Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.

The child in the video above is having trouble distinguishing between iPad and magazine functionality. It’s humorous and telling.

First thought: Cute kid. Momma, be proud.

Second thought: This video is an obvious bullet-to-the-gut parable on how digital technology is changing the way we obtain and experience information, and it’s well worth discussing.

Although Steve Jobs and Apple’s iProducts have made the portals we use to access digital information more tactile and much prettier, the iPad itself didn’t cause the change. The shift started way back in the ’70s and ’80s when we started digitizing data and displaying it on personal computers, a shift now referred to as the Digital Revolution. Though digital computing had existed previously, the idea of a “personal computer” would have been an oxymoron until this time; thus, the change had yet to reach the common man. So the issue isn’t really that “a magazine is an iPad that does not work,” the issue is the entire spectrum of digital-print media—i.e., “a book is a document that’s not in a computer.”

There is no question that the Digital Revolution has changed the way we obtain and experience information, with the word experience being the key idea up for discussion here. Just like the curious infant in the video, subsequent generations will be left to deal with the ramifications of this massive change, perhaps having little to no knowledge of the good ol’ days when paper was king and the boundary of their information’s format.

A man I greatly respect once referred to Christianity as an “epistemic faith.” Though this phrase may seem strange, his point was that to be a Christian, you must know and believe a certain piece of information: “Jesus is Lord.” Obviously this belief must be vital and real and must produce certain effects, but the bare informational aspect cannot be divorced from Christian faith. Even at our most pietistic, we are still grounded in Divine Information, and without knowing the right information, we cannot even begin to know that Jesus is the Son of God.

I relate this anecdote to say this: I believe that because Christians are a people dependent on and proclaiming Divine Information, Christians need to examine this change in information delivery and experience—the Digital Revolution—very seriously, or we may unintentionally do the Gospel of Christ a severe disservice.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to discuss some aspects of the “digital revolution fallout,” though we may skip a week or so depending on what other weird memes present themselves (you never know what’s coming down the pike—case in point). Here are some questions I’d love to hear your thoughts on (though any other thoughts are certainly welcome):

• What are the positives and negatives of the Digital Revolution for society, the church, and for you personally?
• Is an e-reader and Instapaper a boon for learning and soul-building? Or is it a cancer that’s going to kill culture and damage the church in the long run? Or is it something in between?
• What experiences will we lose if paper dies, and what experiences will we gain?

1 Comment

  1. Such an important issue, i’ve never thought of it in those terms: if communication changes, how does that change the ways we communicate Christ?

    Digitization makes studying theology both easier and faster. That’s good.
    But it also subconsciously puts our mind and even spirit into “fast and easy” mode.
    The problem is we lose valuable training in patience. Information comes fast but deep seated wisdom takes a long time to get inside our bones.
    What do we lose when we no longer have the patience for meditation, slowly letting ideas percolate?

    Will paper ever die? No, I don’t think so. (Not until we are all brains in jar, with no physical body to speak of. But as long as we have nerves, and hands and guts, and the inclination to put something in our hands, we will have a need for physical books.) Radio didn’t die when television came around. Television didn’t die when the internet popped up. And neither will print. But the print and paper industry can’t continue to do business as usual, as if e-books didn’t exist. They won’t die but they have to change.

    So what will that change look like?

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