Thursday, June 03, 2010

Best Book on e-Integrity

TITLE: VIRTUAL INTEGRITY - faithfully navigating the brave new world
AUTHOR: Daniel J Lohrmann
PUBLISHED: Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008 (223pp).

Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web
This is the best book about online behavior not only for Christians but any Internet surfer. In a world where people are paranoid over privacy and piracy matters, and the dangers of being impersonated by unscrupulous people on the net, virtual integrity seeks to start from where we are: Our values.

What the Book is About
While the author does talk about the external threats posed by dangerous online threats, it concentrates on personal integrity of the surfer. Rather than telling people to avoid the Internet, Lohrmann works to redeem it. He talks about our need to be consistent with our values online as well as offline. He talks about the limits of parental controls, specifically pointing at the limitations of technological controls. Things like filtering, censoring or parents trying to control their children's exposure to the Internet should not be the ONLY way to protect our kids.

At a deeper level, Lohrmann questions the tendency for people to disguise their true identity on the Internet. Rather than others stealing one's identity, Lohrmann argues against us attempting to deceive others by adopting false selves via online deception. One example he poses is about e-Conscience.
"Marketing experts recognize that people are often willing to do things online that they would never do if they were faced with the same situation in real life." (58)

Indeed, in the process of trying to deceive others, he may end up deceiving himself. He then goes on to show how our online behavior can affect our career prospects as well as attract unwanted marketing scams. Thankfully, Lohrmann does not stop here. He goes on to propose a useful "7 Habits of Online Integrity."
  1. Refresh your Values in Cyberspace
  2. Pledge Personal Online Integrity
  3. Seek Trusted Accountability
  4. Apply Helpful Technology
  5. Balance Online and Offline Life
  6. Practice Humble Authenticity
  7. Become a Cyber Ambassador for Good
My Comments
This book is written very clearly and should appeal to a wide range of readers, to parents as well as teens; to technology geeks as well as the layperson. With multiple examples and wise sayings from different experts from various disciplines, he supplies ample applications on how we can all sur with consistent values, practice integrity on the Internet, and to be wise as we use e-communications. One of my favourite quotes comes from his citation of the Czech Republic's first president.
"Havel cautioned the world in a 1990 speech:' We still don't know how to put morality ahead of politics, science, and economics. We are incapable of understanding that the only genuine core of all actions - if they are to be moral - is responsibility.' " (157)
Havel is spot on! I will venture to go further. Instead of submitting ourselves to the culture's constant insistence on personal rights and privileges, the key to surfing with integrity lies with our willingness to accept responsibily for all our actions. Such a responsibility must stem from a living and loving relationship with the Divine God.

This book has so many different applications that the Appendix itself is worth the price of the book. There are practical steps for individuals, families, technology providers, businesses, churches, non-profits, Christian organizations, even schools. After all, as Lohrmann is Chief Information Officer of the State of Michigan, he certainly is more than qualified to write this book.

We have invested so much time in our technology infrastructures, our client machines, and various skills to use online resources. Lohrmann reminds us to invest in the 'software' side of using technology: INTEGRITY.

"No matter what wonderful technological advances we implement in the twenty-first century, we will always face this underlying challenge of the desires of the heart. The 'people issues' will always be paramount, because there will be ways to cheat in every situation. As Christians, our faith and trust in God enables academic integrity." (76)

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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