Imagine digital technologies in the Reptile Room at your local zoo or aquarium. I think there are three types of technology creatures in our culture zoo.
Technology Turtles are our reptilian luddites. They withdraw from technological advancements into their hard shells whenever they are threatened. This could be the invention of a new social media platform, or it could be a social revolution like the move from script to type, from paper to digital, or from desktop to handheld technology.
Digital Hardbacks may be classic luddites in that they resist the revolution because of some important principle. More often, however, they either love the old ways—and so resist the new ones—or they have been hurt in the dangerous world of digital Darwinism. Once Bitten Twice Shy Technological Turtles rarely peak their beaks out in a digitally rich environment. Turtles move forward, but very slowly.
I have no desire to become a Technology Turtle. Who would want to miss the great things that new technologies and social media has to offer?
At the other side of the enclosure you will find the Connected Chameleon. The tech-savvy Chameleon is on the cutting edge of every social media moment. They don’t merely use technology. They adapt to it. They are able to spot a new creative environment and they quickly find a way to blend in. They are so adept at tech access that it is soon difficult to tell the user from the technology. Connected Chameleons disappear into their digital environment.
Although I love tech talk and new inventions, I don’t wanted to be a Connected Chameleon either. I think too often our generation’s identity is lost in the tools we use.
Instead, I want to be a Digital Leopard Frog.
Leopard Frogs live double lives. About the size of a child’s fist, these little soldiers have adapted to life in water and on land.
In the technological world, Digital Leopard Frogs are also amphibious, able to live in the world of script as comfortably as the world of type. We love print books, but pick up an eBook with ease. We admire inkwells and classic typewriters in the antique store, but pound out our thoughts on keyboards or thumb-tap them into a smartphone. We can pick up social media, but set it aside when it is time to chat with a friend or play outside. Digital Amphibians can fall in love with a tablet or curl up with a book beside a glowing fire.
Digital Leopard Frogs live the double life of the old and the new, finding our way in the world with past-forward spirituality.
Besides a take-it-or-leave-it approach to technology, Leopard Frogs also teach us another thing about culture. Frogs are canaries in the mine when it comes to natural environments. The North American Leopard Frog has been decimated in population in the last 50 years. In their own creaturely way, they are telling us about the poisons in our natural world.
Because Technology Turtles shelter themselves from culture, they cannot tell us of its subtle dangers. And because Connected Chameleons are so skilled at blending in, they are often too close to see when the digital environment is poisonous.
Digital Leopard Frogs, though, are close enough to know the best, but far enough away to see the worst. Our amphibious ways gives us a prophetic view of the culture around us.
In all these ways, I am Digital Leopard Frog.
Where do you live in the Reptile Room of Contemporary Culture?