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Theological Community, The Church, The World, The Blogosphere
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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.

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.)

Dumb Title: “Blogs Are Out, Social Networking Is In” #wiredchurch #smchurch

February 06, 2010 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

The title of this post sounds a bit clueless to me.  Blogs ARE a sizeable portion of Social Networking.  Blogs existed before just about EVERYTHING that is now thought of as “Social Networking”.  I think it would be more accurate to say that “Blogs are no longer the rage”,  or “Twitter and Facebook” are more popular than Blogs”.  Well, DUH.  But the increase in Blogging among the over 30 crowd seems to me to be a typical and predictable reaction to the “paring down” of what it takes to be “out there” in Social Networking comparative to what it took to come up with blog posts.  The “under 30” crowd seems to gravitate to quick, low output, “quicky” status updates and texting type messages,  while the older “networkers” see their role as curators to their audiences. 

In 2006, about 28 percent of teenage Net users said they blog, while only about 14 percent now say they do. Commenting on blogs is also down, from 76 percent in 2006 to about 52 percent now.

But blogging has remained relatively constant among older users. Pew said its studies in recent years have "consistently found that roughly one in 10 online adults maintain a personal online journal or blog." About 11 percent of Net users age 30 and over maintain a personal blog, compared to seven percent in late 2007.

NewsFactor Network | Blogs Are Out, Social Networking Is In

Blog apps have begun extending themselves outward into the larger Social Networking streams via allowing for logins from other social networking authentication,  and by the growing API features for Twitter, Friendfeed,  etc.   One plugin,  which I could not get to work on my WordPress blog,  claimed to be able to pull in tweets that reference the tweet generated for the blog post,  and link to these in the comments section. 

This is further evidence of the fact that blogs are a part of this ecosystem of Social Networking.  Many of the earliest tweeters immediately found their same group of people to “follow” that they were connecting with via RSS in the heydey of the blogs. Now they find posts and items of interest that are singled out by their other “followed” sources,  instead of having to filter out items in the RSS feeds that don’t particularly interest them. 

So far from being “out” of the “circle of IN” in this scramble to be “with it” re: Social Networking,  blogs are simply adapting,  as are their most active and “social” authors, leveraging the tweet streams as filters to help find the most relevant stuff.  And again,  I think the church needs to focus on this role as curator.  We need systems that bring together the resources that others bring to bear,  and they are out there. 

Be the Priest #smchurch #ChurchSocial @gavoweb

November 12, 2009 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

From Chris Brogan (via @gavoweb),  re: building movements that inspire and instill belonging.  Yet another “DUH” moment for the church,  which simply must be “Listening” to what people are saying and expressing.

Webber and Taylor didn’t launch Fast Company by making a platform that praised them. I didn’t launch PodCamp to be at its core. Instead, these kinds of movements work best when you start with the mindset of empowering others, and building leaders everywhere.

Be the Priest, Build the Church | Trust Agents | Fast Company

The church is NOT listening by using the medium to blast the medium with marketing messages (like “come to our church”)…..the “good news” is not that there is yet “another option” for “doing church” ,   but that there is “a people”  where one can belong and encourages and enables people ti find one another via things about which they are passionate (and here,  we get into the notion of “calling” and “gifts”–both need encouragement, nurture,  and formation)

#YouVersion : a model and a springboard #churchsocial #theoblogical

October 27, 2009 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

This looks like an amazing app.  It does a lot of intelligent social networking stuff.  The Bible part is also interesting.  It makes me wonder how it might also be expanded to venture into other books (via things like Library Thing or similar apps that seek to create communities around book readers.

It’s also interesting that such things arise not from the “established” churches (the “mainliners”)  but from the churches that i describe as “Open Source”—churches that have grown up in masse around the country.  Not all of these churches fir the “mega church” model.  Many of them are QUITE missional.  The Atlanta church “Courageous Church”  moved most of its operation (people)  to the center of the Atlanta flood area , working on various relief efforts.

It doesn’t bother me a great deal that so many users out there might be characterized as “evangelical” or conservative. What bothers me is that such thinking seems more prevalent and unfettered in the “Open Source Church” scenario.  Maybe the “establishment” needs to take some inventory and update its communications efforts.

YouVersion – Blog