ARCU lecturer Dr. Craig Mattson speaks on digital distraction
Dr. Mattson and student speakers share theology of attention in busy, noisy digital world
3 min. read
January 21, 2015

“In the time that I’ve spent with the community at Redeemer, I’ve found these talks are hitting a central thread of questions we have: what would God have us do in a digital world that is constantly grappling for our attention?” opened Dr. Craig Mattson in his ARCU lecture at Redeemer on the TOMS shoe campaign. Dr. Mattson came to Redeemer as the 2014-15 lecturer for the Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities (ARCU). Dr. Mattson is Professor of Communication Arts at Trinity Christian College, with a PhD in Communication from Regent University. He also spent more than a decade working in radio, and has appeared as a radio broadcaster and on-air personality. Dr. Mattson spoke about the TOMS shoe marketing campaign, which famously promises to donate a shoe for every shoe sold in an effort to gain consumers’ attention. Dr. Mattson suggested that the brand, known for its social entrepreneurship, changes the global conversation about what it means to do good. TOMS, he asserted, invites us to give a viral, and unfortunately short-lived, attention to global crises. Dr. Mattson’s lectures centred on rhetoric, like that of TOMS marketing, in an age of digital distraction. A student symposium held the day before Mattson’s lecture built off this theme. The symposium, titled “Media and their Messages: Constructing Social Identities”, was held on Tuesday afternoon. . Four Redeemer students spoke about three forms of media– digital media, television and political discourse– and and showed that these mediums shape personal, cultural and national realities. Helena Schuurman reflected on seeking stillness and finding godly wisdom in a world saturated by multimedia. Erica Moulton dusted off her Aristotle to see what the philosopher would say about the way we represent ourselves online. Mary Darling told of the serious intentions behind award-winning comedy series, Little Mosque on the Prairie, which she co-produced. And Justin Vovk recounted how Hitler manipulated royalist sentiment in fashioning himself as the Fuhrer of the Third Reich. Dr. Mattson and the student speakers sketched out a theology of attention, in a world of digital media constantly grappling for our attention. Schuurman asked listeners to think critically about social media: “Do we know that our value is more than a like or a Facebook comment? Will we let God usher us into the slow life?” According to Moulton, “All have the opportunity on social media to become Aristotle’s orators; with this comes great responsibility as Christians.” The symposium gave students unique opportunities to share insight on our digital world with academics and their peers. “Speaking at the symposium gave me a chance to explore and I discovered I really love speaking into academics,” Schuurman enthused. Mary Darling reflected on the experience during the discussion following her presentation: “Being part of the community at Redeemer gives you opportunities like this one to share your work and research, which you wouldn’t have at larger universities.” In addition to Dr. Mattson’s lecture and the student symposium, Dr. Mattson visited two Redeemer classes and spoke at chapel on the call to put our attention on God’s voice as God restores fullness to our culture’s empty, crowded digital speech. Dr. Mattson’s visit is the latest in the ARCU lecture series at Redeemer. Redeemer professors Dr. Deborah Bowen and Dr. James Payton have previously held the lectureship.

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