Archives For Technology


A lecture on appropriate technology by E.F. Schumacher , the late author of

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.
Paperback: Harper, 1975.
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Part 1:

The rest of the lecture: [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ]

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Daniel Headrick - Power Over PeoplesWhen Technologies Take on a Life of Their Own.

A Featured Review of

Power over Peoples:  Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present

Daniel Headrick.

Paperback: Princeton UP, 2011.
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Reviewed by Myles Werntz.

In an age of iPads, digital uploads, drone surveillance, and debates over the limits of the Internet, the question of whether or not “technology” is an unlimited good remains an open question. Proponents of the most recent iteration of the technology revolution will decry the naysayers as “Luddites”, while the inheritors of  Wendell Berry and Jacques Ellul will continue to remain suspicious of technology’s pervasive effects within society, and (more perniciously) over against society. As Wendell Berry has argued, technology may be an aid to communal life, or it can destroy it; the latter use of technological advances–the use of arrows in Genghis Kahn’s conquest of Asia, or the use of gunpowder to colonize Africa–remains the dark side of technological advances.

This last point–the relationship between technology and the subjugation of people is the subject of Daniel Headrick’s Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present, in which we are presented with an account of western imperialism, and its relationship to technology. Headrick notes that the common assumption is that imperialist cultures flourish because they are able to make use of superior technology. Such a narrative is too facile, Headrick argues, for it assumes that superior manipulation of natural elements (technology) always results in a successful conquest.

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“An Ambling Dinner  Conversation

A review of
Making is Connecting

by David Gauntlett

Review by Josh Mayo.

MAKING IS CONNECTING - David GauntlettMaking is Connecting
David Gauntlett
Paperback: Polity, 2011.
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Most readers understand (unconsciously, if not consciously) the dual-nature of sociological studies like Making is Connecting: simply put, this kind of writer is always preoccupied with both informing and evaluating cultural trends. Occasionally, an author will reach at both goals; often, most do not.

David Gauntlett is an odd duck for media studies. Most notably, he is fun to read. His droll and accessible style makes him the curious foil to other heavier, field-related notables like Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Ellul. This is, however, both an attractive and regrettable quality to the book. In exchange for “fun,” the project trades argument, and the result is that Making is Connecting reads much like a dinner conversation: an amble though the author’s semi-collected thoughts on favorite hobbies and intellectuals.

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“Man Versus Human Nature”

A Review of

The Wilding: A Novel.
By Benjamin Percy.

Reviewed by Greg Schreur.

The Wilding - A novel by Benjamin PercyThe Wilding: A Novel.
Benjamin Percy.
Hardback: Graywolf, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon: Hardback ] [ Amazon: Kindle ]

Regardless of your views on evolution, there is no denying that humankind has evolved since the days of hunting and gathering—or even if you prefer, since the days of our great-great-grandparents. As history marched on, as civilizations developed and sought to regulate human behavior and as technologies developed and separated us more and more from the daily grind of basic survival, we became more and more domesticated.

Our shampoos smell pretty and come with directions. Our food is stuffed into grocery carts or ordered from menus. Our experiences with nature are as likely to occur in IMAX theaters as not. In our litigious, urbanized, technologized, cellophane-wrapped society, we’ve placed a lid on human nature. And just like the animals we’ve taken into our homes, our more basic instincts lurk beneath a civilized façade and tend to emerge only in more extreme or focused situations.

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“Shaping and Being Shaped

A Review of
The Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

By Nicholas Carr

Reviewed by Jonathan Schindler.

The Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

By Nicholas Carr
Hardback: W.W. Norton, 2010.
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THE SHALLOWS - Nicholas CarrIn The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr fittingly quotes John Culkin: “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us” (210). Culkin’s observation and Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” provide the thesis for The Shallows: The Internet is changing us for the worse.

Carr’s argument begins with anecdotal evidence. After frequent Internet use, he suspected that his mind was changing. He could no longer read lengthy articles and books with the same attention he was once able to devote. Was the Internet really causing this?

Carr provides several neurological studies and historical examples to prove the first part of his thesis. The neurological studies were especially fascinating, illustrating “neuroplasticity,” our brain’s ability to adapt to new situations and stimuli. (For example, people who have lost use of one of their senses often have their other senses heightened. The brain rewires itself, forming new connections, so that what was formerly used for the now-dormant sense can be used to boost the other, still-operating senses.) Another aspect of neuroplasticity is that the more an action is performed, the more connections between neurons are formed, and the skill is solidified. Repeated actions form habits, basically. From these more modern studies, Carr moves on to historical examples (the map, clock, and book, as well as others) in which new technologies changed behavior and the way people thought. He paraphrases Marshall McLuhan in saying that “technologies numb the very faculties they amplify. . . . alienation is an inevitable by-product of the use of technology” (212). By becoming used to a tool that makes things easier, we risk losing the skills and relationship with the work that we had before the tool.

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“The Church and the Influences of Media”

A Review of
The Medium and the Light:
Reflections on Religion.
By Marshall McLuhan

Reviewed by Adam Newton.

The Medium and the Light:
Reflections on Religion.
Marshall McLuhan
Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2010.
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THE MEDIUM AND THE LIGHT - Marshall McLuhanI would assert that more people are generally familiar with the phrase, “The medium is the message,” than they are with the name of the man who originally coined the concept. Marshall McLuhan, the late University Of Toronto professor and thinker, renowned in his time for his ground-breaking insights into media and communications theory, has developed since his passing a rather feverish cult following, mostly due to the writings of his protégés, most notably those of Neil Postman –  especially his seminal Amusing Ourselves To Death. What most people, including myself until recently, never understood about McLuhan was how he was able to reconcile his theoretical musings on how humanity absorbs media with his Roman Catholicism.

Enter The Medium And The Light, a collection of articles, letters, essays, and speeches from McLuhan’s archives that have been brought together and edited by Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek. This cross-section of correspondence and conversations readily and aptly illuminates how McLuhan was able to balance his theology with his educational training and scholarly work. In fact, we learn early on in that he converted to Roman Catholicism as a result of reading and dissecting key medieval tomes while studying for and writing his doctoral thesis on the history of the trivium (rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar).  Split into four distinct parts – “Conversion,” “The Church’s Understanding Of Media,” “Vatican II, Liturgy, And The Media,” and “Tomorrow’s Church” – the book makes the case for how McLuhan unapologetically allowed his spiritual beliefs to infiltrate his media studies and vice versa.

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The NY Review of Books Reviews
Although Of Course  You End Up Becoming Yourself:
A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

“What I would love to do is a profile of one of you guys who’s doin’ a profile of me,” David Foster Wallace told the journalist David Lipsky in 1996 during a series of conversations now collected as Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. “It would be a way,” Wallace continued, “for me to get some of the control back”:

You can’t tell outright lies that I’ll then deny to the fact checker. But…you’re gonna be able to shape this essentially how you want. And that to me is extremely disturbing…. I want to be able to try and shape and manage the impression of me that’s coming across.

As Lipsky tells us in his introduction, he loved Wallace’s idea of profiling the profilers:

It would have been one of the deluxe internal surveys he specialized in—the unedited camera, the feed before the director in the van starts making cuts and choices…. That’s what this book would like to be. It’s the one way of writing about him I don’t think David would have hated.

Read the full review:

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:
A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace.
Paperback: Broadway Books, 2010.
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A Review of Taming the Beloved Beast:
How Medical Technology Costs Are
Destroying Our Health Care System

Daniel Callahan’s Taming the Beloved Beast: How Medical Technology Costs are Destroying Our Health Care System is both more and less than the title implies. More, in that it is a blunt, thought-provoking view of medical culture that raises difficult but essential questions about our values and public policy. Less, in that it lacks depth and nuance in its treatment of technology, limiting its utility in evaluating short-term policy issues. It is a particularly interesting read in this time of acrimonious health reform debate.

Callahan’s main focus is not technology per se but rather the evolution and prospects of the U.S. health care system as a whole. The challenge is formidable because the starting point is “a messy system, one ill-designed for reform because of the accretion of assorted interest groups with different agendas and vested interests, an ideologically divided public, and a steady stream of new and expensive technologies added to those already in place.”

Read the full review:

Taming the Beloved Beast:
How Medical Technology Costs Are Destroying
Our Health Care System
Daniel Callahan.
Hardcover: Princeton University Press, 2009.
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Lauren Winner reviews
Allegra Goodman’s new novel THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR

Having tackled the ethics and mores of the lab in Intuition, Allegra Goodman turns to the ethics and mores of the late-90s bubble in what I think is her best novel yet, The Cookbook Collector. I say her best novel yet in part because, often, it takes me a while to start caring about Goodman characters; here they had me from the first chapter.

Read the full review:

The Cookbook Collector: A Novel.
Allegra Goodman.
Hardback: The Dial Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


In our continuing effort to fund the publication and free distribution of The Englewood Review, we are going to be collaborating more intentionally with Christian Book Distributors. Primarily, we will be offering you the opportunity to buy bargain books from CBD that we think of are interest. Buying books this way is a win / win / win proposition. You get great books for a great price, CBD gets the sale and we get an excellent referral fee from CBD.

This week’s bargain books (Click to learn more/purchase)
Three Excellent Books on Science and Technology:

635876: Science and Wisdom Science and Wisdom

By Jurgen Moltmann / Augsburg Fortress

$1.99  (Save 91%!!! )

Can the divide be bridged? Do either scientific or theological inquiry have a monopoly on the truth? Weighing both the pluses and minuses of contemporary science, Moltmann examines the uneasy relationship between faith and modern cosmology. He ponders the creation as an open system, the self-emptying of God in the universe’s history, problems of eternity, and more. 219 pages, softcover from Fortress.

30708: The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society

By Murray Jardine / Baker

$0.99 (Save 96%!!!)

Has Christianity failed to engage the culture of technology and use scientific advancements responsibly? Jardine offers an incisive critique of the damaging elements in Western societies and argues that it’s possible to adandon the destructive aspects of technology while still embracing its benefits. Thought-provoking! 304 pages, softcover from Brazos.

431708: Science"s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism

By Cornelius G. Hunter / Brazos Press

$2.99 (Save 80%!!!)

Paradigm shifts happen rarely within specific sciencies, and when they do, they often shake that field to its core. Cornelius Hunter attempts to do just that, showing how modern science is influenced by theological and metaphysical thinking, rather than empirical data. Naturalism then, is shown not as a result of scientific inquiry, but rather is merely an untried presupposition. In its stead, Hunter proposes a new idea–moderate empiricism–which could potentially satisfy the demands of both intelligent design and mainstream modern science. 170 indexed pages, softcover.


“Essential Queries About Our Humanness”

A Review of
You Are Not a Gadget.
by Jaron Lanier.

Reviewed by Mark Eckel.

You Are Not a Gadget.
Jaron Lanier.

Hardback: Borzoi Books, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

“He has too many chocolate chips in his cookie dough.”  This was my son Tyler’s response to my query of what he thought of You Are Not a Gadget. I could not agree more.  Jaron Lanier is a brilliant thinker.  Handling a number of ideas, this co-father of the internet weaves in and out of various disciplines. He expects his reader to believe he is an expert in evolutionary biology, economics, theology, and philosophy; he fancies himself an ethicist, historian, businessman, Marxist (the ‘pure’ kind), and what he is: a techno-engineer.  But herein lays the problem.  Lanier’s dough cannot hold all those chips.

Let me say again Lanier is brilliant.  There is much to commend the essence of We Are Not Gadgets: people are special.  Science should be much more like poetry and storytelling (160, 168).  Lanier’s questions are incisive.  He penetrates past technological usage to ask essential queries about our humanness.  Lanier rightly identifies the most important philosophical signposts.  Defining humanness as “a quest, a mystery, a leap of faith” (5) punctuates his concern for people becoming what they use.  He expertly explains how technology shapes us.  Freedom is a chimera when computers control our lives.  Pondering mystery and taking responsibility for consequences is a human need (75).  “The file is a set of philosophical ideas made into eternal flesh” (13) inhibiting personal expression.  People are replaced by processes (16) promoting an anti-human way of thought (22).  The author asks the right questions.

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NY TIMES Obituary for
Ralph McInerny

Ralph McInerny, a scholar of Roman Catholicism who taught at the University of Notre Dame for more than half a century and a prolific novelist whose books included the Father Dowling mystery series, died Jan. 29 in Mishawaka, Ind., near South Bend. He was 80.

The cause was complications of esophageal cancer, said his son Daniel.

Mr. McInerny, who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, was an expert on Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Catholic theologian and philosopher; much of his published scholarship included biographical and exegetical texts on Aquinas, and he edited a volume of Aquinas translations for Penguin Classics. He also wrote on the sixth-century philosopher Boethius, the 12th-century Spanish Arabic scholar Averroes and later thinkers and theologians, including Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Descartes.

He was far better known, however, as a novelist, and especially as the creator of Roger Dowling, a former canon lawyer whose career was derailed by drink and who has become, in his rehabilitation, a parish priest in a Midwestern town called Fox River, where he runs across an inordinate number of murders and shows an unusual gift for solving them.

Read the full obituary:

Powells Books Reviews
Alain Badiou’s Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy

Alain Badiou, often billed as France’s leading radical thinker, here collects a group of tributes he has written to philosophers who are no longer with us. Most of these names — all French-speaking, all but one male — will be familiar to American readers: Lacan, Sarte, Foucault, Derrida. But others will be less familiar: Georges Canguilhem, Francoise Proust. In the “Overture,” Badiou refers to the subjects of these eulogies as “friends, enemies and partners,” categories which are not impermeable. Even those he thought of as friends or teachers are subject to criticism from his Maoist, revisionist-Marxist position.

Badiou tells us that these pieces are his way of calling these thinkers as “witnesses for the prosecution” in his dispute with those who would prostitute philosophy — that is, those who propose the maxim, “Cling to your illusions, prepare to surrender.” Badiou and his absent allies for their part insist that we “cast away illusions, prepare for struggle.” Badiou’s readings of this pantheon are illuminated by this particular slant of light. The first essay, a very short piece on Jacques Lacan, is a fairly standard eulogy which becomes an attack on Lacan’s critics: “All those psychoanalytic dwarves, all those gossip columnists amplifying the mean cry of ‘He was standing in my way, and now he’s dead at last. Now pay some attention to ME!” This confrontational tone, modulated to suit but never totally absent, permeates all the pieces here. At one point he asks his audience to allow him to be “absolutely anecdotal and completely superficial,” but there is no noticeable drop in intensity anywhere.

Read the full review:

Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy.
Alain Badiou

Paperback: Verso, 2009.
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Bob Cornwall reviews
REBOOT: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World
By Peggy Kendall

We live in a world that is increasingly impacted by technology.  The speed at which life is lived seemingly increases exponentially every day.  As Peggy Kendall, author of Reboot puts it: “As we become hyperconnected, overstimulated, multitasked, hyperinformed, hectically scheduled, and manically entertained, we wonder why feel so tired at night” (p. 3).  I do believe most of us can identify with that statement.  Even as life in general becomes more complex and fast paced, those of us who have walked through life for a few decades wonder about the decreasing attention span of young people.  Many of us who preach for a living wonder whether we are an endangered species – ready to be replaced by multimedia shows.  And yet, even I, a middle-aged man, who didn’t purchase a computer until beginning a Ph.D. program in my late 20s (and that computer was rather primitive by today’s standards), find it difficult to live for even a few hours without checking email or Facebook.  Yes, we have become dependent on technology that only a few decades back was the stuff of dreams.  The innocence of Beaver Cleaver or Opie Taylor is a thing of the past – at least for most of us.

As people of faith, at that is the intended audience for this book, the question is – how do we live with this technology without it controlling our lives?  Peggy Kendall, a self-described middle-aged communication professor at a Christian college, writes in the hope that this book will help Christians look at “how our unexamined choices regarding technology may unintentionally be altering our fundamental operating system” (p. 7).  The areas that may be affected include our values, our relationships, and the way we view “our Creator.”  The author writes as one who embraces technology, including the ways in which it makes life more productive and efficient, but she recognizes that there is a dark side present that needs to be addressed.

Read the full review:

REBOOT: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World.
Peggy Kendall
Paperback: Judson Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]