Theological Community, EcoTheology, The Church, The World, The Blogosphere

The effects of Micro-blogging

June 29, 2013 By: Theoblogical Category: Wordpress

I’ve long been critical of how the rise of the micro-blogging (starting with the most micro of all, Twitter, and the slightly longer form Google + and Facebook, and the services like Tumblr, where I tend to go to make longer-than-Twitter comments on things that elicit a response from me that I read online.

Last night (or early this morning, around 2am, I upgraded my WordPress install to 3.5.2, and noticed it had been months since I posted anything as a blog post. I STILL don’t like that. I saw a WordPress plugin that makes a blog post from Google + Posts. I am pondering doing that. I am also investigating Google Plus Comments, if I can get it to nicely play with Disqus and WordPress comments. I want to keep my WordPress local storage of all comments in line, and Facebook comments I will NEVER deploy if all the comments stay in Facebook. NEVER. That’s the SILO that I detest. Google has export features for ALL of my data, just like the RSS export I did before the discontinuation of Google Reader.

As I move into the ramping up of my work with (I’ve been working as the Social Media person there on a part time basis since September, and now that I’m pretty much done for now with my UMCom project that I’ve been doing full time for the past 2 months, it’s time to ramp up to full timw with Sciddy. Part of my upgrade and efforts to add some additional Social power to my comments is also relevant to my task of getting Sciddy more visibility.

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“Discarded intellectual” part 2 “Theologians of Networked Community” #WiredChurch

September 05, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

Another “Discarded intellectual” group that is sorely needed by the church,  is the “theologian of network technology”.  It is kept from playing a significant  role largely because the church organizations have followed the market tendencies in technology to the exclusion of sound theological discernment about how to let the “Social” actually BE social.  It has much to do with theological study and defining who we are in a way that makes the network such a potentially powerful tool for enabling the church to significantly extend itself into some powerfully creative spiritual habitat.

The “new toy” syndrome has stricken the church.  The  new social apps and services have been populated by church folks and organizations,  but the  organizations seem to be unable see any possibilities beyond a means to drive people to their website.  That’s where the “content” is, after all.  Twitter can’t hold much in a post,  so it’s for linking and “PR” to get people to where they can READ our content.  It’s right back into using new media to contain old media content.  Yes,  websites are old media now, to the extent that they carry forward a magazine, print-based communication (“Print-based” in that it  is  “the content written by us and published to you”.  It’s still the old top -down, one way flow.)

Twitter (and Facebook,  and  other “expressive” posts/updates like Google Plus)  are facing an audience that “follows” or friends us because people want to hear about events or expeiriences we tend to share about,  or inform their followers/friends (tweeps or peeps) about things that we find interesting or important.   Journalists follow a lot of other journalists and news  people, technologists follow people who write and comment on technology, sports, economics,  etc.

The most interesting people or  organizations I follow are the ones who post about what I find interesting.  These things are most often things OTHER than their own writings, or announcements from  their own organizations.  The Twitter accounts I find moost useful are those which DONT use Twitter or other Social Media platforms for PR and self-promotion,  and instead provide a somewhat steady stream of links to useful and interesting things.  Chris Brogan suggests a rule of thumb for Twitter:  Post 9 things about something NOT you for every thing ABOUT YOU.

As one interested in technology, politics, sports, and theology/church,  I have a wide variety of things about which I can post,  aside from posts about something I may be  doing or seeing,  some place where I am that I feel like revealing,  or some post I just made on my blog.  And I get several followers from groups of people interested in technology, politics, sports, and theology/church.

I tend to  follow  theological tweeters who I have discovered via a link attached to an article they have written (to which I have been directed by another tweeter),  or via a tweet that has been retweeted by someone I follow.  I click into the Tweet stream of the  one retweeted to see if they tweet other things I would find interesting.  I often end  up following people this way.  This tends  to grow the list I follow exponentially,  since the newly followed “RT” others they find interesting,  which often interest me as well.  It is a peer-based recommendation engine.

The PR approach detaches itself from the utility of this approach.  I guess  one could say it’s PEER over PR.  It harnesses one  of the many beneficial fruits of the network.  It is SOCIAL,  not commercial or marketing (except in the  sense of “social marketing”:  an exposure to the “market” of individuals in particular twitter streams.  It’s an exchange of recommendations,  much like what RSS subscription feeds used to be for me.  I even subscribe to RSS feeds of Twitter streams,  and use  them on my blog.

Someone like me,  who has been immersed in this online networking before there was a Web with much to find on it,  who became intrerested in networking technology BECAUSE of the church and my desire to extend myself into a wider net of  people (mostly in order to explore that very subject with the then few people who were also exploring),  is an example of  someone whose seminary training has culminated in an immersion in technology issues in the church,  specifically in that of online community.

It was Howard Rheingold’s 1993 Virtual Community that was the first printed  work which delved deeply into this topic.  Almost 10 years later,  Rheingold published Smart  Mobs,  which again delved into the online community as it has once again shifted due to mobile technology.  This year,  after another ten years,  he  has published Net Smart: How to Thrive  Online,  which delves deeper still into the world of how our brains and emotions and social experience of community is being slowly “evolved” into something that impacts  our very experience of both that space and that community which we seek.

I see virtually NOONE in church organizations paying  any significant attention to these things,  and yet  it seems to me that it SHOULD be a crucial piece to be studied by such ministries as Clinical Pastoral Education,  since  this impacts in a significant way the kind of people and the shifting psyches with which pastoral ministry  is involved.  And ultimately,  all pastors  and people who seek to minister to other church members (and in mission/outreach to those outside  the church),  this is a crucial area in which to gain understanding,  given the ubiquity of our technology ,  which seems will only increase as time goes by.

I should expect to see things like “Psychology of the Networked Mind”  (or the “Sociology or Social Psychology” of such) in the social and mind sciences in the future.  And if there are cautionary notes to be explored,  we who are called to be a community that seeks wholeness for ourselves and our communities would seem to want to explore these things along with all the other social and spiritual issues we explore as a theological community.

Social Media and Movements; Social Media and Churches

June 08, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

The issue of the  role of social media in movements dovetails nicely into a lot of my thinking about “online church”.  I have long said  that there are several avenues INTO Church from online spaces that can and do happen.  But the “virtual space” becomes inhabited by the “physical space” as veterans from the physical spaces and events come back in via virtual spaces.

It  is this way with churches as much as it is with movements such as Occupy.  There is a sense of space and people inhabiting that space that energize the online extensions of that community.  This needs to be considered when we consider the meaning of the online church vs the “meatspace church” or “face to face church” (or as some would put it; “real church”  — a designaiton I don;t really like that much).

Being at occupation + participating in accompanying social media is strong combo,  much more so than exclusively online….the sense of what the movement is like in FTF, electric atmosphere and collaboration comes through to those who have “been there” in the flesh,  when they go online,  in a way that it cannot to those who are coming in the other way— unless they actually end up coming down and participating in the flesh,  and then the online is enhanced in status and experience;  as the recall and association kicks in and flavors the online “aura”.

“A collapse of virtual and Physical spaces”  is a good way to articulate this.  (Max Berger just said that on Net Roots Nation panel entitled “That Won’t Work: What Progressives Can Learn From OWS” )

What many movement organizers and participants will emphasize is that , in addition to “notification” and “meeting info” , online is providing a sense of a mass participation,  and a sense  of  safety in that it becomes a bit less risky (or seems so)  due to the group surrounding us and encouraging us to speak up.  “Safety in numbers”.  But they want us to know that there ARE,  actual people and flyers and media and meetings and conversations in face to face space,  not simply IDs and avatars and clicks.

I am also encouraged by the integration of video into the Social Media-sphere,  re-introducing the element of physical presence (even though only in video),  combining or “restoring” the personality and the stories articulated by their conversation.  With movements,  people are moved by other people, and video and “on the spot” video and even streaming is bringing back some of the lost elements of personal and social communication.

Swimming the Deep(er) End – @HRheingold interviewed by his daughter, a Google employee #NetSmart

May 16, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical, Too Big To Know

I found this video on Howard Rheingold’s Google Plus page,  and found this particular quote interesting:  His daughter asks for a first question:  “Is Google making us stupid?”  He says its a good question for conversation,  and he says:

 “If you believe that our use of Social Media is making us shallow, then why not teach more people how to swim and explore the deep end of the pool”.


Trust Quotes #9: Chris Brogan

June 01, 2010 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

My biggest peeve in perusing the daily, hourly, constant stream of Social Media (Twitter in particular)  is the barrage of self-promotion that most organizations think is “doing Social Media”.  If I weren’t committed to trying to lend my voice and my skills to helping the church understand and utilize Social Media* ,  I would have unfollowed a lot of “church” orgs because they seem to know little else than talking about themselves constantly.  Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents and Social Media 101,  and widely considered to be the number one “Social Media Guru”,  also sounds this theme.  Before him,  10 years ago,  The Cluetrain Manifesto authors told us this,  back in the day when blogs were “the tool” that most defined Social Media.

In all cases, we all believe that beating people over the head with your needs and desires to sell products or services isn’t a successful strategy any longer. We look to build relationship-based selling models, such that we turn audience into community, and we guard our relationship with our community as an asset, every bit as much as we guard our trade secrets.

My personal definition? Be helpful. The way I built my own personal brand was delivering information that others could use to improve their own lot in life. And I promote others at least 12 times as much as I promote my own stuff on various social networks.

via Trust Quotes #9: Chris Brogan.

What’s that?  “.. promote others at least 12 times as much as I promote my own stuff on various social networks” ?

Have your own voice (that was “Cluetrain” terminology).  Marketing speak turns people off.  How do we convince people that our community has something for them?  I think perhaps it has to do with listening to what THEY are talking about.  NOT trying to steer the conversation.  Not trying to SET the content of the conversation.  It has to do with HELPING them find resources that are of apparent interest to THEM.

So take heed,  church organizations.  When 99% of your tweets and Facebook messages are promoting YOUR content,  YOUR events,  and YOUR products,  you come off as blind and deaf to the audience.

(* and whatever name it may take on down the road….”Social Media” has been around for 20 years….it’s just the capabilities of the medium that have evolved.  Computer Mediated Communication, Virtual Community,  Online Community, it all seeks to describe the experience of connecting to people via the network.  The Internet finally connected most of these networks together, and the value of the network experienced explosive growth.)