Theology After Google Presentations

This first video is my presentation on the first night of the Theology after Google conference.


This is Barry Taylor's (whose blog is here) on the last day, and for me, it felt like what he added was in a beautiful resonance with my thoughts.


I'm still trying to figure out exactly why, but after Barry finished I commented that I felt like I had met a theological brother.  

7 Responses

  1. Hey, Callid the audio gets a little garbled just after the response to Ken Silva….could you post the garbled part somewhere…I remember its powerful, and would really like the words…love

  2. Excellent work, Callid.  I watched your presentation with great interest.  I am wondering if you have read a possible counter to your argument in the new American Scholar quarterly: an article by Sven Birkerts entitled "Reading in a Digital Age" (the cover of the quarterly has the added title "Step Away from the Screen."  Here's a snippet:
    "Metaphor, the poet, imagination…What is, for me, behind this sputtering, is my longstanding conviction that imagination- not just the faculty, but what might be called the whole party of the imagination– is endangered, is shrinking faster than Balzac's wild ass's skin, which diminished every time its owner made a wish.  Imagination, the one feature that connects us with the deeper sources and possibilities of being, thins out every time another digital prosthesis appears and puts another layer of sheathing between ourselves and the essential givens of our existence, making it just that much harder for us to grasp ourselves as part of an ancient continuum."

    He goes on to say: "My real worry has less to do with the overthrow of human intelligence by Google-powered artificial intelligence and more with the rapid erosion of certain ways of thinking…reflection, contextual understanding of information…contemplation.  Thinking for its own sake, non-instrumental, as opposed to transitive thinking, the kind that would depend on a machine-driven harvesting of facts toward some specified end."
    I wonder if any of that raises red flags, nods of agreement, scoffs of dismissal, or any other reaction in your mind.  It is of particular interest to me, for as an English teacher, I am perceiving an inability for students to delve into reflective analysis- more so than, let's say, ten years ago.  I am also a strong proponent of CS Lewis' idea that education is meant "not to cut down jungles but irrigate deserts."  How do we do that in a digital age? 

    Anyway, thanks for the food for thought.
    Greg Pyne

  3. @Gentry Thanks man, I am glad it was of use to you.  I can but try…
    @Lu, I didn't make these vids, and I don't know what causes the reverb, so I can only put up what I've got.
    @Greg As a previous English teacher as well, I have both a nod of agreement and a scoff of dismissal for that argument.  
    Nod: the culture in which we live does little to encourage "irrigation thinking," opting instead for commodified data-gathering wherein information is equated with education.  As a result our youth tend to have adopted this attitude.
    Scoff: While I do believe that human perception and society are significantly influenced by cultural mores, somewhere down deep it seems that people want to have mastery and excitement.  I can't think of a more exciting time in my classroom then when students had an "aha" moment with some line of poetry, or when disecting the metaphorical layers of  Lord of The Flies.  The problem as I see it, is not that technology gets in the way of innovative thought, but that as educators we have not sufficiently adapted our pedagogy to account for its presence.

  4.  "The problem as I see it, is not that technology gets in the way of innovative thought, but that as educators we have not sufficiently adapted our pedagogy to account for its presence."
    This is what I am struggling with in my role as an educator.  I am of the opinion that the current push for sufficient adaptation calls for a de-emphasis of technological presence in the classroom.  In the current American Educator quarterly, the lead article “The Most Daring Education Reform of All,” Diana Senechal calls to task the role of technology in the classroom.  The crux of her argument lies in a critique of the demand of reformers for schools to be relevant and up to date by requiring the use of technology in the classroom, “whether or not it serves the lesson well.”  Lynne Munson has a sub-article in the main piece entitled “What Does- and What Should- P21 Advocate?” (The Partnership of 21st Century Skills advocates technology in the classroom, and has the backing of several major corporations, including Lucasfilm) which provides some wonderful “scare examples” of the types of lessons P21, advocates:
    “Consider this example lesson for 12th graders from P21’s website: ‘Students translate a piece of dialog from a Shakespearean play into a text message exchange and analyze the effect of the writing mode on the tone or meaning of the dialogue.  Students then discuss audience and purpose in relation to communication media.’”
    Yikes.  The emphasis is less on content and more on tech skills.
    Now, this is not meant to be a bash against P21, an organization of which I did not know anything about until reading Senechal’s article.  I’m just wondering if this technological “transformation”  of which Barry Taylor speaks is in desperate need of contextualization.  Perhaps we are a bit too open-mouthed about it: a bit of balance is needed.  To wit: To properly experience the majesty of God, one must be able to feel and touch a clod of dirt in one’s hands with the same wonder in which one looks up into the vast reaches of interstellar space on a warm summer night.
    Or a iPhone app, for that matter… 

      I wonder (thanks Greg for the imagery), if the app on the iPhone is the key here.  Just like Callid's explanation of the grey squares that remind us of the most familiar picture of Abraham Lincoln, the iPhone app is not the actual sky, but serves to remind us of it because of previous experience.  Those grey squares could make me think of freed slaves, cause me to be inspired to work for justice, or convict me about the way I treat the black people in my neighborhood.  But it wouldn't be the grey squares doing it- the grey squares are just a way to put my mind on Lincoln and everything I learned about him in school.  Similarly, if one had never viewed a night sky, the iPhone app would just look like some dots on a black screen.  But if I, for example, wanted to bring a congregation into an experience of a Heavenly Father, it would be nearly impossible to have church service outside at night on a clear day (In Rochester, where it is frigid and the sky is clear about three days a year).  But if I project the image of the night sky during a morning service, the dots on a screen make them think of times when they looked at the actual sky.  The iPhone app makes a past experience (looking at the night sky) transportable into any time and place (like church on Sunday morning) and allows the past experience to be tapped for present and new (perhaps, spiritual) experience.  
    I see this as right in line with our history.  The technology of scripture (the presence of God in words on a scroll) was invented in the time of the Biblical prophets because they needed to make their experience of God's presence portable in order for their identity to survive in exile. (Before God’s presence had been stationary in the Temple, now unavailable and soon to be destroyed.)  Fast forward to the first few centuries of Christianity.  Christians invented the technology of the book because the old technology of the scroll was too hard to carry in your backpack as you were persecuted or traveled to do evangelism.  Christians saw themselves as a landless race and their new technology adapted to that identity and the need to have God’s presence be even more portable.  The iPhone night sky app makes the experience of God portable from a person’s past experience (where they may or may not have felt God in the real night sky), to a present experience where a digitally produced set of dots can bring a genuine experience of God’s presence.
    I’ll let you guys make the appropriate and abundantly available applications of this to the context of the classroom.

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