Ethics and Religion in the Age of Social Media : Digital Proverbs for Responsible Citizens book cover
1st Edition

Ethics and Religion in the Age of Social Media
Digital Proverbs for Responsible Citizens

ISBN 9781138335004
Published December 2, 2019 by Routledge
238 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Arguing that popular digital platforms promote misguided assumptions about ethics and technology, this book lays out a new perspective on the relation between technological capacities and human virtue.

The authors criticize the “digital catechism” of technological idolatry arising from the insular, elite culture of Silicon Valley. In order to develop digital platforms that promote human freedom and socio-economic equality, they outline a set of five “proverbs” for living responsibly in the digital world: (1) information is not wisdom; (2) transparency is not authenticity; (3) convergence is not integrity; (4) processing is not judgment; and (5) storage is not memory. Each chapter ends with a simple exercise to help users break through the habitual modes of thinking that our favorite digital applications promote. Drawing from technical and policy experts, it offers corrective strategies to address the structural and ideological biases of current platform architectures, algorithms, user policies, and advertising models.

This book will appeal to scholars and graduate and advanced undergraduate students investigating the intersections of media, religion, and ethics, as well as journalists and professionals in the digital and technological space.

Table of Contents


Part I

1 The Current Crisis in Digital Media

2 Historical Origins of the Digital Crisis

Part II

3 Information Is Not Wisdom

4 Transparency Is Not Authenticity

5 Convergence Is Not Integrity

6 Processing Is Not Judgment

7 Storage Is Not Memory

Part III

8 How to Think Differently About Tech: Corollaries to the Proverbs

9 Prophetic Imagination and Institutional Change

Conclusion: An Ethic of Non-Violence for the Digital Age

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Kevin Healey (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is associate professor of communication at the University of New Hampshire. He writes and teaches religion, ethics, and digital culture. Kevin received the Communication Ethics Teaching Award from the National Communication Association in 2018 and the University Teaching Excellence Award from the University of New Hampshire in 2017. His essays appear in Salon, Huffington Post, and Religion Dispatches, as well as in numerous academic books and journals. This book is supported by his participation in a three-year Public Theologies of Technology and Presence grant program sponsored by the Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Henry Luce Foundation. Kevin lives in Durham, New Hampshire, with his wife Cristina, their daughter Madeline, and their dog Charlie.

Robert H. Woods Jr. (Ph.D., Regent University) is professor of communication and media at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. He teaches and writes about communication theory, media and culture, and ethics. Robert served as the President of the Religious Communication Association (RCA) and was named Scholar of the Year by the RCA in 2013. He is the network administrator for the Christianity and Communication Studies Network ( His articles appear in numerous scholarly journals, and he has authored, co-authored, and edited a dozen academic books. He lives in Washington State with his wife, Rebekah, their three dogs, and two cats.


Named the 2020 Book of the Year by the Religious Communication Association

"The Digital Revolution has spawned a seemingly infinite number of books addressing the Internet, social media and their meaning for our society and the future, with considerable repetition between them. In Ethics and Religion in the Age of Social Media, Kevin Healey and Robert H. Woods, Jr. provide a critical and original take on our digital dilemmas, and use their ‘prophetic rage’ to shine a bright new light on the important issues at hand. I strongly recommend this absorbing book."

-Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"This insightful book offers proverbial wisdom to make ethical communication possible in a digital world where finding common ground is a challenge, tribalism is increasing, and civil discourse is decreasing. With clarity and insight, this engaging and thought-provoking book provides a masterful blueprint for restoring virtue and values to a media and information saturated society. Supported with research and wisdom, Healey and Woods's eye-opening observations are valuable to students beginning their study communication or leaders who will determine whether we are a society adrift in a digital sea of disconnected data, or dreamers and poets inspired by the good, the beautiful, and the true."

-Steven A. Beebe, PhD, Regents' and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Past President, National Communication Association

"An amazing and thought-provoking book. An unbelievable effort. Genuinely a refreshing and different examination of the industry."

-Jason Alan Snyder, Global Chief Technology Officer, McCann Worldgroup

"By highlighting the religious undertones of Silicon Valley, writers Healey and Woods dismantle the blind faith some harbor for technology as a savior to society. They also provide a critique of the tech industry that manages to make room for hope in technology's future. The relationship between religion and technology is one that is eloquently explored in a way that draws parallels and parables any follower can learn from."

-Shamika Goddard, Founder, Tech Chaplaincy Institute at Union Theological Seminary