Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creativity and Technology

Here’s a statement which makes me seem older than I am: When my husband and I were married (just before the turn of the century!) - there was no email, and virtually no access to the internet. This seems unbelievable to almost everyone now, even to me - and I was there! You see, it’s not really all that long ago that we couldn’t even imagine the great strides in everyday technology that have changed our lives in just the last ten years.

In our house, my husband is the enthusiastic and early adopter of most new digital technological advances. I, on the other hand, realise increasingly that I am going to turn into one of those elderly people who has to invite their grandchildren over to teach them how to program the DVD recorder. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realised that these tendencies are just a basic outworking of our personalities: he likes new things and is fascinated by interesting ways of doing things; I tend to become overwhelmed by change and it takes me a while to warm up to new ways of doing things.

As we start to read The Next Story together, it’s worth thinking about the personal background that we each bring to a discussion about technology. As a society we have all kinds of assumptions about technology, and as Christians we have a whole other set of assumptions as well. Tim Challies makes the point very early in his book that people tend to fall into stridently pro-technology or anti-technology camps, and as Christians it’s very easy to moralise about our feelings and act as though our way of thinking about technology is one we have taken up because it is the most godly, but very often, it’s just the position we’re most personally comfortable with.

I also found really interesting his discussion about how certain technologies become mythic within our society, and this paragraph particularly caused me to consider how I feel about digital technology:

            “When a technology has become mythic, we no longer view it as a strange outsider to our lives. We forget that it was invented by humans, that it was introduced into society by humans - humans who are just as limited, sinful, and shortsighted as we are. In fact, mythic technologies seem impossible to change. It seems easier to change ourselves and adapt to the new technology than to change it... We doubt that the technology could itself be the cause of a problem. We give technology the power to shape and change and fashion us, remaking ourselves in its image.” (p 26-27)

He makes the point that it's natural for us to create things, being made in the image of God, himself the Creator. New technologies and innovations are just the natural working out of this God-given creative ability. There is nothing in technology and innovation in itself to fear or dislike, and in fact, there is much good. But like everything in our world, tainted by sin, there is the potential for tremendous abuse of these otherwise good gifts. This has me thinking about the ways that digital technologies can make life better (and not just through convenience - like - it's easier to pay bills online than to go and stand in line at the post office), and also, the ways that they can make life worse.

I’m really interested to see how my views about creativity and technology will be challenged by this book. I’d love to hear your comments about the first few chapters too.

About our contributor:

I grew up in a Christian household (in fact, in a clergy family) in Sydney, and I can’t really remember any time in my life when I wasn’t aware of Jesus and his claims on me. Likewise, I can’t really pinpoint a specific moment where I decided to follow him, although there have certainly been spots along the way which sharpened my resolve and shook me from my comfort zone a fair bit. When I was younger it bothered me that I didn’t have a dramatic conversion story that I could look to for reassurance of my “changed life”, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to see it as a great mercy of God to have always known about his love for me.

Right now, I live in Sydney’s inner west with my husband (also a minister!) and my three small-ish children. Looking after our kids is my main occupation, but I also do a bit of freelance editing and writing, and in my spare time I flit between knitting, reading the kind of intimidating blogs where people move to a small homestead in Maine and raise their own sheep, and fantasising about living in a house which literally cleans itself.

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