From my recent CSPAN appearance: We need technological atonement

Late last month, I was on CSPAN’s Communicators, talking with Randy May about cancel culture. In part, the conversation was driven by May’s thought-provoking series, “Thinking Clearly About Speaking Freely.” Part 1, part 2, and part 3 have all been published.

I have written on the topic of cancel culture elsewhere, but I want to highlight my final words on the program where I stressed the need for technological atonement.

As I noted, “The moment we are in right now is the messy moment of digital adolescence. We are all trying to understand what this new world looks like and how to integrate these new technologies in our lives.”

The question isn’t what now, it’s what next. And so, “We need to figure out what [digital] grace looks like, we need to figure out what [technological] atonement looks like.”

In a now taken down tweet, Liz Bruenig made the exact same point,

As a society we have absolutely no coherent story — none whatsoever — about how a person who’s done wrong can atone, make amends, and retain some continuity between their life/identity before and after the mistake. Complete clown show morally speaking, incoherent, arbitrary…people hurt each other. It’s what we do. Iron law of the universe. Single constant theme in all of human history. “Just don’t do anything wrong and you won’t have any problems” is not a viable approach, but that’s more or less the level of moral idiocy that we’re operating on.

In the coming months, I hope to explore this topic further and lay out a framework based on technological empowerment and grace.

EDIT: I also had a Twitter thread on this topic.


First published Jun 11, 2021