Tonight’s The Night – The “God, Technology, & Us Launch” Party & Benefit!!!

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Alvin & Friends Restaurant – Site of the “God, Technology & Us” Book Launch Party!

It’s been almost two years worth of work. Now it’s time to celebrate! The launch party for “God, Technology, & Us” will take place tonight at Alvin & Friends Restaurant in New Rochelle, NY. Doors open at 6:30pm.

For those who can’t make it, the event will be live-streamed via Periscope. Download the app at the App Store or Google Play Store and follow @bytesandbelief so you can get the notice when the stream goes live (about 7:30pm EST). More the just a party,  a portion of the proceeds from this event will be donate to Isaiah’s Room, a food and clothing pantry that serves the people of New Rochelle, NY.

It’s funny. When I started writing this book, I never really thought about having an event like this. In fact, when the book was finished, I actually had to be convinced to have a launch party. I’m not that big on things like this and planned to just go out to nice dinner to “celebrate” the release of the book. Then I thought about all of the people who helped me during the writing and editing process. I also thought about how my wife, family, and friends patiently listened as I talked on and on about some point I was trying to make in the book. (It’s amazing how when you’re so focused on a single topic, EVERYTHING seems to be related to it). I know I must have been a bit trying for them to hear me drone on and on – asking them for opinions and suggestions.

Therefore, I decided to have the party. Not to pat myself on the back, but to use  as a way to thank all the people who supported me through the creation of “God, Technology, & Us”.

Hope to see you there!!!

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Throwing It All Away

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First off, I should begin this post off with an admission.
The above title is merely a thinly veiled attempt to satisfy my desire to reference a Phil Collins song in a blog post.

Whew!!! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I would like to draw your attention to an article written by Dan Gillmor over at Medium. The post, “Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google, & Microsoft”, documents Dan’s journey across different computing platforms, and why ultimately he decided to go with Linux route. While many of us base our computer (and smartphone) choice on more common considerations, like price, design, and convenience, we would all do well to pay more attention to Gillmor’s concerns. Namely, Gilmore speaks to the erosion of choice, privacy, and expression that has taken place within our digital tools as large companies have expanded their influence in the tech world. It’s great that Google provides such a broad expanses of useful services, but they simultaneously limit users options to use their tools with other offerings. They also create a “choke point” for the user – a gate through which the user must pass through in order to do almost anything with their data. It wasn’t always like this. At the beginning of the computer revolution, the primary objective of bringing computers to the masses was to free individuals from such gate-keepers. Computers were meant to empower the individual to do and make things that once were only possible through large companies. And for a while, computers did just that. As Gillmor points out in his post, the proverbial Empire has struck back. We have largely traded in the freedom that computers once brought us for the convenience that all-encompassing services, much like what Apple and Google provide. We put our full faith in these companies, in the hope that they will not abuse their position as sole keeper of our data and primary curator of what we see and access on the Internet.

While this is the compromise most of us have made, Gillmor has chosen the other route. He has made the conscious choice to “trust communities instead of corporations”. By this, Gillmor means that he has decided to go with open source platforms, such as Linux (for his computer) and the lesser-known CyanogenMod OS (an open-source variation of Android) for his smartphone. These operating systems are open-source, meaning that they are created, updated, and maintained by a volunteer community of software developers and enthusiasts. While these OSes may be off the beaten path, and may require a bit more effort than the easily accessible alternatives from major corporations, they do offer freedom of choice and control to the end user. Users have more control of who has access to their data and what details of their online activity gets shared.

Gillmor’s position declaration of independence from Big Tech isn’t unheard of. There is a nascent, but growing chorus of voices who are questioning our single-source dependence on large companies for our computing needs. Indeed – if we now live in the Information Age, and data is its currency, is it wise for us to hand all of our data over to one entity? Shouldn’t we work to maintain ultimate control of our own valuable resources?

Christians should be especially concerned about this, since we are “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9), whose motivations come from our Creator (Colossians 3:1-4). That means what we want often differs from the desires of the rest of society. If our choices – what we can and can’t do – become limited to what is deemed best for “most people”, it is only a matter of time until our digital tools begin to impinge on our ability to be the “salt of the earth” Jesus asks us to be.

For more on how this topic applies to Christians, check out the previous Bytes & Belief post, “Installing the Digital Veil”.

Stop Googling & Talk: Sherry Turkle’s NYT Essay


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Those of you who have frequented this blog before should be familiar with the name Sherry Turkle. She is a clinical psychologist and MIT professor. She is also one of the premiere voices in the discussion of technology’s affect on communication and relationships. Last weekend, the New York Times published her essay, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk”. This informative essay, like her game-changing book Alone Together, speaks to our tendency to use technology as a means of satisfying our desire to feel close to others, without actually providing genuine relationship.

A recurring theme that occurs in this essay is the difference in perception within the families Turkle interviewed during her research. The parents interviewed were worried about their children spending too much time on their devices. They were concerned their children will grow up without the skills needed to hold face-to-face conversations, interpret non-verbal cues, as well as express empathy. Their children however, complained that they had to repeatedly ask for the undivided attention of their technology-distracted parents. Turkle’s work seems to say that all of us are riding a tech-fueled wave that is pushing us toward our devices and away from each other.

Sherry Turkle remains one of, if not the leading voice, on the impact of technology on human relationships. Her work should be required reading for every Christian – both layperson and leader.

Why?

Because as Christians, we can’t love other people as God commands if we create barriers to relationship. Or worse yet, we can’t love people if we create pseudo-relationships, with controlled closeness and limited vulnerability. But, as Sherry Turkle points out, much of our current use of technology is doing just that. We all must begin reclaiming face-to-face conversation and solitude in order to preserve true relationships. I would add that Christians must also reconsider what technology is for – and how it can best be used to fulfill our God-given purpose.

The New York Times essay discussed in this post is adapted from Sherry Turkle’s forthcoming book – Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. So as soon as you’re finished reading this, pick-up a copy.