A Theology of Interconnectivity: Buber, Dialogue and Cyberspace
Moseley, Amanda Jane
Relationships are a fundamental part of being human; they enable communication, a shared sense of belonging, and a means of building identity and social capital. However, the hallmarks of late modernity can be encapsulated by the themes of detraditionalisation, individualisation and globalisation, which have essentially challenged the mode and means of engaging in relationships. This thesis uses the theology of Martin Buber to demonstrate how his dialogical claims about relationships, namely the “I-It” and “I-Thou” model, can provide a new ethical dimension to communication in the technological era. This thesis argues that through co-creation in cyberspace there is a realisation of the need for a new theological understanding of interconnection. Theology can utilise the platform of technology to facilitate a re-connection in all spheres of relationality and, ultimately, to the Divine. \ud This thesis will first outline the predicament for theology in late modernity. It will discuss how detraditionalisation has led to an emphasis on individual spirituality, as opposed to collective doctrinal beliefs. The global nature of cyberspace has facilitated the means to experiment with these alternative forms of spirituality, which has allowed theology to be commodified and has introduced a challenge to the dimension of relationships. Cyberspace presents a paradox for relationship: the medium transforms modes of relating because the self is re-configured through its contact with technology. This facilitates communication as the individual merges with the machine, resulting in models such as the cyborg. However, this can also be seen to erode the essence of humanity, as humans find themselves on the fringes of relationships. Their hybrid status means that they are no longer fully human or fully machine but become dominated by the latter. They exist on the boundary of both domains and cannot cultivate genuine relationships of the “Thou” variety. This leads to alienation from surroundings, community and the Divine.\ud Second, the thesis will discuss how Buber’s theology can be used to re-position relationships by providing a means to reflect on different aspects of dialogue and communication. By applying Buber’s dialectic to cyberspace it will be demonstrated how interconnectivity causes individuals to re-think the notion of self-in-relation. The three spheres of relationship which Buber identified: “man with nature, man with man, man with forms of the spirit” will be re-contextualised in cyberspace to show how the medium manifests both aspects of the dialectic but allows for a greater awareness of interconnection. Buber’s insistence on the centrality of creative dialogue provides a solution to overcome this dilemma by bringing awareness of the interconnectivity of the self to all aspects of creation. It is through informed use of the medium of cyberspace that humans can re-envisage relationships characterised by a more genuine ethical dimension. These “Thou” moments begin the process of redemption; each one is part of the relationship with the “eternal Thou” and has the potential to draw the Divine down into the encounter, to re-connect with creation. This thesis is arguing for a new theology of interconnectivity that is able to redeem the potentiality of cyberspace as a medium for genuine “Thou” relationality.
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