Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Wolfram Alpha may change the world

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Wolfram Alpha may change the world

By christianpiatt

I came across this site, sent to me by a friend today, and I’m still reeling from the potential is suggests.

Basically, imagine the volume of information contained in Google, but add to that the ability to manipulate and compute / slice up the information any way you can imagine. Their database set is still pretty basic relative to all the info in the world, though it’s already pretty amazing.

Check out the introductory video and see for yourself.

Interested in your thoughts.

Church 2.0: Spider vs Starfish (Part three)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Church 2.0: Spider vs. Starfish – Part three

Originally published on DisciplesWorld’s News Muse blog

 

I’ve been tossing out obscure phrases like “starfish church” and “church 2.0,” more or less to keep people curious, but these actually are legitimate concepts when considering future models for organized religion.

 

After World War II, churches were booming, and we could hardly build or expand the worship halls fast enough to keep up. Married couples generally stayed together for a lifetime, people stayed in the same job and the same home for decades, and there was an inherent trust in institutions to care for of us.

 

Then things changed.

 

Since the sixties, our relationship with institutional structures has changed, and in many ways, has become more suspicious. From government and religion to corporate America and even the institution of marriage, we approach such systems with an increasingly critical eye.

 

Along with this skepticism has come a new sense of resourcefulness too. The post-boomer generations have begun to learn to create a sense of community, belonging and “place” where and when they can, unable to consistently depend on institutions, or even their families of origin, to provide the stable foundation they seek.

 

Enter the Digital Age, which has expanded time, space, communication and community in ways most could not have even imagined before. Though some are suspicious, or even critical, of phenomena such as Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace, etc) tools, they are unquestionably filling a need. With more than 250 million subscribers, MySpace is one of the largest networks in the world.

 

The curious thing about Social Networking tools – also considered to be a part of Web 2.0 – is that they technically offer very little, if anything. Although Facebook offers users some memory space on a giant computer somewhere, and a few handy applications, the content primarily comes from the users. In the end, Facebook creates nothing except for the opportunity for community to happen.

 

Amazon, which is one of the biggest Web 1.0 companies, actually has an inventory of products they sell to consumers. Craigslist, on the other hand, which is a Web 2.0 system, helps to connect people who have things others want, like a giant international classified ad site. They own nothing and sell nothing to consumers, but they create a forum within which billions of dollars worth of goods and services are exchanged every year.

 

Historically, churches have been possessors and purveyors of information, organizing and managing the systems in a top-down structure within which the faithful can acquire what they seek. However, this “Church 1.0” model assumes a general trust in the systems in power, which continues to erode. Our instinct as church is to ratchet down, to tighten the reins as we sense the threat of our own irrelevance.

 

But perhaps it’s not the message we bear that’s no longer relevant, but the way we impart it. Perhaps the institutions that once represented security and authority to the culture now actually hinder our mission more than they help.

 

Perhaps there’s something to this whole Web 2.0 thing that we could learn from.

 

Such systems are not novel. From Apache tribal systems to Facebook and arguably the first-century church, so-called 2.0 systems operate with little or no budget, with little or no paid leadership, and like the early church, cannot be stopped once they catch fire.

 

Before Church was an institution, it was a movement. Its only purpose for existence was to spread the gospel – the good news – with a sense of urgency more powerful than fear of the risks. And like a starfish, the forces bent on dispelling them only caused them to scatter and multiply.

 

That is, and was, the essence of Church 2.0 – the Starfish Church. The model is right there in scripture. The children of the digital age get it, but do we?

Church 2.0: Spider vs Starfish (Part two)

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Originally posted at the DisciplesWorld blog.

Last week, I threw a bit of a teaser out there, with this whole “Spider vs. Starfish” concept. As I’m sure many of you have lost hours of sleep, and perhaps have had a hard time forcing down a decent meal in eager anticipation of the follow-up, I figured it wasn’t fair to keep you waiting any longer.

The whole concept came from a book on business management practices, called The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The model presented here resonates with the idea I’ve had for a while now that church could learn a whole lot from the structure and governance of organizations like twelve-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. After all, they have reached millions with virtually no budget, and they seem immune to economic conditions, flourishing while we institutional churches struggle to keep the doors open.

So what’s the difference?

I might help answer that question with another question; if you cut the head off a spider, what happens? We all know it dies, right? But what if you cut off the arm of a starfish? It just grows another starfish. Where you once had one, there are now two. In trying to stop it, you actually only made it stronger.

So, how many of our churches are more like spiders instead of starfish? I thought so.

Here’s where the advent of recent technology might teach us an awful lot. If Rebecca Woods will indulge me in the future, I’d gladly post some other blogs about using applications like facebook, podcasting and blogging to further our ministries, but for now, let’s consider them a little more systematically.

In particular, consider a phenomenon known as “Web 2.0.” This is much like the so-called “leaderless organizations” that Brafman and Beckstrom are referring to. They are viral in nature, highly adaptable and scalable, and relatively easy to manage because the users generate the content.

I’ll offer a few examples to clarify the differences between a 1.0 – or spider – model and a 2.0 – or starfish – system. Amazon, which has become a behemoth presence for online commerce, would be considered a 1.0 model. They have a product that they sell to customers, pretty much in the traditional model, despite their lack of storefronts. Though they’ve been successful up until now, they are depending on some basic truths about the market. If, for example, the cost of paper or transport fuel went through the roof, it would affect their business model significantly, or if a supplier shut down, they might be stuck.

eBay, on the other hand, is a 2.0, or starfish, model. eBay, as you probably know, doesn’t actually sell anything. All they do is create the framework within which people can conduct business. This means they can be a conduit for everything from sweat socks to automobiles and homes. If the price of gold plummeted and jewelry markets crumbled, people could just sell more baseball cards or used books on eBay.

Another comparison might be looking at the difference between the traditional military structure versus a network like Al Qaida. Though you can throw an entire military into chaos by attacking its senior leadership or supply lines, Al Qaida is hard to stop in one sense because it is a headless beast. You kill or capture current leaders, and a dozen more pop up in their place. The system is so adaptable, it’s hard to stop.

Our churches have been based upon a 1.0 “spider” model for centuries, and so far, it’s worked pretty well. But now, we’re surrounded by starfish like facebook, Craigslist, BitTorrent, MySpace, eBay and the like, and we wonder why it is that we, the institutional church, don’t seem relevant to younger people.

For starters, we not only don’t look familiar: we don’t even look relevant.

People may not be able to put their finger on it, but they know 1.0 versus 2.0 when they see it, especially younger people. There are consequences to being a starfish organization instead of a spider, such as letting go some control over the content exchanged within the system, but there’s great opportunity as well.

In future installments, I’ll discuss a few more ways in which we can employ Church 2.0 methods in or existing congregations, both with technology, and even on our boards and in our Sunday School rooms. But for now, look around you and see if you can start spotting the differences between the spiders and starfish, all around you.

Until next time!

Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation, and Lost: A Search for Meaning, and he is a columnist for various newspapers, magazines and websites on the topics of theology and popular culture. He is the co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com.

My CDs and Podcast, all up now on iTunes

Friday, February 13th, 2009

If you pull up iTunes and search “Piatt,” you can find my podcast and both of my new CDs featured in the top window. Pretty groovy.

The podcast is free, of course, and the CDs…well, they’re worth it in my humble opinion.

Please check it out and share with friends, family and enemies. Gotta get the word out, yo…

Peace,

Christian

Pomegranate Phone says a lot about us

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

If you have not yet heard about the Pomegranate Phone phenomenon, you’ve missed the latest buzz:

http://www.pomegranatephone.com/

The ad reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer talks about
how great bacon, pork chops and ham all are, and when Lisa explains
they’re all from the same animal, Homer rolls his eyes skeptically. “Oh
sure,” he says, “some maaaagical animal, Lisa.”

The Pom, which boasts a HD projector, 50 language real-time voice
translator, on-board coffee maker, electric shaver and, of course, a
harmonica, is said “magical animal.” Problem is, it’s a big, fat,
would-be awesome fake. I knew, as I was watching the phone suck up a
glass of water and spit out piping hot coffee from a modified K-cup
insert, that it was a viral video scam.

But there was this little part of me that cried out, “hey, I want to
be able to shave while speaking Farsi, playing the blues and sipping a
latte! I want it, I want it!”

The very fact that the Pomegranate is even within the realm of
comprehension is phenomenal in itself. I mean, I just picked up a G1
“Google Phone,” which sports a touch screen, full qwerty keyboard, web,
email, camera, and a high-speed connection. I can look up anything in
the universe by voice command on Google and look up any product in the
world and compare prices by snapping a picture of the bar code. I can
have my phone “listen’ to any song being played digitally and it’ll not
only find the album cover, artist, publisher and year released, but
it’ll also link right to Amazon MP3 or iTunes so I can download it to
the on-board MP3 player.

Ten years ago, I was considering my first mobile phone, whether I
really could use it or not. Now, I not only have the G1 wunderkind
phone, but as soon as I saw something better, even though my logical
mind kept reminding me it wasn’t real, I longed for it. I pined, I
coveted.

At the heart of the technology industry is a delicate dance between
wooing you with a seductive dance for the new, while also making you
dissatisfied with it, pretty much as soon as you get it. Thus the cycle
begins again. Though the Pom is laughable now, I’m sure there’s some
geek somewhere that’s watching this viral ad and thinking, “yaknow, if
I tweak my iPhone just so, I bet I could make it brew coffee…

Who says our economy’s in trouble? God bless human innovation, combined with an insatiable desire to consume.

Church 2.0: Spider vs Starfish (Part one)

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Church 2.0: Spider vs. Starfish (Part one)

By christianpiattWritten and posted originally on  NewsMuse, the DisciplesWorld blog.

I’ve been asked a number of times to speak to various churches and other leadership groups about young adults, their relationship to organized religion, and their take on – and use of – technology. Unfortunately, church and technology tend to generally mix about as well as the football team and chess club. Neither the two shall meet, right? Who needs technology to find God, after all?

Sure, a few of us may have put up a screen to show words to our praise songs, and we may have even had a kid from the youth group throw together a website for us…which hasn’t been updated in about forty-seven years or so. As they say in the twelve-step tradition: how’s that working out for you? Folks generally fall into one of two categories. Either they are terrified by technology and want to have nothing to do with it in church at all, or they see it as some sort of silver bullet that, if aimed properly, will magically fill the now-empty pews with young families.

In truth, neither perspective is particularly realistic. For one, technology isn’t going anywhere, so by ignoring it, we risk making our churches even more irrelevant. On the other hand, if we hope that technology – or emergent worship, whatever that is, or a groovy website, or even a podcast – will save us from a fate we’re hoping to avoid, we may be putting way more trust into a handful of tools than they deserve.

Rebecca has invited me to contribute a few pieces to the NewsMuse blog, for which I’m honored and grateful. In future installments, I hope to share some ideas about how technology can be used to complement a vibrant ministry, as well as dispelling some misconceptions about technology, digital media, social networking, emergent worship and so many of these postmodern-emergo-hip buzz phrases we hear so often, yet about which we understand very little. So stay tuned to explore questions with me such as:

What exactly is “Church 2.0?”

Are you a Spider Church or a Starfish Church?

What do young adults really want from organized religion?

What the heck does it mean to be postmodern, and what is emergent worship?

Until next time!

Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation, and Lost: A Search for Meaning, and he is a columnist for various newspapers, magazines and websites on the topics of theology and popular culture. He is the co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com.