Invisible, Inevitable, Paradoxical Technology

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1996


Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities


Jesuit schools have a long history of engagement with technology- from the telescopes and mechanical devices of the seventeenth century to the radio transmitters and computers of the twentieth. But today new technologies raise questions about core values of Jesuit education. How do we integrate both the technologies and the hallmarks of the Jesuit educational traditioncompassion, critical thinking, community, self-knowledge-when the technology seems to contradict those values? Can technology teach us? Can we teach technology?

We cannot avoid the question because technology plays an unavmdable role in our lives. Most people would agree that technology has some effect on us, though not all would agree on the specific effects or on the valuation of those effects. Each of us can probably reel off anecdotes about our students' dependence on technology, from the positive influence of computers on visual thinking to the hours wasted on video games. Are these new technologies merely tools and toys, or are they something more?

What should faculty at Jesuit colleges and universities do about technology? How do we respond to key issues raised by technology' Can we integrate technology better into the teaching, research, and human living that defines us as communities?

Before we enter into a conversation about these things, I propose that we step back from those specific questions and ask something more basic about technology in general. First, I will review how we take technology for granted and the paradoxes that result from such a stance. Second, I will examine our reactions Lo technology when we do ponder it more carefully-these too ha\T their own paradoxes. Finally, I will return to the questions posed earlier about Jesuit schools and technology and suggest some answers based on those first two explorations. To put things differently, let us take a closer look at technology: how we don't see it, how we do see it, and then how we might see it.