Faith, Technology, and The Suburbs
A couple of loosely connected thought, links, and quotes for a Friday morning…
A few weeks ago, I came across an excellent new collaborative blog called Wondering Fair (a number of contributors are alumni from Regent College). Interesting and engaging topics, good writing, nice accessible look and feel… definitely worth adding to your reader. Due to my ongoing interest in how technology shapes us as human beings, I was particularly drawn to David Benson’s post on why he doesn’t own a mobile phone. His summary hits the nail on the head, in my view:
In subtle ways, we all begin to reflect the technology we use. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Or, as Postman extends the truism, “To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image. To a man with a computer, everything looks like data.” And to a person with a mobile, everything looks like a text message. I’m not made in the image of a phone. But I do believe I’m made in the image of a loving God, who respects people as people, and objects as objects. And never shall the twain meet.
While we’re on the topic of good thinking about faith and technology, I continue to make my way through (and to have my approach to and use of technology challenged by) Quentin Schultze’s Habits of the High-Tech Heart. Of particular interest today was a passage on how, in a digital age, the quantitative analysis of data is frequently assumed to be synonymous with wisdom. Schultze rightly worries that our obsession with data will lead to an impoverishment of genuine wisdom and a narrow view of how worth is to be evaluated:
For all the successes we can score with quantitative analysis, we still face the danger of succumbing to one narrow, instrumental, quantitative way of thinking and means of discerning worth.
So I was thinking about these things last night as I sat listening to the glorious strains of Arcade Fire‘s new album called The Suburbs and doing a bit of online “research” on the band and the album. In light of my reading on how technology shapes our interpretation of the world, I found it particularly interesting to read Wikipedia’s entry on The Suburbs, particularly the section dealing with how the album has been received by critics. The “worth” of the album is determined as follows:
The album has received widely positive reviews from critics. Collating 39 reviews, the review aggregator website Metacritic gave the album an average score of 86%, which puts it into the category of “universal acclaim.”
Quantitative analysis. Narrow instrumental ways of thinking. Quantitative ways of discerning worth. To a person with a computer, everything looks like data… Hmm.
Well, I am certainly not an expert, nor do I have an exhaustive and eclectic music library, nor do I have any kind of long training in critical analysis of music, nor can I appeal to any mathematical data or taxonomical divisions to support my verdict, but for whatever it is worth, I think TheSuburbs is simply brilliant. Best album I’ve heard in quite some time, actually.
As evidence for the preceding claim, I cite the following:
- It makes me feel very good when I listen to it.
- It inspires periodic pathetic attempts to hum/sing along.
- People smarter and more culturally relevant and quite obviously cooler than me seem to like it too.
- I’ve listened to it virtually non-stop for three days.
- Sometimes I buy albums where one or two songs are good and the rest is mostly terrible and it produces this weird combination of disgust and nausea and why-oh-why did I spend $10.99 on this and The Suburbs doesn’t do this.
- Arcade Fire is Canadian (well, mostly… I realize Win Butler is an American by birth) and so am I.
- It makes me wish I was in a band.
- It makes me smile.
Based on the preceding thoroughly qualitative, unapologetically subjective, and naively selective collation of sensory input and emotional responses, I hereby place The Suburbs in the category of “awesome.”