: Opening Questions

As we think about technology as spiritual formation, we need a guide. For me, for now, Shane Hipps is our man. He's done some good thinking about it. But he's not the first either. He points us to Marshall McLuhan. MM gives us 4 questions to ask, that will help us start to think about how technology is shaping us.

First we need to do the basic work of technology analysis. McLuhan can help us out here. He has what he calls "Laws of Media." These are four essential questions to help individuals understand media’s power, but also its limitations and dangers. Technology has certain characteristics and these question will help us see those.

(1) What does the medium extend? This refers to what human ability is extended or amplified by the technology.

(2) What does the medium make obsolete? This refers to the old technology that is replaced by the new technology and whether that old technology is completely useless or relegated to specialized usage.

(3) What does the medium reverse into? This question explores the potential dangers of a new technology by imagining its effects when pushed to an extreme, typically the opposite of what it’s meant to resolve.

(4) What does the medium retrieve? This is related to Law #2. It refers to what old technology is renewed and expanded. This question can help answer #3 by looking at the problems that were created by the old technology pushed to an extremes.

We'll start with these four questions, but later we'll need others to help us too. These first four will help us analyze technology. We'll need others to help us evaluate it.

But that's for later. Next up, we'll ask these questions about some different technologies out there. We'll look at a Shane Hipps example, then maybe at television, cell phones, and then maybe Internet, Facebook, or Twitter.

Stay tuned.