30 Jun Humanizing the Digital Revolution
Confluence Courseware is an effort to reverse current cultural and social trends and use digital technology not as an ends but a means—as a tool to promote genuine and significant human conversation about great ideas.
We live in a hyper-connected age; ours is a technology saturated society of instantaneous messaging, vast networks of streaming information and a deluge of images that give a dizzying tinge to life and leave an overwhelming sense of relentless acceleration. Yet, for all of the allure of our digital devices and the promise of continual connectivity, something is missing. Since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, when the hope of a machine-aided utopia first took root, idealists and inventors alike have promised that technological advances would bring productivity and efficiency to the workplace, automation of distasteful, burdensome tasks and an exponential increase of our leisure time. While the benefits of our digital age are widespread and undeniable, it does seem that we have forgotten something fundamentally important—we no longer know how to speak with one another.
In the age of the machine, conversation has become a lost art.
As we rely more on technology and less upon one another in our frenetic day-to-day, we have created a cultural moment that offers little time for profound exchange and few opportunities in our overwhelmed lives for genuine conversations concerning perennial matters of the head, heart and soul.
Therefore, it is ironic that despite our delirious pace and digital connections we operate under the sense that we have less free time as we also seem to grow more isolated in our personal lives. As we have come to idolize the machines which proliferate with implacable speed, we suffer.
Our professional lives have suffered as it has become more difficult to solve problems in a collaborative fashion because, in great part, we no longer know how to talk about difficult problems in a productive manner. Our personal lives also suffer because we spend them connecting to machines in order to exchange vapid quips and viral images that entertain but rarely instruct and almost never guide us towards wisdom.
Seeing the current difficulties of genuine civic engagement and transformative conversation in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and communities, we must then somehow recover the functionality of our humanity. We must relearn how to talk with one another about essential and often contentious ideas, we must not fear emotional and difficult subjects, all while still inhabiting a mechanized world full of as many electronic devices as people. We must, in short, practice the act of recovery as we practice engaging in meaningful and fruitful conversation, and yes, we certainly can use technological advancements in our globalized world as tools to ameliorate these discussions. But these “virtual” conversations are important for their content, not their method of delivery; what “counts” is the human effort to struggle with the meaning of our lives, the historical context of our situation, the moral quandaries we face, and our future challenges.
Therefore, Confluence Courseware is an effort to reverse current cultural and social trends and use digital technology not as an ends but a means—as a tool to promote genuine and significant human conversation.