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There are many today, myself included, who feel as though they are not in control of their relationship with technology. Our screen might be the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing we put down before falling asleep. We might spend hours looking at Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. We may feel helpless or addicted. Even if this does not describe us, we are certainly connected to a lot of people for whom this is the case. To be clear, this is not just a problem for younger generations, “techies”, and gamers—how to live harmoniously with technology is something that we all need to thoughtfully consider.

This task of living harmoniously with technology is what Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee has been thinking about, speaking about, and writing about since long before her 2018 book, Deviced!: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The primarily result of her work is concerned with our ability to live “full, fiery embodied lives.” It is a striking and beautiful goal, one worth meditating on in any context. This is the kind of life that comes to mind when reading about “life to the fullest” in John 10. But do we feel that we can live such a life while more and more of our time seems to occur in digital spaces? If we can (Dodgen-Magee thinks we can), then how?

Her answer is a thoughtful one; not all-encompassing, but nuanced. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, she fills her book to the brim with different examples to personally consider. And, despite what many might expect of a book like this, the goal does not call for an abandonment of technology. As a Christian computer scientist, I find her vision of our relationship with technology to be remarkably hopeful. The way that she describes the need for a balanced connection with tech, and the process of getting there, evokes the language of brokenness and redemption. Importantly, though, this redemption is not far-off; it is something we can work towards today, in small measured steps.

Some Christians can have an aversion to technology, or even science in general. If such an aversion prevents Christians from fully considering how technology itself can be redemptive, then that aversion must be a mistake. Joel Adams, professor emeritus of computer science at Calvin University, has argued that technology should be thought of as a part of Creation. What this ultimately means for Adams is that we cannot ignore technology because we are being called to take part in its redemption. For him, it also means that technology should never have dominion over us. Dodgen-Magee’s wonderful book, from this perspective, can be seen as a sort of handbook: in one part, highlighting all the different ways tech can have dominion over us; in another, imagining all the ways we can work to redeem our relationship with it.

The first section of the book, titled “How Devices Are Impacting Us”, presents the reader with a thorough overview of the research on how humans are affected by technology. Along with a host of citations, Dodgen-Magee is also refreshingly clear about the areas that lack research and the difficulties surrounding such study. Despite a global pandemic and many large jumps in commercially available technology, the book remains (and likely will remain for a considerable span) as relevant and important as the day it was published. Indeed, it is likely all the more relevant and important post-Covid in its care for the difficulties and complexity of our social and inner lives.

In the final two sections of the book, Dodgen-Magee highlights the beauty to be found in a healthy relationship with technology and presents practical steps for achieving such beauty. She offers a number of specific exercises to help us consider and develop our ability to be present and “embodied.” These “take action” sections were both obviously helpful in my own life, in addition to being remarkable exercises in reflection on the concepts of Sabbath and Imago Dei. Throughout the entire book, but particularly in this section, it is clear that Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee genuinely wishes she could be right there next to you, discussing each section as you work out what it means for yourself.

In addition to all of this individually life-changing material to consider, the book also should probably be required reading for parents and caregivers raising children. If there is anyone whose relationship with technology needs to be considered with the utmost attention, it is those who have yet to develop complex social lives. As Dodgen-Magee makes it clear, technology can be both a great tool and a dramatic hinderance in any number of areas. Determining which it is in any given situation requires interaction and open-mindedness. Her own experience as a parent and as one who frequently speaks at schools shines through the book in a very encouraging way.

So, in an increasingly digital world, one that seems to change quickly, how can we live “full, fiery embodied lives?” This has not been a simple question for anyone and will undoubtedly remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. I am sure that I will be frequently returning to the pages of this essential book in attempting to continuously answer this question for myself. There are those out there who need to hear the wisdom of this book, and many many more who ought to hear it anyway. It is my hope that this book, and others like it, would find its way into everyone’s hands, lest anyone know the opposite of a full, fiery embodied life.

Landon Van Berkum

A double major in computer science and history at Northwestern, Van Berkum was a member of the college's programming team that placed 16th out of 95 teams in a 2022 regional competition. He also served as a computer science tutor and worked in the computing services department. Van Berkum studied in Greece as a member of the Honors Program and served as a discipleship group leader and member of the Campus Ministry Team.