John Piper – The distraction of technology

Just to balance the last video I posted about social networking, here is a short but poignant reminder by John Piper about the temptation to distraction that technology can be, with specific reference to the time we spend communing with God in prayer and Bible reading.

Any thoughts?

HT: Chris Elrod


Social Media Revolution

It’s all video today on the blog – here is another interesting one about how social media is changing our lives – as Adrian Warnock commented about it on his blog:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Sometimes a video is worth a whole book.  This is one of those times.  I dare you to watch this video, and not conclude that social media really is a revolution.  As Christians we have to embrace this, aware of its dangers, but becoming experts at using these tools for the glory of God.

Well put.  This is so true!

Watch the video and see what you think.  Is it me, are are the statistics given frightening?

Any thoughts?

Emerging revolution – the church should watch and learn


Kester Brewin has posted an interesting article on his blog today about the part that social media is playing in contemporary revolution – both inside and outside the church:

….change occurs when normal people are given the opportunity to communicate with one another, unmediated by the powers that be. It is irrelevant whether that is Twitter or Facebook or otherwise. What is important is not information dissemination, but shared conversation. Not about ‘this is the news’ but ‘this is where we’re going to meet to make the news.’ Mubarak was toppled because people spoke to one another and decided together that enough was enough. If power-politics is about ‘Divide and Rule’ then social media is the antithesis of this. It is about ‘Unite and Change’ and though these networks themselves did not bring down the government, they facilitated the huge protests and encampments that did.

This, I believe, is how we can see a line joining the revolution in Egypt to the whole emerging church movement: things happen within seemingly dead and immobile institutions when people begin to talk to another and believe that a new way is possible. I don’t believe that it is coincidence that the rise of the internet was paralleled with the rise of the emerging church movement. It wasn’t that the internet made a new way possible, but it did give permission to new forms of connection and communication: people were able to disseminate ideas and discover that they were not the only ones feeling a particular way.

I think this has always been the case, and part of the core code of the gospel is this base-level communication. Jesus didn’t send out edicts or write proclamations. He simply walked around and spoke to people. The message of Pentecost is not about fire-power, but simply this: speak to one another in language you can understand.

I’m optimistic that social media – if it can escape the grip of promoted tweets and constant advertising (which I’m not sure it can) – will continue to be a powerful tool to make powerful structures more accountable. Not because information will be shared, but because people will simply be able to share how they are feeling, and work to act together.

I think he has something here. Revolution is by nature a bottom-up rather than a top-down phenomenom. Real change cannot be forced on someone, it has to come from within them.

In the 1962 film of The Birdman of Alcatraz, Burt Lancaster plays Robert Stroud, a convicted murderer who is in prison for life. The film to some degree focusses on the relationship between Stroud and Harvey Shoemaker, the Warden – played by Karl Malden. After 35 years in prison, Stroud has seen what justice and rehabilitation in the penal system is all about and he writes a book which Shoemaker finds in his cell.

They then have a conversation about what rehabilitation means and Stroud says this:

“I wonder if you even know what rehabilitation means.  The unabridged Webster’s International dictionary says that it comes from the Latin root word ‘habilis’, which means to invest again with dignity.  Do you consider that part of your job, Harvey, to give a man back the dignity that he once had?  Your only interest is in how he behaves.  You want your prisoners to dance out of the gates like puppets on a string with rubber stamp values impressed by you, with your sense of conformity, your sense of behaviour, even your sense of morality and that’s why you’re a failure, Harvey, because once they are on the outside they are lost souls, just going though the motion of living, but underneath there is a deep, deep hatred of what you have done to them.  So the first chance they get to attack society they do it and the result is that more than fifty percent come back to prison”.

Stroud recognised something significant.  Edicts from above can change and condition your behaviour, but they can’t change your heart – make you do, feel and believe what is right and just.

Only a change of heart will impact your worldview – and that has to come from within you.

This is just as true in a secular context as in a church context – and it is this change of heart, when it occurs in a ‘critical mass’ of people, that can start the chain reaction and leads to the ‘tipping point’ of revolution.

To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does”

The problem is that so often revolution takes place as a result of anger, hate and the desire for revenge – and these are not good characteristics on which to found a vision for the future. For reformation to follow revolution then the anger needs to be replaced by a common sense of purpose and shared identity that is inclusive of all – a true sense of ‘communitas’ if you like, the compassion and intimacy that develops amongst people who share an experience of transition and vulnerability.

This is my prayer for Egypt, as well as my prayer for the church – hopefully with social media fuelling the spread of fresh ideas and new ways of thinking.

In the one case, my hope is that it will result in equality, equity and lasting peace for the Middle East, and in the other, lead to revival.

Read Kester Brewin’s full article here.

The revolution will not be tweeted


There was an interesting article by Malcom Gladwell in the New Yorker recently questioning the claim that social media is a contemporary aid to social activism and revolution:

The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns.

But is this the case?  Not according to Gladwell – read his full article here.

HT:  Alan Hirsch

Mind map of the digital age

I saw this mind map by Richard Watson and thought it was interesting:


As discussed on the Fast Company website, the specific things the map seeks to explore include:

Constant connectivity means we are constantly distracted. It’s now difficult to be truly alone. As a result we never get a chance to think deeply about who we are and where we are going. This links to Nicholas Carr’s point in The Shallows that our thinking is becoming hurried, cursory and superficial. Interesting counter-point here. We have never been so connected and yet U.S. research is showing that we have never felt so alone.

24/7 access to everything is creating a culture that values immediacy over and above almost everything else. We can no longer wait for things to happen. Again, this can give rise to a lack of rigour and reflection but it can also cause serious mistakes. I’d predict a single-tasking movement as a reaction against multi-tasking.

Digitalisation is creating too much information and choice. There is now so much to consider that we take shortcuts to knowledge. The result is a convergence of sources, which may reduce creativity and originality. For example, only 1% of Google searches now proceed past the first page of results and academic papers are now referencing fewer citations–not more as you might expect.

Generational shifts. Teens figure there’s no point in learning anything if you can just Google it. Moreover, trends like digital instant gratification and the shift towards interactive media mean that teens no longer have the patience to sit quietly and read. Does this mean that we are breeding a new generation with plenty of quick answers but very few deep questions? What will this mean for innovation?

Virtualisation means that we are removing the physical interactions that both people and ideas require. (i.e. both people and ideas are inherently social). Companies think that they can scatter people all over the world, give them access to a computer and expect something of great value to happen almost instantly but it rarely does. Will we perhaps see a back-sourcing counter-trend within the world of innovation, especially where R&D becomes concentrated in a single physical location rather then being distributed geographically?

Read the full article here.

Breakup via Facebook


A true contemporary cultural phenomenon – the breaking up of relationships via Facebook as reported in Newsweek:

….Ilana Gershon, an assistant professor of communication and culture at Indiana University, began to notice a curious phenomenon among her students. She was teaching a class on linguistic anthropology—the study of how language influences culture—and she tried a new exercise to get her students to think about their shared expectations for behavior. “I asked them what makes a bad breakup,” Gershon says. “I was expecting people to have really dramatic stories, ‘I caught them in bed together,’ something like that.” Instead, they all responded with tales of outrage about the medium rather than the message, complaining that they got the bad news by text or by Facebook rather than in person.

Gershon decided to study how new technology has changed the rules of romance. She interviewed 72 undergrads, 18 men and 54 women, who shared stories of being dumped via texting, voice mail, Facebook, instant messaging, Skype, and even occasionally an actual paper letter. The result is her new book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media. Almost all the people she talked to agreed that the most honorable way to break up was in person, but many turned to new media because the face-to-face conversations didn’t get the results they wanted, Gershon says. “They would be in cycles of breaking up and getting back together, and they finally said, ‘If I do it through another medium, maybe I will finally end this relationship and I won’t be stuck anymore.’”….

….Facebook’s role is unique because it is so public, Gershon says. (In one class, her students compared it to the abstract gaze described by French philosopher Michel Foucault). “Facebook official” has emerged as a new stage in a relationship, Gershon says, but the meaning can differ from one person to the next. Gershon says that some people will claim that a breakup isn’t official until it is Facebook official, while others point out that changes in Facebook status may just be a sign of trouble; in many cases it’s unclear whether the breakup will take.

Read the full article here.

Also – have a look at this article from 2009 in the NY Daily News here.

Photo: Getty