Knowledge Handler

Information Sources & Information Sifting Techniques

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Location: Independence, Ohio, United States

Librarian at Indiana Wesleyan University's Cleveland Education Center.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Joseph McDonald Reflects On "The Medium Is The Message"

Today the Association of Christian Librarians listserv had the following quote on media and learning, and I obtained Dr. Joseph McDonald's permission to share it:

The problem we face, especially as Christians, is that info tech, especially the computer, isn't a piece of innocent, neutral, machinery, but, in fact, in my view and that of a lot of much smarter people than me, predisposes us to view, to interpret, to understand, to relate to creation in a way that moves us away from God-established modes of living justly and well in the world. And, of course, it isn't just the computer and electronic media that do this. Much modern technology--think automobile, cell phone, contemporary agriculture practices, for, e.g.--is, in varying degrees, complicit in this.

Marshall McLuhan's profound insight, "the medium is the message," catches the core of what so many contemporary Christians, regardless of generation, fail to understand in their use of technology. How a message is conveyed becomes part of the message, conditions it, and "skews" the mind and heart to receive the message in certain ways.

I attend a liturgical church in which the reading of scripture occupies a substantial and early part of the service. Many people dutifully read along with the lector. After reading Walter Ong's Orality, my family decided to listen to the read word and not use the "technology" of print to "hear" God's word. The change in our understanding of scripture has been profound. Hearing the Word of the Lord is a quite different experience from reading the Word of the Lord, giving a new meaning to James's directive to be doers and not just hearers of the word. Hearing and reading the Bible are not synonymous actions. I would also argue that everyone should *listen* to the sermon and not read along in a printed copy of it, either full taxt or outline (or worse, follow it along in a sacred PowerPoint). Medium matters.

And, I add as a parent and educator, it's also why reading to children long after they are capable of reading a story themselves is so important for their development. Hearing language, as well as the sound of the voice of a (one hopes) trusted human, affects the brain and its development in important and different ways than reading silently (or out loud) to oneself. Yet again, hearing poetry read well is a better way to understand and internalize its meaning and emotions than reading it silently to oneself.

Joseph McDonald is Director of the Library and Professor of Library Science
Bethel College (TN)


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Friday, June 13, 2008

Library Thing

Library Thing offers a look at the holdings of personal libraries. The reviews and tags assigned by casual users has been so informative that many libraries are subscribing to this information.