Dr Michael Burdett: A scholarly view: How ancient Christian practices can help us live better in technological culture

A scholarly view: How ancient Christian practices can help us live better in technological culture – Dr. Michael Burdett

Wk 6 HT 19/02/2018

Mills Davis has said that “Attention is the limited resource on the internet – not disk capacity, processor speed or bandwidth.” This presentation will diagnose one particular component of technological culture, our online practices, and evaluate how our usage of the internet at present has truncated our attention both in cyberspace and when not online. Utilising the philosophical and social scientific work of Nicholas Carr, Hubert Dreyfus and Sherry Turkle it will be asserted that many experts have found that focus and attention have degraded in the age of the Internet. We “bounce” from one webpage to another and our devices support and valorize increasing multitasking and shallow interaction with the information presented to us and indeed those we meet online. How can we combat this inattention so indicative of our online lives and transform these virtual spaces so that they help support deeper interaction so needed for a meaningful Christian life? I argue that a deeper infusion of contemplative practices, at the core of the Christian spiritual tradition, can help reinvigorate a destitute online presence. Spiritual practices such as fasting, lectio divina and silence can all help provide a counter-praxis to our cyber-habits. Virtual spaces are, in fact, being used in entirely productive ways towards these ends in certain quarters of the Internet. Indeed, more meditative and attention-rich resources are being utilised through such media as the Jesuit’s “Pray-As-You-Go” podcast and the online resource “The Work of the People.” I argue that rather than solely demonizing our present interaction on the Internet as an essential aspect of internet living, Christians can and ought to employ and transform the medium.’

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