Communication, Technology, and the Evolution of Buddhist Ideas
University of Hawaii Press 2018
In this episode of New Books in Buddhist Studies, I am joined by Daniel Veidlinger to discuss his exciting new book From Indra’s Net to Internet: Communication, Technology, and the Evolution of Buddhist Ideas (University of Hawaii Press, 2018), which offers a theoretically compelling exploration of the types communicative “ecosystems” in which Buddhist ideas have flourished throughout history. Drawing inspiration from evolutionary biology and media theory, Veidlinger’s book begins by isolating some particular traits that were unique to (or at least most well-developed in) early Buddhism, and then tracing how these traits were particular well-suited for transmission in two specific historical, cultural, and communicative contexts: namely, communities in early India and along the Silk Road in the first centuries of the Common Era. His book concludes with a lengthy exploration of the ways that the Internet Age represents a third such epoch, and propounds the provocative theory that the technological, discursive and affective aspects of internet use can make frequent users more receptive to Buddhist ideas. Given this contemporary focus, we conclude our interview by considering the way(s) that Veidlinger’s theory can accommodate, and even respond to, the fact that the internet has also been used to foment hatred and divisiveness in the last three years of American history.
Christopher Jensen teaches Buddhism and Chinese Religions at Carleton University. He can be reached at: email@example.com