In this course, we will bring theological and scriptural understandings into conversation with the current digital technological shifts. In response to the new technologies, we will practice ethical discernment for our everyday digital lives and examine approaches grounded in forgiveness, integrity, diversity, and social and ecological justice. We will center the question: what does God require of us to be and do in order to promote Christian values when we use digital technologies?
Current ethical approaches that focus on dos and don’ts are obsolete within a year or two. Also, such approaches assume we have control over digital technology when in fact tech is learning and adapting to us as well as forming networks beyond our control. Instead of dos and don’ts, we will consider a Christian ethics of digital literacy or a Christian ethics of hacking. Hackers identify vulnerabilities in systems; the awareness of these vulnerabilities allows programmers to fix them and create safer, stronger systems. A Christian ethics of hacking scales up the concept and relates it to an ethical call to gain access to the ecosystem of digital technologies. This ethics of hacking is like pounding swords into plowshares.
Each class day, participants will engage in digital exercises to ground the class topic in the lived experiences of everyday digital use. These resources will help participants understand technology design and related ethical issues such as big data, misinformation, surveillance, algorithms, and privacy. The course will provide applicable practices that religious leaders can use in their communities to bring the learning in this course to wider audiences and continue the growth of digital literacy and Christian ethical reflection. Readings will be provided as pdf texts, audio-visual resources, and science fiction publications.
Dr. Kate Ott is a Christian social ethicist addressing the formation of moral communities with specializations in technology, sexuality, youth and young adults, pedagogy, and professional ethics. She is a MAR ‘00 graduate of Yale Divinity School, a contributor to the YDS Youth Ministry Institute, and instructor for the Negotiating Boundaries courses at YDS. Her newest book is Sex, Tech, and Faith: Christian Ethics in a Digital Age (forthcoming 2022). Her other writings include Christian Ethics for a Digital Society (2018), Sex + Faith: Talking with Your Child from Birth to Adolescence (2013) and multiple book chapters and articles. Her full-time appointment is Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Drew University Theological School in Madison, NJ.