Looking at information technology, and technology in general, as an ecology is a stimulating idea, and one I’m thinking about in relation to the imago Dei. Much has been written on the relationship between the environment and interpretations of the imago Dei in Gen 1. Is it possible, if we think of technology ecologically, to connect that reflection with cyberspace and other technological dimensions of life?
Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day look at how viewing information technology as an ecology might serve to shape engagement with it that goes beyond a focus upon means rather than ends. They write in their book Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart:
We define an information ecology to be a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment. In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology.
By focusing upon technology as an ecosystem they argue that (among other things) it:
- Focuses attention on the relationships between tools, people, and practices.
- Moves beyond the idea of technology as a single tool for a single person.
- Captures the notion of locality that is missing from high-level system views.
Furthermore, while an ecology is complex it can be views at many different scales because:
- An ecology responds to local environmental changes and local interventions.
- An ecology can be examined at the level of the individual.
- Individuals can participate in multiple ecologies.
- Individuals are involved with real relationships with other individuals in an ecology.
- Scale of the ecology allows for the identification of individual points of leverage, of ways into the system, and avenues of intervention.
I like their idea of librarians as ‘gardeners’ or ‘ecologists’ of information ecologies, and think the metaphor of the created co-creator (together with related metaphors of the cyborg and Incarnation) might connect well here.
Greenflame: Appropriate technology