Author Interview: John Dyer on Theology and Technology (Part 1 of 3)

John Dyer’s expertise in technology is not limited to simply using it and even creating it as a professional web developer. He also thinks and writes about technology. You can learn from his reflections on technology and the biblical story in his book From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology (see my review of this book here). Below is the first installment of my interview with John about faithful living in our technological age.

AB: Thanks for joining our conversations here at BigBible, John. To begin with, what is the one primary lesson you hope readers will take from your book?

JD: I want readers to be able to balance two tensions regarding technology: that it is “God-given” and that it is “transformative.” On the “God-given” side I want to dispell the notion that Scripture just doesn’t give us any guidance on cultural creations or that such creations should be inherently feared. On the “tranformative” side, I want readers to be able to see past just how we use technology, to how its presence shapes our lives, families, relationships, and places of worship.

AB: You use the term “media ecology.” Some of our readers will be familiar with the works of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, etc. Others of us not so much! Could you give us a two or three sentence definition of what this phrase refers to?

JD: “Media ecology” is the idea that we should study new technology in much the same way that we study new animals added to an existing environment (or ecosystem). For example, when iTunes came along it didn’t just get peacefully added alongside existing media (cassette tapes, CDs, radio). Instead, like adding adding a shark with laser beams to a tank full of guppies, the entire music ecosystem shifted due to the presence of iTunes. Our lives are much the same. We can’t just add new devices like microwaves or digital Bible to our lives without disrupting how and how often we use older tools.

AB: What are some ways that digital technology may be shaping us unhealthily in our media habits?

JD: In the previous century, wonderful advances in transportation and food availability have allowed more mobility and prevented hunger. However, this has also led to the obesity epidemic sweeping over America for people without proper disciple in diet and exercise. I think we might be seeing the same thing with our information diet, in that many people are training themselves to consume lots of small bits of information, but they are failing to exercise their ability to do deep thinking and reading.

AB: What about healthy aspects of digital technology? Are there ways that our use of the Internet and the latest communication devices are strengthening us?

JD: In the Southern part of the United States, we’ve had Christian sub-cultures where people could go about their lives never exposed to the way most of humanity actually lives. I think digital media make it very hard to stay in that kind of cloistered world, and forces Christians of all stripes to enter into a broader society and have some contact with the Other (albeit, often in a disembodied way). Social media can expose areas of real need in the world, and it also allows Christians from around the world to connect on common ministry goals and gifting

[Parts 2 and 3 of my interview with John are on the way…]

About AndyByers

I serve as the Chaplain for St Mary's College at Durham University while working on a PhD in the Department of Theology. CODEC has also taken me on to work as a theological consultant of sorts for the BigBible blog. My first book is about cynicism toward the church and disillusionment with God—'Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint' (IVP Likewise, 2011). My latest is ‘TheoMedia: The Media of God in the Digital Age’ (Cascade Books, 2013).