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« The i Age, Part II | Main | Disembodied Community »

June 29, 2007

Thinking about iPhones

No, I won't be sitting in line waiting to purchase an iPhone today. But thousands of you have queued up to get the new pocket-sized product that combines an iPod, a cell phone, a web browser and a 3.5-inch touch-screen display.  You will now be able to read your favorite blogs, like The Point, wherever you go.

Will this product launch a new age in mobile computing? There is a good chance it will. Is making another technology mobile a great thing?

Dr. Bruce Weinstein unpacks that question in a Business Week essay called "Ethics and the iPhone":

Our society has devolved into a mass of turned-on, tuned-out, and plugged-in technophiles. Whatever distinction used to exist between public and private life is all but gone ...

He's got a point.  I chuckled as I imagined all of these people standing in line together waiting for their iPhones ... I picture everyone with an iPod on, tuning out the persons on either side of them ... and pausing to yap on a cell phone and pretend like the people standing next to them didn't exist. Remember the days when people talked to each other when queued up for a big event? There was community. I remember, for instance, the community of camping out for tickets for Duke basketball. The good old days.

In addition to concerns about the shallowness of modern community and the four hundred percent increase in likelihood of having a car accident because of mobile technology, Weinstein raises an interesting concern that we don't often think of.

When our brains are constantly stimulated by electronic data, they are, of necessity, precluded from taking anything else in, such as the random thoughts that can be the genesis of great ideas. The nonstop avalanche of images and sounds from electronic media (among other distractions) is a barrier, not a portal, to creativity.

Our minds need down time. Solitude. Peace. Time to daydream. Time to rest. And of course, time to think.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Phil. 4:8

Something to think about ...

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» Do iPhones damage community? from www.gospelshout.com
Does mobile technology allow us to stay wrapped up in ourselves, take away our sense of community, and even crowd out our own private thoughts? [Read More]

» Technology Is A Branch Of Moral Philosophy Not Science from The Dawn Treader
Check out the notable Mike Metzger post on technology at Provocative Church blog ... called What Might The iPhone Do? Snippets of note:New technologies are wonderful in what they promise to do, yet we are often incapable of imagining what [Read More]



What you're describing about people interacting when standing in line is _exactly_ what's happening at many of the Apple stores -- particularly the most techie ones, such as Palo Alto. See http://scobleizer.com/2007/06/29/report-from-the-line/

J. Clinton

That is good to see some community breaking out in Palo Alto. Sounds like a bunch of Apple guys sharing stories ... I would wait in line to hear that. :)

Now, please take a look at this picture taken in an iPhone line :


I rest my case ;-)


Regarding the flickr photo...I found it interesting that, although everyone is using a laptop, cell phone, etc., they chose to sit in a double line facing one another!

New? Revolutionary? This sort of thing has been around for several years, first running the PalmOS, then Linux and Windows Mobile.

iPhone is simply a much slicker implementation, whether it is more capable than a Palm Treo remains to be seen. If it runs a full OSX, then it probably will be.


This is a great question to raise. I just posted, "What might the iPhone undo?"

This post talks about Mike Metzger's thoughts from the Clapham Institute. But what he says is so right on.

We have to not see technology as merely neutral. It has implications. What they are, aren't always apparent, but we must at least ask the question, How is this going to change us? Actually this is the question that the Amish ask.

J. Clinton

re: "new? revolutionary? Been around for years ..."

Yes and no. The technology has been around ... but imho, has not been widely adopted (particularly mobile computing). It is still mostly business users. It is the breadth of this launch into the consumer market that will make mobile web technologies a reality to a much larger segment of our culture.

re: "Metzger's thoughts"

Thank for linking to this article. It is a profound article. Spot on. Two takeaways from the article for me ... the distinction between "travelers and tourists" ... and the thought that technology is more properly understood as a branch of moral philosophy. I agree. Never heard it said so clearly before.

Werner Reschke

J. Clinton,

Nice thoughts. I particularly like how you explain that technology may make us more informed but less thoughtful. Personally, I have found my best times are when I am "unplugged" and am just thinking, reflecting or reading (a book).

The "always on" mentality does create a weariness, and a tention that lerks in the background but is no doubt part of modern society. Having to know the latest news now -- even when there isn't any real news to report -- dulls the senses and the ability to discern what is important from what is not.

Thanks for then connecting us with Phil 4:8.

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