Skype Hits the iPhone – Values are at War

“When media make war against each other, it is a case of world-views in collision.” – Neil Postman, Technopoly.
Christians need to think about the value sets and assumptions packaged in their digital technology. Sure, values sets and assumptions may be be advertised on the box, but they are clearly there. Think of the iPhone. You either own an iPhone or have a friend who does. Among the first things that an iPhone owner will show you is their ability to sync with Google maps such that they can see their location and discover local restaurants, places of interest, or even traffic conditions in their area. Cool right? Except, now somebody knows where you are. Exactly where you are – anywhere on the planet. Is that good? When did our values shift so that “big brother” was no longer threatening? Was it when “he” declared that he should “do no evil”?
Skype is now releasing an app for the iPhone. This is not the first move Skype has made to mobile platforms, Skype is on other mobile devices. However, the iPhone is different. The iPhone is where the customers are and therefore the iPhone is mainstream. Make no mistake, though its services are currently limited, Skpye’s move to the iPhone marks the end of the phone medium and the beginning of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). When calls are no longer billed in minutes or by distance (two measures of value for the phone medium), people will be tempted to proclaim “now I can talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time!” Is that good? How will that ability affect the value we place in a “call”? How will our expectations of reaching people change? Will we say that conversations become more personified when Skype takes the logical future step of adding live video to calls? How will that change in value assumptions affect our understanding of “conversing” with “people” or “conversing in-person”?
What about ministry? It is estimated that as many as 4 billion of the world’s 6 billion people will own a cell phone in the next few years. Even in impoverished countries, people are skipping the purchase of a computer and going straight to the mobile phone for their internet access. When internet accessible cell phone use is ubiquitous, will we open up massive “video calling” centers and do “missions work in-person”? After all, we are of the generation that holds “church” online.
*Related Links: Christian Web Conference – Bright People engaging Big Ideas.

In Defense of Moralism

If I told you I was an ornithologist, you could conclude that, like John James Audubon, I study birds. If I say I’m an economist then you would presume that, like Alan Greenspan, I study markets. But if I claim to be a moralist you would not presume that I study morality, but think that, like Gladys Kravitz, I’m simply an intolerant, prudish, busybody.
Such is the degraded state of language (and morality) that “moralist” has become a synonym for judgementalism rather than being defined as a “teacher or student of morals and moral problems.” Moralist has joined terms like liberal, fundamentalist, and Puritan in the lepers’ colony of language. While some people choose to live with these labels, most others avoid them in order to prevent being infected by their malignant connotations.
Before we discard the term, though, we should question why we would abandon such a useful word when there are so few suitable alternatives. Admittedly, moral philosophers also study morals and moral problems. But unless one has a PhD and an office in the Ivory Tower, calling oneself a philosopher is considered pretentious. The same holds true for almost every other subject worthy of study. To say a person is a theologian, bioethicist, or economist implies they are “professionals” with the necessary degrees and vocational credentials. Unless we consider morality a subject unsuitable for “amateurs”, why would we want to toss aside such a useful term as moralist?
The obvious answer is that the term has become weighted down with too much baggage. Before we can reclaim the term it is necessary to cut loose some of the predominant misconceptions about the label:

Continue reading In Defense of Moralism