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    Entries in Technology (7)


    Echo 2012. I'm Going.

    I'm headed to the Echo Conference later this month. I hope to reconnect with a few friends and meet new ones. The trip is going to be a new experience for me, at least in terms of the to and from. I'm traveling down on a Greyhound, and may take a circuitous route home in order to catch a ball game. One of my goals is to visit every MLB team in their home ballpark before my life is through. I've visited 14 so far (BOS, NYY, CWS, DET, KC, MIN, LAA, TEX, NYM, CHI, HOU, MIL, STL, SF). I'll be taking a backback, clothes, my notebook, and an open mind. If I'm lucky, I'll get in on some good theological conversations, some fun, and have the opportunity to dialogue with a cadre of creative minds.

    Here is the promo video for the conference. If you're going, please let me know so we can catch up. If I don't know you, let's plan to meet. Drop me a note and we'll connect.

    Echo 2012 Promo from Echo Hub on Vimeo.


    Stephen Proctor: "Why is the visual aspect of our worship experiences important?"

    My friend Stephen Proctor is one of the leading lights of the "visual worship" movement, an important theological discussion on the nature and place of technological innovation as it is applied to the gathering of the church for the purpose of corporate worship.  I refer to this first as a theological discussion, rather than as a gathering of practitioners, for it appears to me that Stephen and other worship leaders like himself are more concerned with the underlying ideas than they are with "the show"--they truly want their work to be an expression of worship that is faithful to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.  For this, Stephen and his friends are to be commended, as evangelicalism has long been guilty of being pragmatic before being reflective.  While "visual worship" does not reverse this course of action, it does take them as parallel.  Thinking is required while doing, and doing further stimulates theological thinking, discourse, and conversation.

    Stephen recently addressed attendees at the RECONNECT Conference.  Check out what he has to say in the video below.  Follow his blog, if you don't already.

    Thoughts on Visual Worship (Reconnect Conference) from worshipVJ on Vimeo.


    First Exposure as Paradigm :: New Tech, Normalcy, and Change

    John Dyer, author of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technologymaintains an excellent blog.  He is insightful, and at times humorous on Twitter.  He's also a Dallas Seminary guy and presently on the staff as a web developer.

    This past week John wrote an insightful piece on his blog regarding a characteristic intrinsic to engaging various forms of technology: the form of a technology to which one is first exposed becomes the basis from which all future judgments of that technology shall be made.  Any form of that technology that deviates from the initial form, even if it serves the same function, is found to be strange.  His central example is a wrinkle in Mac's Lion OS he encountered after purchasing a new MacBook Air.

    Reflecting on his experience, some conclusions are drawn for life within the church.  The parallels are fantastic, and the thought experiment he presents is extremely helpful for those of us who are less than patient with friends or family members resistant to new technologies employed for ministry or changes in forms within a worship setting.

    Dyer writes:

    [W]e ought not be surprised when people from different generations have different expectations of which technologies are “normal” and  about the proper way those technologies ought to be used. If long-time Mac junkies think new features are “backwards,” imagine how your pastor, your mother, or your grandfather feels about everything else! These expectations can often cause conflict and difficulty between generations.

    Thankfully, there is a setting for that. It’s called, ”do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat technology immigrants with the respect you hope your kids will treat you when things start to feel foreign for you.

    Thanks for the insight, John.

    How have you approached conversations with parishioners centered on change within worship?  Have you been challenged on the use of a certain technology or other kind of change?  How did you navigate any conflict that become apparent?


    Google+ :: Are You On Board?

    Like others in my network, a Google+ invite came my way this past week, first courtesy of Tony Morgan, and later from Andrew Conard.  Soon thereafter, friends began adding me to "circles", and email notifications began to light up my inbox.  As someone interested in tech, and as an avid fan of social media, I began doing some research.

    Harvard Business Review's Joshua Gans was among those I consulted.  His impressions are largely negative.  In his estimation, Google+ offers nothing new at all, and because Google has orchestrated a progressive, invitation only roll out, the network has lacked adequate population to make the network attractive.  Interaction, at this stage, is not taking place, at least for Gans.  And if this doesn't change quickly, Gans notes that this could lead to quick abandonment of the site, and a return to other social media services that already have an existing base and a clearly established purpose.

    Evaluating the level of activity, Gans writes:

    Having done lots of set-up, I waited to see what happened. The answer to that was: not much. For Google+ to work, it has to be populated. Specifically, it has to be populated with people the user is interested in. As it is early days, that crucial feature isn't there.

    This (lack of) network effect could do Google+ in if it can't get a virtuous cycle going. So the question is whether Google+ has the potential to attract a large enough network.

    It shouldn't be a surprise that many of the leading Christian technophiles have been jumping on board with Google+.  One of my friends, Andrew Conard, even asked his network to weigh in on whether he should dump Facebook or Twitter, transferring his energies to Google+.

    As I began poking my way around the service, several questions came to mind.  First, is Google+ different from existing social media services?  Does it add something to my social media world that I do not presently have?  Does it improve upon the existing services?  Is there a reason to establish a presence on Google+?

    Are you on board with Google+?  If so, what are you thoughts?  If not, would you consider setting up shop with Google in addition to the services you already use?  


    Social Media, Social Institutions, and Radical Voluntarity :: Guest Post - Matthew Lee Anderson

    Matthew Lee Anderson is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith, blogger at Mere Orthodoxy, and has written for Christianity Today.  I asked Matt to reflect on the church and social media, and the implications each have for one another in a fragmented world.  I have enjoyed reading Matt's blog, will soon be reading and reviewing his book, and hope to continue an online correspondence with him on all matters theological.

    What follows are his reflections.  Enjoy.

    One of the most important challenges of our late modern world is navigating the radical voluntarity that lies beneath most of our social institutions, but which has been exacerbated by the rise of social media.

    I have been writing online for over seven years, which actually makes me feel a bit like a dinosaur.  In the early days, the radical promise of blogging and social media was that horizons would be expanded and new networks would be joined.  But as has been often documented, the promise was a chimera.  The reality is that what the internet has truly given us is balkanization and “tribes,” which are entirely formed through volunteer associations.  Team CoCo or Team Jay, and all that.

    It would be easy to dismiss voluntarity and pine for a return of immobility and a small patch of land with a picket fence.  But the promise of localism needs to be tempered by the perils as well.  The soil is just as fallen as the pavement, and electing to reject the easy, voluntary associations of our late modern world for the involuntary ones of the local community may offer just as false a hope as the social networks did.

    The thing, in fact, is virtue.  And while opportunities for virtue’s development are perhaps most obvious in those random, involuntary moments of life—like happening to walk by a person in need while on the way to work—it’s critical to remember that the opportunity for virtue is not the substance, and that the latter can be cultivated, well, in any context.

    The paradox of voluntarity is no more clear than in our association in the church.  

    Consider the young Reformed movement, for instance, which I am currently a part of.  On the one hand, an outsider (or an insider!) might suggest that the associations are little more than a club or tribe, where a particular set of doctrines provides the touchstone for peoples’ voluntary membership.  But on the other hand, the emphasis on the doctrines that have made the movement unique, namely election and sovereignty, has minimized the voluntariness of the association.  Yes, people might come because they choose to.  But if the Reformed folks are right, that too is a chimera.

    It’s not too much of a surprise, then, that the explosion in Reformed theology has happened hand-in-hand with the rise of what I might call the voluntary culture.  Because when it’s all been written, voluntary associations of an arbitrary sort simply do not provide the stability and depth that we need for human flourishing.  For that, we must look elsewhere, to God Himself, which is the first movement of the church and the fountainhead of virtue.