Shane Hipps was a former strategic planner in advertising, and is now a Mennonite pastor. In both vocations, he has learned a great deal about how technology quietly shapes people, for good and for ill. His latest book, Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith (Zondervan), tries to help Christians understand some of the spiritual dimensions of that shaping. Senior managing editor Mark Galli interviewed Hipps at the recent National Pastors Convention in San Diego.
You argue that a significant technology shift occurred in 1890 that affects us today. What do you mean?
Between 1850 and 1890, there was an uninterrupted flow of inventions that radically altered communication structure in the West. The primary ones did the biggest damage to the print age—the telegraph, the photograph, and the radio. These three are the inventions to which all of our most recent innovations, including the iPhone, can be traced back.
Talk about the telegraph.
The telegraph more than anything broke the historic connection between transportation and communication. Prior to the telegraph, the fastest [that] information could travel was about 60 miles an hour, maybe the speed of a locomotive. Suddenly, with the telegraph, communication is instantaneous. It also divorces context from information. There is this great line by Samuel Morris, who said people in Texas will now know when there is a murder in Boston.
So information that used to be local becomes universal. Where we used to have the problem of information scarcity, we now have the problem of information glut.
So the Internet is an extension of the telegraph in that it only accelerates the availability of universal information?
And it creates a permanent puberty of the mind. We get ...