Social Engineering, Mobile Lovers, and Technologizing the Fertility Awareness Method

Happy Easter! Here’s a list of some of what we found interesting this week. If you missed it last week, check out the final entry in our Lenten blog series on technology and spirituality: Trappists, Technology, and the Dictatorship of Relativism.

Banksy’s latest confirmed painting skewers modern cellphone addiction – Washington Post

“Banksy’s latest confirmed painting has been spotted in Bristol, England, but this time his target is considerably closer to home than capitalism, poverty or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Limits of Social Engineering – MIT Review

“Even if we assume that the privacy issues can be resolved, the idea of what Pentland calls a “data-driven society” remains problematic. … Defining social relations as a pattern of stimulus and response makes the math easier, but it ignores the deep, structural sources of social ills. Pentland may be right that our behavior is determined largely by social norms and the influences of our peers, but what he fails to see is that those norms and influences are themselves shaped by history, politics, and economics, not to mention power and prejudice. People don’t have complete freedom in choosing their peer groups. Their choices are constrained by where they live, where they come from, how much money they have, and what they look like. A statistical model of society that ignores issues of class, that takes patterns of influence as givens rather than as historical contingencies, will tend to perpetuate existing social structures and dynamics. It will encourage us to optimize the status quo rather than challenge it.”

Religious affiliation, education and Internet use – Cornell University Library

This is the actual text of the study that everyone one was talking about a few weeks ago–the one that showed a correlation between increasing Internet usage and declining religious affiliation and inspired headlines like, “The Internet is Killing Religion.”

McLuhan as Metaphysician – Reproducing McLuhan’s Implicit Cosmological Picture – Sinnchronicity

“Languages, as well as giving us the capacity for abstract human thought, may also be seen as defining the limits by which we can think. This is at least partially what McLuhan meant by saying that the medium is the message. The medium creates an environment that makes certain things possible and certain other things impossible. For example, Paul Levinson argued that the idea of an abstract supreme being like God could only be adequately expressed through the abstract nature of phonetic literacy.

“For me at least, in order to adequately understand things, it seems that assessing the forms which make understanding possible is the most efficient thing one can do.”

Fitness trackers could bring back the world’s oldest form of birth control – Quartz

“Tracking every possible personal data point is a rising trend, and we have an increasing number of tools to help us “quantify” ourselves. But for now, their uses are mostly pretty frivolous: Fitness trackers feel like glorified pedometers, calorie and caffeine trackers like sophisticated food diaries. But the makers of quantification gadgets and apps could be missing a major opportunity: Contraception.”

Other articles

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Mediacurrent. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is

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