Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Worlds Collide

Tech world, meet Orthodoxy.

In this TEDx talk, "Re-creation of the Icon," iconographer Lynette Hull draws a compelling parallel between Steve Jobs' focus on the use of icons (the kind on our computing devices) and beauty of design, and the ancient Christian art of iconography. This talk is really good. Really, really good. Please watch it. You won't be disappointed. It's about 20 minutes long.


Ok, now that you've watched it, there are a lot of things I can say about Lynette's ideas in this talk.

Early step in an icon I wrote under expert tutelage, Spring 2010

For one, the simple fact that she's discovered such a valid and interesting analogy between the tech world and the Orthodox faith makes me feel less alone in the fact that I make sense out of things in the tech world using my faith, and things in my faith using things from the tech world, all the time. It's a constant mode of understanding the world around me that runs in my mind, and it's very cool to encounter another woman who sees things similarly in this respect.

Gold leaf added (though we didn't use clay as shown in video)

Second, the content of the talk is actually exactly what I'm writing my term paper on right now. More specifically, when Lynette talks about reason and rationality (as represented by the original IBM DOS computers) as opposed to our "noetic faculties" (which is what Jobs taps into when his company created the first GUI: graphical user interface), this is precisely the ratio/intellectus dichotomy I am exploring in my paper, as two different modes of knowing that together enable us to have knowledge. Furthermore, in my Masters thesis I will be using the ratio/intellectus framework (and its many other sibling-concepts, like work/rest, time/eternity, logos/nous, logic/love) to better understand the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. After watching this talk, I am already dreaming up ways of incorporating this TEDx talk into my thesis, likely as a way to relate these heady concepts to the everyday.

Finished Icon of the Mother of God "Sweet Kissing"
And third, when Lynette goes into the stuff about the different ways we learn, and the fact that logic is not necessarily what is deepest in us as humans, but rather (again) our "noetic faculties," I immediately thought of a parallel in the library world as well. Until the past decade, online library catalogs (OPACs) relied on what is called Boolean operators in order to build a search query that is focused and specific to the researcher's information need. More recently, though, the trend has moved away from Boolean searching and instead focused on---you guessed it---a more graphical, browsing-based search experience dubbed in the library world a "discovery" service, as opposed to a "search" query. We no longer search, we discover our information, or so the rhetoric goes. But if Lynette is correct, and I do believe she is, there is more than rhetoric involved in this move.

Can it be that discovery services in libraries are tapping into our noetic faculties?

Besides the fact that I get a real kick out of having just written that sentence, I think the answer may just be "Yes."

A lot more can be developed here, but since I have to go write that term paper, for now I need to end my response to the video here.

If you watched the video (and I hope you did!), what did you take from it?

H/T to Orthodox Arts Journal for the video.


  1. neat find! been praying for you as you finish up this semester! I am gearing up for Mr. Husband and I's first Christmas so don't know that I can watch this now but very cool and yay for Ortho-library stuff! :)

    1. Thanks Elizabeth, and I do hope you get a chance to watch it sometime soon. I think you will really appreciate Lynette's ideas. Thank you for your prayers as well--I'm still plugging away at the term paper, not likely to finish it by the end of this week as planned. Ah well, it'll get done in God's time. :) And yay for your first married Christmas with Mr. Husband! Cherish every moment of it!

  2. Hello Donna,
    I enjoyed the TEDx talk. I also thought your recent icon project turned out quite nice. I have an icon project idea that I would like to propose - but I don't know who to propose it to. The icon project would be based a "hybrid" icon picture of Christ Pantocrator I created using software while I was a catechumen. Now that I have been received into the church, I realize it lacks conformity to iconographic ideals in some respects, yet it has sentimental value as the icon of Christ I have had in my icon corner for three years now (two of those years as a catechumen). The writing/painted version could correct those issues while preserving the fundamentals of the original. Would you or someone you know of be interested in taking a look at the project & image (in TIFF or JPG) if I emailed it? If so feel free to reply to
    BTW - I am in Perkasie, PA and attend St Philip Orthodox Church in Souderton, PA

    1. Hello Todd,
      Thank you for your comment, and my apologies that it took so long to reply. Unfortunately I am not someone with the talent and skill needed to help you with your icon project, though it sounds very interesting! The icon pictured in this post is the only one I've ever made, and my hand was literally guided by a master iconographer--i.e., I could never create anything close to what an icon should look like on my own. If I think of anyone, or encounter anyone who might be a good match for your project, I will pass your information along.
      God bless!