Code of Techno-Ethics

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : September 7, 2004

I stumbled upon this interview with Albert Borgmann and N. Katherine Hayles. There is precious little diaglogue in the Church about how our technology shapes our experiences and its impact on our personhood. In the interview, Borgmann says that our culture has “a hunger for reality and of a growing desire to seek the engagement of real people and real things.”

Technology is insidious in that often when we feel we are leveraging technology to help us connect, we are actually, subtly, being enslaved to a disconnected way of living. Take this blog, for instance. I am writing this in the hopes of being heard, understood. I want my ideas and thoughts to influence others. I want to be part of a larger community of thoughtful people. Others who read this blog (all 6 of you) are reading it for intellectual stimulation, curiousity, or because you likewise want to feel connected to a larger community of thoughtful people. But by ordering our lives around blogs and using the internet to foster disembodied community, are we losing something of our humanity? Just a thought.

I’d like to issue an invitation to all you who are reading this blog. Let’s brainstorm a bit. If one were to write a Code of Techno-Ethics, what should be included? How does one use technology, without losing one’s soul?

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4 Responses to “Code of Techno-Ethics”

  1. Jeremy on September 7th, 2004 12:14 pm

    Too often, in business and in churches, we use email or websites as a means for conveying information before any other type of communication is even tried. By doing this we speak volumes about how much we value the information that person can provide us or what we can provide them over how much we value the actual person. I believe that e-mail and websites should never be the primary means of conveying information to people if we are trying to send a message that we love and appreciate them.

  2. blorge on September 7th, 2004 2:53 pm

    In navagating through technology, it is helpful -nay, necessary- to have a roadmap. Thus I think that we need some rules- not only to keep us from falling overboard into digital babylon, but to give us positive direction, to point us towards e-bliss. I think that technology has enormous potential, but my utopian fantasies don’t really ever seem to have technology as an integral part- in fact I’m not sure my idea of Heaven has any technology at all. Maybe I have something akin to the Amish impulse, but so often I want to simplify my life. Would I have the guts to say that technology is one of the first things to go? Can I part with my cell phone and email? I want to be connected, to know what is going on and how my friends and loved ones are, but aren’t I diluding myself a little into thinking that I’m so important that people have to get ahold of me right away?

    Maybe technology should serve to supplement not substitute real community in a way that doesn’t make the tete a tete unnecessary or irrelevant, but enrichens and enlivens it.

    Is that even possible, or am I just a dreamer?

  3. Jesse Gavin on September 7th, 2004 2:56 pm

    I think technology is a great tool that can compliment “real” relationships, but I would say that very (very) few “real” relationships can be healthy and fully develop over a network.

    For instance, my lovely fiance, just sent a simple email from her workplace, telling me that she loves me. That email was tremendous! I was very happy to have recieved it, and somehow our relationship has benefitted from it. I know her and have a “real” relationship with her and so, this little note sent via the “ether” of the net had “real” meaning.

    On the other hand, I get MANY emails which claim to love me (in various ways), and these mean NOTHING to me (mostly because I know it is just automated spam). There is no relationship with the author of that spam, therefore this is just a nuicense (sp?).

    I agree with Jeremy above in that as a primary method of communication, the “network” will ultimately not do. But it does offer so many wonderful ways of complimenting real communication.

  4. Van S on September 12th, 2004 8:54 pm

    blorge: you might be dreaming. I think the best we can expect from technology is to use it to counter the ill-effects of other technology, like fire-fighters who use a controlled fire to keep the spread of a forest fire. I don’t believe people in modern societies are more connected than those that live in traditional societies. Technology inherently allows us to move beyond traditional limits, enabling us a higher degree of individual freedom and determinance. These things lessen our dependence upon a shared culture. Inter-dependence is replaced with a one-way dependence upon those who provide and service technology. In such an arrangement, individualism is the thing being served by a community of technicians, rather than the community being served by the collective effort of individuals.

    I’m pretty tired right now (I just preached at our Sunday evening gathering), so I’m sorry if I don’t make sense.

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