Something Strange I Can’t Put My Finger On…

Digitalization has elevated the physical into the world of the spiritual.  First, the tangible becomes intangible, and the concrete becomes abstract.  For instance, this document exists in digital form within a type of word processing software; but because we can only see it—and it exists in no other form—can we exclusively rely on that single sense to experience it?  In this aspect, it has become one-dimensional and therefore a certain “leap of faith” is needed to believe in its actuality.  This is the conundrum Craig Mod faced as the creator of the Flipboard app for iPhone.  He had no proof of his creative process because it was completely digitized—and it left him dissatisfied: “Despite knowing we had been on a long journey, it didn’t feel like that journey was manifest anywhere.”  He knew he could see the digital representations of his work, the commits, the comps, the sketches, the grids, the photographs; but he could not fully feel or accept their presence until he made it a physical entity: a book.  This made the experience more believable because it was now experienced using the additional sense of touch/feeling.

Teachers are taught that the more senses that are engaged in the process of learning, the more likely that information will be retained.  This pedagogy implies that human cognition is multi-faced.  Similarly, religious organization supports their spiritual beliefs in a multitude of physical manifestations: testimonies, music, and chanting (hearing); incense (smelling); statues and symbols (seeing); communion and feasts (tasting); and worship rituals (touching).

Second, there are those that deem this the Golden Age of Technology with its unprecedented power and capability.  Because of its abstract qualities, its characteristics are now parallel to that of the spiritual realm; and thus, people practice forms of devotion to technology.  That is not to say that people worship their computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.  It simply means that the way people treat technology is similar to way they would treat a god: it is a seemingly omniscient medium that is integrated into every facet of our lives.  We use it for constant communication; rely on it for information and integration; are accustomed to its constancy and consistency; and thus are dependent upon its role in our lives.  Simultaneously it has simplified and expanded human abilities—which has changed human relationships (between one another) and processes (between us and the systems of the society)—such as the publishing process which Mod describes in another article.  It is interesting to explore the new possibilities it creates in shaping human lives; however, it should not be the only vehicle in which we experience the world.  The digitized, spiritual, abstract, and intangible must be supplemented with our physical senses; or else how can we make sense of it all?

One thought on “Something Strange I Can’t Put My Finger On…

  1. Freud noted the spiritual-elevation of technology in 1931 when he stated: “Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times. … Future ages will bring with them new and possibly unimaginably great advances in this field of civilization and will increase man’s likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our present investigation, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his God-like character.”

    …and CNN reported that similar neurological patterns in the brain occur when a person is shown a picture of a deity or a picture of technological gadgets:

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