Screenshot of Windows 7 Desktop. Used with permission from Microsoft.
The GUI, or Graphical User Interface, is the graphical environment presented to the user for working with the computer. The four major players in GUI design for general-purpose computers (laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones) are the Windows desktop interface (though Microsoft is currently transitioning to its new “Metro” interface), Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. These interfaces are all that most people ever encounter in the computer because it requires technical knowledge and skill to break through the interface to access the nuts and bolts of the computer. The creation of the GUI dates back some thirty-odd years, and is largely responsible for the dissemination of the computer to the general public. It has often been hailed as the innovation which wrested control of the computer from the technological elite and placed it in the hands of the non-tech-savvy user — and this is still partially true. Ironically, however, this attempt to make the computer accessible to the general public is socially determinate.
Strictly speaking, this ought to be called “Electronic Ethics,” but the title “Electric Ethics” was just too catchy to pass up.
It’s not hard to find a Christian perspective, or ten, on every issue under the sun. But one issue conspicuously absent from Christian reflection is the issue of how we use our technology. Desktops, laptops, gaming systems, TVs, mp3 players, smartphones and even dumbphones occupy an ever-increasing portion of our time, money, and attention. Nearly 60% of American households own a gaming system and overall time spent gaming is up 7% from last year (source: Nielson Wire). Half of American adults own a smartphone, up from a third last year (source: Pew). Personal and mobile electronic use is clearly becoming part of the fabric of our society, but it’s still difficult to find much in the way of Christian reflections on this technology.
And so this is what I’ll be doing this summer: research on personal electronic use through a Christian lens. Continue reading