i rather like this which i spotted on james henley's blog though i have no idea of the original source...
i rather like this which i spotted on james henley's blog though i have no idea of the original source...
i took part in a conference in austin in the run up to sxsw interactive exploring mobilefaith - how faith and practice can be animated, supported and enlivened with mobile technologies. it's a great question and always interesting to see how new media change a lot more than we initially expect. the highlight of the day ended up being texan bbq at rudy's after it was all over to unpack all the talks and talk about these changes more. we ended up discussing education, politics and religion in the new environment for quite some time!
i was last on and felt people had been sitting for a very long time but if anyone was there (or not) and is interested in the slides they are on slideshare here. i used some of the ideas i explored a while back in digimission if anyone remembers that. it was great to bump into paul soupiset again. he was sketchbooking notes which are simple but delightful.
there were a few good lines thrown out in the day - one of my favourites was that the bible should be thought of not as a piece of content but a piece of community...
if anyone wanted the piece i read on the network of christ it is here. it was actually part of a series where i was reflecting on clay shirky's brilliant book here comes everybody - see also posts on sharing and collaboration , i participate therefore i am and its a small world
to conclude the day i wrote a final piece of liturgy that went like this...
god of connection
your presence is always on
god of relations
to you we belong
god of community
you have called us friends
god of participation
your possibility never ends
send us out in the power of your spirit
on an adventure of the imagination
to join in where you already are
in the name of the Open Source
i am heading over to austin for a week duing SXSW which should be fun. i am there from march 5 to 11. bob carlton is organising the trip and what's happening. it includes
march 6 dreamers who do - a gathering with emerging church type people
march 8 mobile.faith - an event exploring how faith and practice can be enlivened with mobile technologies
march 10 - pause@sxsw practices for digital sabbath
i was also very pleased to see radiohead on the schedule when it came through!!!
pete ward has a new book out on celebrity culture - gods behaving badly. he's had this fermenting for a few years now so it's great it's finished. i made a comment that has been put on the back of the uk edition of the book. it's a fairly long comment so i'll repost that here...
Whilst many people might dismiss the culture's obsession with celebrity as trivial or trashy, Pete Ward typically dives in and gets under the skin of the ubiquitous presence of celebrities in our culture. Uniquely and creatively wearing the lenses of both cultural studies and theology he suggests that the conversation about celebrity is at its heart a conversation about the possible self - who am I and who do I aspire to be? Madonna, Paris Hilton, Tiger Woods, Princess Di and Michael Jackson turn out not to (just) be trashy but to be an arena in which contested notions of what it means to be human are being negotiated. Ward suggests that theological language and themes are at play in the conversation but transcendence has collapsed into the self - a sure sign that notions of the sacred are shifting. This kind of reflecting on and listening in depth to the flow of meanings in popular culture is wonderfully refreshing.
one of the ideas i like a lot in the book is what pete calls the para-religious. by that he means that while religious language and imagery and myth is at play in popular culture it's not really religion as we know it but is a kind of religion, often ambiguous and where the transcendent seems to have pretty much collapsed.
pete ward gives a preview of his thinking on celebrity as a kind of religion - book to follow in the new year. the mission challenge he suggests isn't so much to read off christian doctrine but to engage with how meaning is created and flows in popular culture.
jason clark sent me an e-mail to say he is hosting a day on social media in september covering these four things -
that if you have a wii plugged into a television (as we do) you can use it to watch bbc iplayer? i'm sure you did know but in case there is anyone as slow on the uptake as me i thought i'd mention it...
anyone watch the tv debate last night? i confess i was catching up on desperate housewives but felt so shallow for doing so that i stopped and watched it!!! - clegg, brown, cameron came out a definite 1,2,3 on that performance for me
the spiritually astute business leader's guide to what's hot in 2010 makes for a good read
apparently UniTasking is in and MultiTasking out -
The onslaught of mobile technologies and social media addiction is sucking up our attention in the virtual world while we are attempting to do other things in real life at the same time, and it is getting a little out of hand.
Trust is in and Paranoia and Arrogance out
Embedded Generosity in and Embedded Hoarding out
Online Community Building in and Online Personal Brand Building out
Collaborative in and Competitive out
Gen Y leaders in Boomer Leaders out
Being in and Doing out...
[ht: bob carlton]
tim snyder who i met in 08 in austin is staying at the moment, visiting a few communities and coming to resource this weekend. along with paul soupiset and makeesha fisher (and a bundle of others no doubt) they have pulled off creating a new magazine - generate. this may be old news but i have only just seen a copy so forgive me... it's full colour all the way through. the design is brilliant, it's a great size and it's printed on the most eco friendly paper you can get. it has a mix of culture, arts, articles, reviews, even a bit of liturgy and poetry thrown in. there are very few celebrities - it holds up artists and communities and small voices. i really like it - congrats to the team who have pulled it off who produce it totally as volunteers. it's mainly funded through advertising and then of course subscriptions. in these times doing a magazine is foolish! it's expensive, you have to post it to people, will they buy?- but against the odds foolishness has paid off. i think initially there will be a couple of issues a year. you can see sample pages here at the brilliant issu.com
so we were talking about this in the pub - tim, steve, adam and i - and reflecting how magazines have a different edge to books. they often connect with movements. they are cheaper. they are somehow more transient, catching a moment. they can hold a range of perspectives together even opposing opinions, you can dip in and out, you can like some pieces or writers and ignore others, they can hang around on the kitchen table for anyone to pick up. that's not to say that books aren't good. i'm a big fan too - but the genre is different.
i think generate captures the spirit of the emergent conversation as well as anything i have seen come out of the US in recent years. it has a different tone. there's lots of speculation about the movement out there in the blogosphere at the moment - is it dead, is it maturing, is it just beginning?... but this is evidence that there's plenty of energy and good and creative people around honestly working out what it means to follow christ in these times.
the strapline for the magazine or at least this month's is an artifact of the emergence conversation. this led us to an interesting discussion on the difference between artifact and artefact - turns out they both are alternative spellings of something made or given shape by humans. but steve pointed out that artifact is also a term for a glitch in digital media such as a jpg image. this is a wonderful unintentional double meaning in the strapline - see this article for examples of design accidents as sources of inspiration. now there's a feature for a future issue!
go and subscribe to this artifact.
well before heading back into work today, just a quick moment to reflect on the best of 09 in no particular order...
exhibition - richard avedon in new york at the international center of photography - i had no idea i would like a fashion photography exhibition so much. also really enjoyed richard long...
television - the wire series 1-5 (yes i know i came to the party late)
gig - i saw jon hopkins three times so he wins (check his latest ep btw), also loved dubb, foy vance, soweto gospel choir and cinematic orchestra gigs this year
album - the xx and i know a lot of people who share this opinion, dubh a close second
festival - i made it to four but slot in poland gets the nod (edinburgh, big chill and greenbelt were the others)
grace - loved the table
sporting moment - chelsea FA cup winners and mark cavendish in the tour de france a close second
inspiring new person i have met - steve bevans - the man is wonderful
magazine - geez
photo i have taken - mmm not sure maybe over the wall
work moment - being in church house and being asked by the powers that be to do something radical and dangerous (hoping they haven't changed their mind since!)
harry moment - releasing his first album
jen moment - sharing a weekend in new york
joel moment - don't take this the wrong way this wasn't an easy moment but it was exciting to see joel moving out of home
achievements - i have finished the manuscript for the curating worship book (sent off on 31 dec - yay! hopefully out by greenbelt). it's probably not the most significant but is in my mind because it's recent!
blog moment - redesigning the blog and following obama's lead to reinvent my digital self
new web experience - spotify
as i'm a fairly visual person some of it only makes sense with the presentation so a pdf of that is here... (thought you mac users would like this slide!)
I have done a series of three posts so far in relation to Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody.
I have also taught on small world and networks for our CMS team and this has catalysed a lot of reaction and discussion which has been great. In the comments on the last post small worlds there is a brief discussion around what this means in relation to the catholicity of the church - or put another way the need to be connected in to the wider church. So this part four isn't directly in relation to the book but is sparked off this series. In respsonse to Ben and Steve's comments I have had a go at an improvised reworking of 1 Corinthians 12:12-end - the Network of Christ.
Just as a network, though one, has many small worlds, but all its parts interconnect, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit and given a portal into the wider network of Christ - whether Orthodox, Emerging, Missional, New Monastic, Catholic, Anglican, Post-denomnational, Pentecostal, Baptist, Ana-baptist etc or any blend of the above the Spirit flows through our networks. So the network of Christ is not made up of one small world but of many interconnected small worlds and hubs.
If the Australian missional communities should say 'because I am not focused on worship I don't connect into the wider network' it would not cease to be part of the global network of Christ. And if the French Catholic church should say 'because I can't feasibly imagine homogeneous missional church planting I don't belong to the wider network it wouldn't cease to be part of the global network of Christ either. If the whole network lived in the small world of Alternative Worship where would the growth of African churches be? If the whole network lived in the Anglican small world where would the prophetic passion for justice of the anabaptists be? But in fact in the network of Christ God has catalysed and flows in lots of small worlds just as God wills. And the network is such that the Spirit creates an environment where She flows and small worlds emerge as the Spirit beckons the network into the future.
If there were just one small world with no external connectors where would the network be? The redemptive gifts that the Spirit has distributed throughout the wider network of Christ would not flow. They would remain static. So don't let the small world of which you are a part ever say 'I don't need you' to another small world and don't despise the gift of external connection. To be in Christ is to connect to Christ and to participate in the Network of Christ where the Spirit flows. And be careful that you don't just notice the hubs that seem important or powerful or branded and neglect the weaker or less connected small worlds. God flows in these parts, distributes gifts there and has a special love for them. And the small world in which you mostly participate is most likely to be energisd by connection to other small worlds which are the most different to you so don't be tempted to just connect to others who seem like you.
You are the network of Christ and each one of you is connected and participates. And the Spirit flows in and through you and has distributed different kinds of gifts and roles - pioneers, catalysts, networkers, artists, mission leaders, loyal radicals, local practitioners, environmentalists, guardians of flow. Are all external connectors? Are all local practitioners? But eagerly desire the greater gifts to flow throughout the network of Christ.
i was chatting with a friend (who shall remain nameless) in the pub the other night and he shared with me his excitement of discovering that he can connect to elvis presley in 5 steps - or 6 degrees of separation as it has become known! that is to say he can show a relational connection from him to someone to someone else and so on until he connects to elvis in five steps/6 connections. this phenomena often takes people by surprise. how can it be possible that there is that level of connectivity? welcome to small world theory...
i was first introduced to this by steve collins who gave a presentation on networks at a network gathering of uk mission leaders a couple of years back - the presentation from it is worth a look. clay shirky devotes a chapter to it in his book here comes everybody. this is the third blog reflection on the book. if you haven't followed along then parts 1 and 2 are here
so what's the big (or small) deal? if you are in a small group of friends everyone connects to everyone else pretty easily but it doesn't take long before that suddenly requires a huge number of connections for everyone to connect to everyone else. so what actually happens in practice is that people connect to a relatively small number of people (their small world). but as long as that small group has one or two people who also connect to people in the wider network in another small group, it's only one step removed to reach anyone else in the network through the connector. this is how most networks work - a mix of dense and sparse connections rather than everyone linked to everyone. these people who focus externally are connectors. most people are quite happy existing in a small world but connectors often hold an astonishing level of connectivity across small worlds. six degrees of separation works because these people create huge short cuts and it's often these connectors that people start thinking about unconsciously when looking for that connection in a conversation to establish common ground.
i tried drawing a network but it looked terrible so i won't inflict it on you. but imagine a group of five small groups - grace in london, sanctuary in birmingham, hold this space in melbourne, sanctus1 in manchester and safespace in telford. now there is no way that everyone in each of those groups will connect to everyone else in the other groups and why would they? i have picked five groups that i connect between but i am not the only connector. but because of the connectors the insights/gifts flow round the whole network just as well or have the potential to do so. so insights about new monasticism and setting sail in mission from safespace, wisdom around engaging in islamic contexts from sanctuary, alt worship approach in prisons and creative liturgy writing from hold this space, mission at mind body spirit festivals from sanctus 1, worship ideas and leadership without anyone paid from grace etc etc can all flow. and this really is a microcosm - if we really mapped the connections in the emerging church and alt worship network and started adding all the creative connections it would be unbelievable to think what gifts and connections there are. and if i now think about connectors i relate to outside that it blows my mind - my friend yemi is an unbelievable connector into the majority black churches, i was with matt who is mr connector in france etc etc etc...
the obvious rider to this is that some groups don't necessarily have natural external connectors and i know groups who think external conections are a waste of time altogether. but the benefit you'll gain by encouraging someone(s) to focus externally will be huge so it's worth thinking about, even though most people remain locally focused. shirky calls these two types of relating bonding and bridging capital. how much of each do the key small worlds you are in have? is it a good balance? this of course applies to the photography group/world i am in or any other kind of social group...
one of the interesting sections in clay shirky's chapter is a story of a firm that had new management and a piece of research was done to see which managers came up with the most creative solutions. the discovery was that those that were least locked into their own department brought the most creativity i.e. lots of their connections were external. as he put it bridging capital puts people at greater risk of having good ideas. in any network there is a balance to be had. the temptation is to want to keep it tight - i.e. relate to people with similar passions/interests etc as you share concerns, struggles etc. but the network will stifle if it is too tight - it needs random elements and connections that are totally different to bring a creative edge. how you strike that balance i have no idea but for some people i think it's counter intuitive.
this all got me thinking about the amazing network that cms is - a global mission network of small worlds and connectors. part of the thinking around the importance of the other in cms is that we only really know who jesus is as we see christ's many faces, theological takes, and gifts round the world wide body/network/multitude of christ. but we need to be intentional about connecting with difference rather than just sameness so there can be an interchange. the tragedy of the network of christ (church) globally at the moment is that we seem to be following the opposite instinct and gathering together with people who mirror our own theological takes!
shirky's book in large part is on the new environment and the effects of new social media tools. in terms of networking i guess it's obvious why we are talking about this. social media tools mean we are relating in small worlds and connectors all the time without even thinking about it. and the scale of networking response/influence can be on a huge scale when things start to flow.
this theory about small worlds obviously relates to why i think margaret wheatley's process - name * connect * nourish * illuminate - (which i blogged about a couple of days ago) is so significant because when people connect and those connections are nourished gifts flow and the world can be changed for the better. and the great thing about it is that none of us can really control it and we are all severely limited in our relational capacity (or monkey sphere as it's known in the theory!) so we only ever see a part of the whole - we can simply participate and get in the flow as it were...
[ no 2 in a series of posts reflecting on here comes everybody - for no 1 see here comes everybody 1: sharing, co-operation and collective action ]
i participate therefore i am
this isn't actually a quote from clay shirky's book here comes everybody. it comes from john taylor's discerning of the worldview in african primal religion in his amazing book the primal vision. but it has stuck with me and i finally get to bring it out...
participation is one of the big themes of the new cultural environment that we are in and i find it an exciting and hopeful one. in the world that is passing identity has been constructed around taste and consumption, what we are into. we often connect with people of similar taste and make snap judgements on the basis of the stuff people are into - i consume therefore i am. we may hate it but it happens all the time. i'm not suggesting this is entirely going away but in the world of new media passive consumption is not what it is about. if it was youtube wouldn't exist or it would just have a few slick hollywood promos and independent short films. all youtube did was to create a space for self publishing and creative production, sharing and interaction. most of the movies on there are pretty poor quality but it turns out people love to be able to produce and share and interact with friends. they just didn't have the tools so cheaply and freely available (all you need now to publish a movie is a phone). the interaction is often only with a small group of friends (see my next post on this - small worlds) but that interaction with a small group is in itself a participative environment. one of the examples i can think of how we used youtube was to publish a movie of joel's friends wishing him happy birthday for his eighteenth. the point of that movie was that it was fun and a surprise but it is about particpating in creating, sharing and interacting in a small community of friends and family. it's been viewed 150 times or something...
i've heard and quoted the adage about web 2.0 that 'content is king' - i.e. because there is so much stuff being put out there actually good stuff rises to the surface so if you have good content that is key. but shirky quotes cory doctorow who says
conversation is king, content is just something to talk about
both are true but this one shifts the emphasis to much more relational as opposed to the new media being an environment to simply publish good content (though i still think good content does rise to the surface).
this is a bit geeky but hang in there as i think it's very insightful. with the availability of the tools for contribution you might expect a huge increase in equality of particpation. but shirky says you'd be wrong. research into participation shows that almost across every type of participation there is a huge imbalance. if you were to plot this as a graph it would come out as a power law distribution. he gives an example of photography shared on flickr of an event - the coney island mermaid parade. rather than an even number of photos from contributors there are one or two very high contributors, a few a bit lower down but by far and away the largest contribution is one photograph. in fact this is the mode (the most frequent way of contributing). this graph is in the book.
this probably isn't a huge surprise. but there are a few things about it that are interesting. one is that we assume that equality would be much more ideal but actually the imbalance drives things well. if there were only a few high participators it would be much weaker. those contributions of one photo, or one change to a word on wikipedia make so much difference when added together. the second is that we shouldn't underestimate the feeling or importance of participation by the lower participants. they are part of the network/community of relationships without having to do loads.
i was looking at asbojesus the other day which is hugely popular and has a community that participate in and around it - there are 30 or more comments on most posts. but if you look at the comments over a period of time there are a few very high contributors - carole, dennis, rob, jon, becky for example. i think i have contributed once but i feel connected and there are plenty of others like me who enjoy and participate at a low level. but it clearly has this power law distribution going on.
in grace one of our values/ethos words is participation. we really want participation to be part of the air we breathe. but i recognise the same thing in practice. we don't have equality of participation and never will. i recognise i am one of the high end contributors but then there is a whole range and plenty who join a group to plan worship occasionally and some who just participate by showing up a few times a year. our challenge is always to encourage involvement - it helps belonging apart from anything else. but this power law distribution has helped me see that actually a spread of participation is fine, it works. and don't underestimate the importance of it for those who only participate at a low level.
so what? the challenge of the new environment isn't just about the new social media tools and making the most of them (though that is of course a good thing to explore). but the wider change is actually about how the new environment is remaking us or our instincts. and i think there is a wider cultural shift towards sharing and co-operation and interaction - participation. this is great news for churches and christian communities - it sounds like a description of church as an organic relational body. somehow many churches have got stuck in a provider/client relationship between leader/congregation, expert/dumb disciples, priest/laity preacher/passive listener. it's a very dependent world. this new environment affords the possibility of recovering something that has been lost. it is also a resurgent theological theme at the moment - participation in god - in whom i participate therefore i am!
when we change the way we communicate we change society
so says clay shirky in here comes everybody:the power of organising without organisations. it's an absolute gem of a book (and the uk cover is so much better than the usa cover!!), the best of its kind i have read since the spider and the starfish. shirky looks at social media and the new technologies not for their own sake but for their effects. he is blogging about the themes in the book here. the quote above is really a rehearsal of marshall macluhan's theme that changing technologies creates a new environment. rather than do one large review i want to pick up some of his themes in a series of posts. we'll see how it goes depending on how busy my september continues to be. it may be a short series!
a phrase that i've used before and has been used in relation to the smart tools of web 2.0 is an architecture of particpation. the current technologies enable free and ready particpation of distributed groups of people with a whole variety of skills. in times gone by those people existed but getting them together to work on something was a feat in itself that required pretty high organisation and motivation. there were lots of institutuons and organisations who played that role. now it's so simple that everything has changed, and things can get done without the need for organisations (or at least organisations as they have been known). shirky kicks off with a disarmingly simple threefold process.
sharing - co-operation - collective action
sharing creates the fewest demands and you can see it happening via flickr (photos), digg (stories), blogs and the number of small niche communities with common interest or concern. co-operation requires a bit more co-ordination especially if there is to be some collaborative production involving decision making. something like wikipedia manages this sort of participation really well. then collective action is definitely a harder step. it needs a strong enough shared vision which binds a group together and people will put effort in for. shirky says this is much more rare.
perhaps an example will help. i was thinking about the truth isn't sexy campaign and have written something about it recently thinking about how networks work (it will be in the next CMS magazine Yes). this is a short version... it began with an idea (or a rage against injustice more like). a friend of mine si had a concern about sex trafficking following visits to bars where girls were visibly being picked up. the first phase of the process was sharing. chatting with a few friends he got connected with a few other people who were involved in care for sex workers or political campaigning. a few e-mails, google searches and coffees later, he begin to build up a picture of the scene and the various economic, immigration, political and cultural factors at play. crucially he also connected with some others - the second phase collaboration - who caught the vision for doing something and a small team was formed with aimie & shannon picking up the baton. the team quickly found themselves part of an informal network of brilliant people working on their own projects but also collaborating together. an idea began to form – no-one seemed to be working at the customer demand end of things, with men who pay for sex. via a few networked connections, a design agency got involved and a beer mat and poster campaign was born called The Truth Isn’t Sexy - the third phase collective action. 200,000 beermats have been distributed in city centre pubs and NUS bars along with other events and media and cross party MP’s have praised the truth isn’t sexy in the house of commons with the minister in charge of this area now publicly stating the importance of addressing demand - the main political objective. the group are going to self publish an activist's handbook for others wanting to take collective action on something...
the campaign cost virtually nothing apart from printing costs. It wasn’t spearheaded by an organisation. volunteers made it happen as networks of people shared the idea, co-operated and joined in collective action. this network of people is not a club you can join – it was much more organic and invisible. It wasn’t something that was led – at least not in any traditional sense – though the people involved had a high level of skill at getting people connected and participating. the technological tools that are available in the world of digital media, all free if you have a computer – e-mail, web sites, blogs, social networking sites and so on - were absolutely crucial to the process. this process is so simple that you can miss it! It’s particularly easy to miss if you are looking for success with an organisational or old paradigm pair of glasses - measurable outcomes in organisational strategy achieved by professionals supported by systems of hierarchy and control.
since reflecting on this i am seeing this process in all sorts of places. the new social tools enable 'ridiculously easy group forming', groups that can share, co-operate and do things. what are you waiting for?
the other side of this that interests me is what role organisations or institutions can or do play in this new world. this week i have spoken or taken worshops at two diocesan conferences (bath and wells and exeter - hi if you are reading from those) and am taking a weekend this weekend coming for winchester diocese ordinands. what does it mean for the church and for leadership? this is a question i have asked before. maybe the new environment affords a recovery of the notion of the body of christ and of leaders as those who can catalyse small group activity that transforms, create environments in which that happens and facilitate an architecture of participation and gift sharing? i probably sound like a stuck record on that theme - sorry if that's the case! nic posted a comment around church as assemblage on one of my recent posts - i have yet to read what that means but the story above is certainly assemblage of a kind. this is all a huge imaginative shift for what it might mean to lead. but the new environment might be closer to the values of the kingdom of god than we might have first imagined?...
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