Devices vs Instruments

Andy Crouch on the difference between a device and an instrument, and how your phone can be both.



Superpowers vs Your Own Powers


Andy Crouch on the difference between a device and an instrument, and how your phone can be both.

Andy Crouch answers the questions: “What’s the difference between a device and an instrument?” and “How can I use my phone as more of an instrument than a device?

Suggested Activities:

  1. Think-Pair-Share:
    1. What is your initial reaction to the video?
    2. Share an example of how you use your phone as a device, and another of how you use it as an instrument.
    3. Do you spend more time using your phone as an instrument or as a device?
  2. Read Barney Zwartz’s article ‘Social media builds a counterfeit community’ and the short column ‘Thriving in a technological age’.
    1. How do the arguments in these articles relate to Andy Crouch’s words about instruments and devices?
    2. Discuss the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following quotes from Barney Zwartz’s article?
      1. “So many people, when they feel lonely or anxious, pick up their phone and scroll, but it seems to lead to regret more than relief.”
      2. “Humans are complicated beings: hearts, souls and minds, created for serious relationships, which screen relationships mostly can only parody.”
      3. “Humans – embodied, spiritual, emotional, and longing for connection – can never be the same as machines.”
      4. “Social media can be educational, entertaining and many good things but what it builds is counterfeit community.”
  3. Read the short columns ‘Running with the cloud’ and ‘Community next door’.
    1. How do these demonstrate the ability of technology, when used as an instrument, to help facilitate genuine community?
    2. In small groups, brainstorm ideas for a new website or app that could be used as an instrument to help people engage more with the world as human beings.


ANDY CROUCH: There are two kinds of technology: devices and instruments. Devices basically do things for us, they often replace us, so we don’t have to do anything when they’re doing their thing. And there’s a place for devices, but a very small place, because really what I think technology is meant to be is an instrument, which is something that actually helps me as a human being engage more with the world. When I’m using devices, they take over and do things for me; when I use things as an instrument, I’m actually creating, I’m acting, I’m making something of the world. So your phone is a device when you’re using it just to consume video or photographs – you’re just watching them scroll by, someone else made that, you’re now just consuming it and your phone is presenting it to you. But your phone is an instrument when you actually use it to make an image, especially an image that has something worthwhile about it, something that requires some effort and skill to make. So as much as possible, we need to use all of our technology as little as possible like devices and as much as possible like instruments.