The Role of Prophetic Critique in Clifford Christians's Philosophy of Technology

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 25 (2):121-138 (2010)
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In recent years, scholars have devoted more attention to the “prophetic” critique of mass media. Clifford Christians has served as both an originator and an ongoing contributor to these discussions. Beginning with his doctoral thesis on Jacques Ellul, a concern for the prophetic has been a consistent thread throughout his career. This paper begins by examining Ellul's influence on Christians's approach, with an emphasis on media ecology, ontology, and the concept of technique. I then summarize Christians's critique of Ellul, and explain how his unique vision addresses Ellul's shortcomings. In outlining Christians's unique approach, I highlight the ways in which authenticity serves as an axial value permeating his work. In Christians's work, prophetic witness against technological fetishism is a means of protecting certain universal values such as “cultural continuity” and “authentic Being.” Through a brief examination of media coverage of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Jim Wallis, and the United Church of Christ, I show how Christians's discussion of authenticity and prophetic critique are not only applicable but uniquely relevant in the emerging new media environment. At this critical juncture in media, Christians's prophetic voice is among the most relevant and necessary that critical scholarship has to offer



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