Who’s at the wheel?

Posted by in Communication, Culture, Faith & Life | 0 comments



Who’s at the wheel?


James Williams’s Sunday essay in The Guardian a few weeks ago begins with an apt metaphor.

“Imagine that you’ve just bought a new GPS device for your car. The first time you use it, it works as expected. However, on the second journey, it takes you to an address a few blocks away from where you had wanted to go. On the third trip, you’re shocked when you find yourself miles away from your intended destination, which is now on the opposite side of town. Frustrated, you decide to return home, but when you enter your address, the GPS gives you a route that would have you driving for hours and ending up in a totally different city.

Like any reasonable person, you would consider this GPS faulty and return it to the store – if not throw it out of your car window. Who would continue to put up with a GPS that they knew would take them somewhere other than where they wanted to go? What reason could anyone possibly have for continuing to tolerate such a thing?

No one would put up with this sort of distraction from a technology that directs them through physical space. Yet…”

Yet that’s what we do each day when we open what Williams calls our “attentional GPSs – those technologies that direct our thoughts, our actions, our lives.” Williams contends – and I heartily agree – that technology should be helping us pursue “real goals, human goals.”

Unfortunately, though…

Unfortunately, though, technology awards our “impulsive selves,” our “lesser selves.” Our hope is that these tools will become “companion systems for our lives,” but as Williams explains, our goals have not been the goals of the technological system. The lingo is telling here; what do we call images today? Screen grabs. Captures. Williams contends that this technological system produces “weak-willed and impulsive” individuals.

What if we want technology to be more?

What if we want technology to be more? Williams contends that our challenge is one of self-regulation. The proliferation of devices and apps in our culture today puts us in a constant state of learning and adaptation,” never so fully in control that [we] can prevent these technologies from operating on [us] in unintended or undesirable ways.”

So, if technology is an “attentional adversary” that complicates the process of reaching our goals, how do we navigate those waters?

We navigate those waters by paying attention.

We can only navigate technological rapids today by truly paying attention. By finding, as Williams writes, “new ways of talking and thinking about the problem, as well as summoning the courage necessary for advancing on it inconvenient and unpopular ways.”

The courage to advance on the problem in inconvenient and unpopular ways.

May I suggest a liturgy that can bolster your resolve? Take a look at A Liturgy Before Consuming Media from Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey.

Consider these thoughts before reading, watching, posting, tweeting.

McKelvey asks in his liturgy

that God be “present in my mind and action in my imagination”…

that God would “use human expressions of celebration and longing as catalysts to draw my mind toward ever deeper insight”…

and that God would grant wisdom and discernment that “make me a more empathetic Christ-bearer.”

A wise liturgy, indeed, that helps focus our attention and hand off the wheel to the One who knows and loves us best, who can direct us toward real goals.


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