Peter’s latest research article has recently been published in the the journal Internet Histories. It has the title ‘Technology, ethics and religious language: early Anglophone Christian reactions to “cyberspace”’.
The very recent past has seen an upswing of scholarly interest not so much in the Internet and Web themselves but in the terms in which they have been discussed and understood. The article examines a remarkable effusion of writing in the 1990s that addressed the spiritual and ethical implications of “cyberspace”.
Christian critics reacted in different ways to prophecies of technological revolution. Some saw ethical challenges in relation to economic and social exclusion and the nature of interpersonal relations. Others elaborated a semi-mystical evolutionary understanding of the Web as an ontologically concrete “space”. Others again revived older anxieties about the challenge apparently posed to human uniqueness and autonomy posed by computerisation more generally, which cyberspace threatened to magnify.
However, this thinking did not occur in isolation from the sweep of Anglophone social thought. I suggest instead that the wider discourse about the ethics of the Internet and Web, both learned and popular, was infused at every level with religious imagery. As such, the article contributes to the ongoing debate on the extent to which the cultures of the UK and North America have been secularised: even if religious observance has declined, the English language still bears the marks of its Christian past.