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Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age
Growing Down explores the theological and psychological implications of humanity’s fascination with technology. Author Jaco Hamman examines how our virtual relationships with and through tablets and phones, consoles and screens, have become potentially addictive substitutes for real human relationships. At the base of the technological revolution, as Hamman shows, are abiding theological questions—questions about what it means to be and to become a person in a technological world.
Hamman argues that the appeal of today’s communications technologies, especially the need to be constantly connected and online, is deeply rooted in the most basic ways humans develop. Human relationship with technology mirrors the holding environment established between young children and their primary caregivers. The virtual world plays upon humanity’s deep yearning to reestablish that primary life-giving environment and to recall those first loving and caring relationships. By handling a phone and engaging online, humans revisit the exhilaration, fear, relief, and confidence of belonging, discovering, and gaining knowledge. Technology affords a space where the self can play, feel alive, and be real.
Growing Down draws together theology, anthropology, neuroscience, object relations theory (especially the work of D. W. Winnicott), and empirical research to identify necessary intelligences for human flourishing in an increasingly virtual world. Humans can flourish in the face of the continued onslaught of rapid technological advances—even if they must grow down to do so.
"In this important, rich, and needed book, Jaco Hamman, using the wisdom of psychology, philosophy, and theology, considers what it means to be human in a technologically dependent and driven world—an era when many people use and are used by technology. Hamman argues that these new technologies can impede our ability to grow down, to deepen and broaden our lives. The timely wisdom of this book will benefit readers regardless of whether they are religious or not."
—Ryan LaMothe, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, St. Meinrad School of Theology
"Growing Down answers the question we all face, whether we know it or not: how can one form and maintain a self in an age of ubiquitous communication technologies that are reframing the meaning of human relationships? Hamman answers with a masterful summation of D.W. Winnicott’s thinking on the importance of becoming a ‘grown-down.’ For those willing to think counter-intuitively, here is a feast of insights in support of Hamman’s claim that ‘growing down anticipates moving towards one’s wounds and revisiting the truth of one’s childhood and life.’"
—Brad A. Binau, Academic Dean, Trinity Lutheran Seminary
Jaco J. Hamman is Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology and Culture at Vanderbilt Divinity School, where he is also the Director of the Program in Theology and Practice. Hamman is also Extraordinary Professor of Practical Theology at The University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.