Google Doodles, Easter, and Cesar Chavez: Sometimes It’s About Competing Goods

(Warning: this is a long one. I just couldn’t get it in a short post. But the short version is that the argument that Google is anti-Christian doesn’t hold up in the light of reasonable moral analysis. In the end, there are simply times when actions that you don’t like turn out to be morally neutral or differently good.)

To say that public discourse in a religiously fraught country is difficult is an understatement. Anyone who is trying to live a publicly religious life in a diverse culture certainly knows this. As does anyone whose job connects even remotely to religion. Sunday, that meant Google, who raised a bit of ire when it posted a Doodle about Ceasar Chavez on Easter Sunday.

Now, here at Rewiring Virtue, I tend to stay away from issues that will really make people mad. There are lots of places online that people can go to vent their anger, so we don’t really need another one. That and—if I’m honest—I have a pretty thin skin, so I have tended to dig into issues where people haven’t necessarily made up their minds. That keeps the “light to heat” ratio more to my liking.

That being said, the whole controversy surrounding Sunday’s Google Doodle is too close a connection between religion, ethics, and technology for me to pass it over. I am going to assume that you already know about the controversy. (If not, check out the links in the previous sentence.) In the barest outline, some Christians were upset because Google Doodled about Cesar Chavez rather than Easter.  Most of the folks complaining feel that the Doodle is an intentional insult by Google against Christianity. To have any doodle aside from something about Easter on Easter is a slight that reveals an anti-Christian foundation at the center of the “don’t be evil” facade.

Hmmm…

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My Joy for the Week: Welcome Fresh Pressers!

I just wanted to take a quick sec to welcome all of you new visitors to Rewiring Virtue. My guess is that many of you happened across this blog at Freshly Pressed. Thanks for taking the time to jump over and take a read. I hope you decide to follow!

In my previous post, I wrote about disappointment. But the last few days have been nothing but joy. It has busy here at Rewiring Virtue, and I am endlessly thankful to WordPress for including me in their Freshly Pressed list. It has been a blast to jump around and check out the blogs of all you visitors.

So, thanks all! Your comments have been great and your likes appreciated.

I hope to see you again soon!

@Pontifex: Spirituality, Twitter and the Complexity of Diverse Audiences

Today marks the entry of the Vatican into the Twitter-verse as the Pope starts tweeting at @Pontifex. As of this morning, he has three quarters of a million followers. As a Roman Catholic who is used to reading papal writing, the tweets have been as expected: short bits of wisdom meant to encourage and support believers in their daily life. In this, he is in line with a great deal of Christian use of new media. From the early days of listservs to Web 2.0, churches have been using even simple things like email prayer requests and daily Bible verses to help support one another in the small things.

Of course, I’m writing this from the perspective of a Catholic. While I recognize the many problems that the Catholic church has created and continued (insert caveats about the fallen nature of all people, the tendencies of all institutions to have problems, and the lack of uniqueness of the RCC in this respect), I’m on board with the its basic beliefs and commitments. I have great respect for the Pope both in his role and as a stellar scholar.

A Tale of Two Audiences

I guess that’s why Andrew Brown’s opening line in this morning’s blog at the Guardian caught my eye:

It was not surprising that when Pope Benedict XVI finally turned up on Twitter to greet his million followers there he should have nothing to say.

Nothing to say? I guess I didn’t find:

pope's tweet

all that vacuous. I thought it was nice. Generic, but nice. But it got me thinking.

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Peak, Permanence, and the Precision Bass: On What Lasts

The myth out there is that college teachers have the summer off. I wish. I don’t have to be in my office, but summer is a time to regroup, kill off lingering committee work, get new classes set up, and try to get ready for the next semester. As part of that, my computer was replaced. I now have a nice iMac in place of my MacPro, which exceeds what I need these days.

Of course, the complicated part of the upgrade was getting all the stuff that I use on the new machine: apps, fonts, bookmarks, etc.  Lots of reinstalling and updating. Sadly, as I was doing this, I found out that my favorite 2 track audio editing app—BIAS’s Peak—is no more. As Peter Kirn at CreateDigitalMusic.com put it:

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On Seeing Honestly

But Google Glass is disruptive and antisocial.

Really? Hold on, let me take this call. OK, one second, just gotta finish sending this text. Now, what were you saying? Oh, right, it’s antisocial. These glasses disrupt the tender interpersonal dynamics we’ve built up over millennia of human cultural evolution. We are all such interested, attentive people, and Google Glass would never fit in with—and perhaps even threatens—our delicate social fabric.

OK, whatever you’ve got to tell yourself to sleep better.

Absolutely love Farhad Manjoo’s piece at Pando Daily (Don’t laugh at Google Glass: They’re Goofy, but They Will Save Us From Ourselves) on the pro-social aspects of mobile tech practices and Google Glass. Ok, maybe “pro-social” is going too far. Perhaps “less antisocial” is a better characterization of what he says. Anyway…what I appreciate is Manjoo’s honesty about how antisocial our tech habits often are. While our intentions are often good, the acts in themselves frequently impede the good that we intend or introduce bad consequences that we had not intended or even envisioned. Such honesty is rare in the tech journalism world.

I’m all for tech, but we need to be honest about what our real actions actually do rather than imagined consequences of the actions we think we are engaged in. Otherwise, we end up justifying as good those things that we simply prefer.

Status Update—Spending Time Face to Face

Getting back to writing after a bit of travels, I report today from the beautiful campus of Santa Clara University in the silicon valley. I’m here attending a small conference/meeting on Theology and Communications: In Dialogue being held by the Pontifical Council on Social Communication, in conjunction with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It has been a collegial and thought provoking meeting, with lots of talks and conversation.

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