Reading and reviewing Tim Challies’ new book about life in the digital age ‘The Next Story’ is a disorienting experience.
After all, I’ve received a handsome, physical hardcover edition of a publication, the subject matter of which is the impact of what is called ‘the digital explosion’.
When I post the review on my blog updates will automatically be posted on Facebook and Twitter to invite folk to come and peruse my thoughts.
Zondervan publishers may even post a link from their Engaging Church blog tour so that people from around the world can ‘drop by’ and find out what a country town pastor in Australia thinks about a book written by a Canadian and published in the USA.
It’s all very ‘meta’, isn’t it?
That written, Challies provides a very thoughtful and thought-provoking treatment of his subject.
While the advances in technological development will date some aspects of the book, the ‘digital age’ has been in existence long enough now to provide a solid core for Challies’ work, an analysis of the changes to individual life and societal structures which have arisen because of the last couple of generation’s exposure to digital technology.
Over 200 pages observes not only the change in technology over the past thirty to forty years, but the impacts that those technological advances are having on our capacities for communication, community, learning, and focusing our attention.
As a tool, digital technologies do not have an inherent moral value.
Yet we are guided to understand the problems inherent if we confuse connectedness with community; access to information with knowledge ;numerous opinions with wisdom; or even the presence of our bodies (with our minds lost in cyberspace) for relational time with family and friends.
Add to this the tendency toward idealisation which digital technologies encourage and the rising sense of dissatisfaction which can be experienced when comparing real life with that which can be viewed, heard or downloaded from online.
I appreciated the skill with which Challies provides background information about the technologies and their impacts while providing an engagement about the problems which arise when these means stop being a means but become an end in themselves.
As an author seeking to bring a Christian perspective to his analysis and conclusions Challies returns again and again to explain from a biblical framework how the digital world could dehumanise its inhabitants. He also provides suggestions about how he, and we, can live with the digital age as our servant and not our master.
Whether you’re seeking an introduction to life in the digital age, or you’re already a committed citizen of its virtual terrain who wants to think through the issues of what that citizenship entails, Tim Challies’ ‘The Next Story’ is a constructive voice which helps us discern both our new environment and our place in it.