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Technological choices the theme of 2016 Guest Symposium
Dr. Peter Denton and Rev. Jamie Howison addressed the relationship between technology and values during the 2016 Providence Guest Symposium.
Denton—an activist, ethicist and writer—spoke to the influence our choices have on our technologies and challenged Christians to live with respect in creation. Howison—the founding pastoral leader of Saint Benedict’s Table in Winnipeg—talked about connectivity as a cultural reality and advised attendees to think carefully about how they use both social media and their church spaces in building up the body of Christ.
The event, organized annually by the Public Scholarship Committee, was moderated by Dr. Nicholas Greco, Associate Professor of Communications and Media.
“If technology is in our heads, what ends up in our hands is a product of the choices we make,” posited Denton. “We can make a difference with what we choose. In fact, we already are. Let’s just make better choices today than we did yesterday.”
Defining technology as “instrumental knowledge and its practice,” Denton pointed out that individuals need to make intentional, thoughtful choices in order to secure an ecologically sustainable future.
“There is more to life than money,” he said, “and more value in a sunrise, fresh air, clean water, good health, wholesome food and the love of friends and family than money could ever buy.”
He also remarked that the Christian church needed to set a “higher standard” regarding its relationship with creation.
Howison, too, had some counsel for the church and proposed a more intentional keeping of the Sabbath, particularly concerning handheld devices and screens.
“We spend a lot of time looking at screens,” he said, acknowledging that “seeker-friendly” churches tend to employ projection screens “precisely because screens are so familiar.” And while not chastising what he confirmed as “cultural reality” he wondered that “there might be another way of seeing things.”
His own church building, Howison explained, was long and narrow, with a wood and plaster interior and an arched, high ceiling. Built in 1926, it had excellent acoustics and presenters could easily be heard from one end to the other.
“When it comes to music and worship we’ve made some very conscious decisions about how we will work with the technology of that building,” he said, adding that projection screens simply wouldn’t make sense in the space.
He also described how a church might best make use of social media—not so much to “puts bums in pews” as to “gift” the content generated by the congregation.
“How can the church connect and reach out to the social media generation and to anyone else whose default settings for receiving information and communicating are now set to social media?” he asked. “We have choices to make.
(Top to bottom: Peter Denton; Nicholas Greco and Jamie Howison.)


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