iGods

How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives

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About

Today the world is literally at our fingertips. We can call, text, email, or post our status to friends and family on the go. We can carry countless games, music, and apps in our pocket. Yet it's easy to feel overwhelmed by access to so much information and exhausted from managing our online relationships and selves.

Craig Detweiler, a nationally known writer and speaker on media issues, provides needed Christian perspective on navigating today's social media culture. He interacts with major symbols, or "iGods," of our distracted age--Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Pixar, YouTube, and Twitter--to investigate the impact of the technologies and cultural phenomena that drive us. Detweiler offers a historic look at where we've been and a prophetic look at where we're headed, helping us sort out the immediate from the eternal, the digital from the divine.

Contents

Introduction: iGods
1. Defining Technology
2. Apple: Aesthetics First
3. A Brief History of the Internet
4. Amazon: Personalized Abundance
5. Google: Algorithmic Authority
6. A Brief History of Social Networking
7. Facebook: Authentic Frenemies
8. You Tube, Twitter, Instagram: Audience Participation
Conclusion: The Telos of Technology
Index


Endorsements

"This is a wonderfully engaging romp through the largely American hills and valleys where theology and technology meet--a splendid contribution to the emerging conversations about what constitutes the good life in this age of information and communication technologies."

Quentin Schultze, Calvin College; author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age

"Craig Detweiler is one of the best at interlacing theology and popular culture. With books on film and on gaming, and as the coauthor of a best-selling survey of the field, he now turns to consider technology and its effect on our lives. Is technology a gift or a curse? As we all sense, it is both. Engaging, well-researched, theologically probing, and sensitive to cultural change without either defensiveness or fawning, iGods will inform both addict and skeptic."

Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Reel Spirituality

"This volume has a timely aim: to temper the accelerations, distractions, temptations, and vulgarities of the Digital Age with a heedful remembrance of the Word of God. As digital tools creep down the age ladder all the way to toddlerhood and invade every space and hour of adulthood, Detweiler argues that conscientious people risk two extremes: succumbing to the avalanche or rejecting it outright. Neither one preserves what is best in digital experience, but we need a higher authority than ourselves to negotiate the right via media.  Detweiler explains where that authority lies and in doing so provides one of the most important lessons in our time."

Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future

"With iGods, Craig Detweiler provides a helpful assessment of our relationship to modern technology: how it shapes us as a society, as communities, as individuals, and as followers of Christ. With a breadth, depth, and balance that is uncharacteristic of books on technology, iGods walks us through a theology of technology that will be helpful for everyone who is a citizen of today's digital world. Detweiler brings cultural savvy, theological know-how, and transparent passion to this book, making it both thoroughly readable and immensely insightful. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks to better understand the impact technology has on us, and who seeks to use it well for the kingdom of God."

Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity and Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty

"Modern technology appears to make life easier, so we assume it must be a good thing. But Craig Detweiler isn't so sure, and we benefit from his exploration its implications for our humanity. Read this remarkable book. You'll never look at your mobile device in the same way again."

Phil Cooke, filmmaker, media consultant, and author of Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media


The Author

  1. Craig Detweiler

    Craig Detweiler

    Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is an author, award-winning filmmaker, and cultural commentator who has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR. He is professor of communication and director of the Center for...

    Continue reading about Craig Detweiler

Reviews

2013 Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Award

"[Detweiler] examines today's technology, from Apple to Instagram, and its impact on Americans' spiritual lives. He knows the literature, organizes it as a good information curator should, and cites the provocative and deeper thinkers such as Jaron Lanier and Kevin Kelly. . . . An excellent conversation starter recommended for classroom use; Detweiler has made a solid contribution to the growing literature about religion and technology."

Publishers Weekly

"[Detweiler] is among a growing number of Christian writers trying to assay the effects of the digital age by keeping a sharp eye on the technological transitions from clunky machines to gleaming handheld devices, from no Internet to Web 2.0 and beyond. . . . Where [Detweiler] excels most notably is in his careful, well-researched portrayal of the values and motivations behind the digital technologies so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives. By tracing the formation of the iGod institutions, his book constitutes 'an active resistance to a thoughtless embrace.' We're offered a theologically informed exposé of technological influences and a cautionary reminder that our media gadgets and their makers are far from neutral. . . . Detweiler's book stirs us out of our awed fascination to hear our Lord's holy whisper amidst the techno-religious choirs."

Andrew Byers,

Christianity Today

"Detweiler is a Christian who loves God and is attached to his iPhone. While the benefits of technology are indisputable, many questions remain as to technology's downside. Texting, social networking, and Internet research may not be enemies of faith, but Detweiler asks whether these activities and the technology behind them are making us more thoughtful, articulate, and loving people. . . . Detweiler's analysis, although refracted through a Christian lens, is worthwhile reading for anyone concerned about the possibilities and perils of technology."

Christopher McConnell,

Booklist

"While the book draws on several technology theorists, and Detweiler is clearly informed by the academic field of media and religion, the text is for a general audience of 'parents, teachers, and pastors' seeking to live well within our technology-obsessed and technology-enriched culture. I anticipate that this book will be adopted for use both in religion and media university classrooms and church basement discussion groups. . . . iGods presents a thoughtful introduction to the beauty and danger of technology."

Adam J. Copeland,

Journal of Religion, Media & Digital Culture

"Detweiler promises that his book will celebrate, not worship, the wonders of technology and help others to do the same. He delivers. . . . There are no weaknesses in the text. Organization and ideas flow well together. Detweiler accomplishes his purpose of unveiling how technology shapes people's spiritual and social lives. He accomplishes his purpose of initiating his readers' 'slow down' of the pace of thoughtless technological dependency. His biographical sketches are as interesting as they are helpful in facilitating this process. . . . Detweiler is competently conversant on both technology and theology. The content of the book may not include tomorrow's inventions, but Detweiler's analyses, points, and encouragements will still apply. Detweiler writes the book for parents, teachers, and pastors. This text would also be excellent for undergraduate Christian ministry, technology, and communications students."

Ron Belsterling,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"Detweiler brings a theological eye to all of our clicking, scrolling, following, and trolling. Come along for a brisk ride across the peaks and valleys of our digital lives."

Prism

"Detweiler offers a comprehensive and imminently relevant look at various technologies and the ways they have and will continue to shape our faith."

Roxanne Stone,

Outreach

"[This book] should be essential reading for any Christian interested in the impact of contemporary technology on their faith. In one of the most thorough and eclectic studies I have encountered, Detweiler examines how the technologies, web services, and social media networks of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram hold the potential to transform contemporary theology and practices of worship. . . . One of the great strengths of this text is Detweiler's ability to draw on a diversity of sources to support his arguments: his knowledge of scripture and ability to apply it to our contemporary context is adept and insightful, but he is also equally familiar with the theories and scholarship of a diversity of works by theologians, philosophers, and communication and media scholars. He draws on both popular and academic sources as well, guaranteeing that all readers will be able to connect with his claims and evidence. Other strengths of the text include the discussion questions that conclude each chapter and the practical suggestions for how a more conscientious approach to technology adoption might be applied."

Amber M. Stamper,

Digital Evangelism Issues

"This book likely will be of particular interest to Macintosh/Apple users. . . . Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers."

W. J. Hyndman,

Choice

"This book could not be more timely. . . . Detweiler proves himself to be a wise guide helping us discern how these technologies that so many of us cannot imagine living without are shaping the broader contours of our existence. . . . [The book] wrestle[s] with deep, penetrating questions raised by technology regarding physicality, spirituality, time, and community--questions we are often too busy to take time to reflect upon. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed reading  iGods and believe it brings to the surface some of the most pressing issues of our time. As the dust continues to settle in the Information Age and we further acquiesce our lives to ever-evolving technologies, Detweiler presents an astute perspective that dually avoids blind embrace as well as stubborn discount of today's most important technologies."

Adam Metz,

Englewood Review of Books

"Detweiler's book will help you begin to forge a 'theology of technology,' so that you can use it for good while avoiding the pitfalls."

Eric Metaxas,

BreakPoint

"Craig Detweiler provides a thoughtful guide for parents, teachers, and pastors to engage
various dimensions of the technological landscape. . . . This is a worthwhile book that does a fine job of introducing readers to the histories of various technologies and raises thoughtful questions about use and misuse of the various tools. . . . I can heartily recommend this book for its intended audience of pastors, teachers, and parents. It provides thoughtful and well-grounded introductions to the world of technology and most of Detweiler's reflections will serve as good catalysis for personal reflection and action."

J. Hall,

Journal for the Sociological Integration of Religion and Society

"Anyone who is interested in a theology of technology, an informed evaluation of the tools available today, and a careful and critical engagement with the culture will be helped by this book. It is an excellent resource and it deserves a wide audience. Pastors and other Christian leaders should read it. It would make an excellent book for small group studies in the church. In a world where technology is prevalent and its effects are pervasive, Detweiler's insights are vital."

Glenn R. Kreider,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"Detweiler presents a cogent, important argument in a book that shouldn't be missed."

Jennie A. Harrop,

Portland Book Review

"Detweiler deals with the digital deities that distract us in order to help us better understand the personal and cultural impact of technology."

Preaching

"The hair-tousling speed of internet innovation is hard to follow, especially if you didn't grow up using a smartphone. . . . For a Christian look at online movers and shakers, try iGods by Craig Detweiler. He affectionately traces the short histories of companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, pondering which of our problems they solved, and whether we've given them too much reverence in return."

Daniel James Devine,

WORLD Magazine

"A very up-to-date and truly interesting read. . . . The digital age is fully upon us (as if you didn't know) and many of us daily bless the Apple folks for their istuff. . . . This book will help us figure it all out. I think it is one of the best yet in this genre of very contemporary cultural criticism, with what promises to be a wise blend of being appreciative and dubious. . . . I suspect you need this book, and if you think you don't you really do. Highly recommended."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Booknotes blog

"Trying to find a book on technology and faith that isn't outdated when you download the e-book isn't easy. Detweiler approaches this changing reality by pointing to the research others have done and applying the findings to identify the impact gadgets, applications, and gurus have on how we practice our faith and manage our lives."

Joy J. Moore,

Catalyst blog

"A very perceptive study about how technology is shaping our spiritual and social lives. . . . This book is an eye opener to the underlying philosophies and temptations offered by the five major iGods of our modern world. This is an important book that is a great corrective to a technologically infatuated world."

Conrade Yap,

Panorama of a Book Saint blog


Resources