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a social media prayer

To close our World & World session last night – looking at the topic of new media and social networks – I prayed the following prayer:

Father God, thank you that you are a God who communicates, a God who has spoken. Thank you for your word, the bible, and for the word made flesh. As we desire to serve you, and communicate you to a world who needs to see you clearly, will you help us to live for you in all of the places you call us to, whether online or offline. Thank you that you are Lord of the Universe, and Lord of the University. Thank you that you are the Lord of facebook, of twitter, of google+, and of all the media that are yet to come. And thank you for this community you have called us to be a part of. Thank you for the many ways we can express that community. We want to pray for those who can’t be with us – that by our use of technology we can even in some small way capture and communicate all that you are saying to us here, and of our sense of partnership with our wider family. Lord we love you, and long for you to be made known amongst the nations, that every knee would bow and confess you as Lord. Help us as we desire to be part of your communications plan, in word, status update, tweet, and deed. For your glory we pray. Amen.

en route to world assembly

As I write this I am on my way to World Assembly.

After many months of planning, it’s finally here. People from across the world started travelling some days ago, and by Tuesday more than 600 people will finally gather in Krakow, Poland.

You can read more about World Assembly in this week’s prayerline email, and there will soon be a live social stream (very excited by this) where you will be able to see blogs, photos, tweets and other online comment, and indeed interact yourself with all that is going on in Poland.

This quadrennial event is the biggest single gathering of IFES: students, staff and supporters from right around the world. Together we will hear stories of God at work through students, and pray together, for one another, and for the University – the place God has called us to serve.

And yet this gathering is just a small representation of the IFES Fellowship around the world, and one of the reasons I am excited by our plans to share as much of what is going on at World Assembly online, and to listen to the wider Fellowship as they interact from a distance. Please pray for the plans that have been put in place to help facilitate this, that they might serve a sense of unity and participation across many thousands of miles.

As well as blogging, tweeting, and sharing photos online, I am also helping to run two ministry forums on the subject of ‘ministry opportunities in a digital age’, and moderating one of the ‘Word and World’ plenary sessions on the subject of ‘new media and social networks’. To date most of my time has been focussed on more of the logistical side of World Assembly, so I’d also appreciate prayers as I pull together my thoughts for these sessions.

Next post from Poland!

from print to digital

The communications team of which I am a part, whilst having digital ambitions that are slowly coming to fruition, still mostly operates on the print philosophy we have inherited over the last 10-20 years. Adapting ourselves for the future is something we’ve already done a fair bit of thinking and talking about, dreaming of future possibilities. In about a month’s time – after World Assembly – we are hoping to have some team planning sessions to consider this in more depth, and plan for the next year or two, within a longer-term vision for the team.

There are some great people already thinking about this from a variety of other perspectives, including Clay Shirky considering the effects of the internet on society, and Jeff Jarvis considering technology and the future of journalism.

The following blog post from Jeff Jarvis, on the article and the future of print, includes some great insights on what it means to be ‘digital first’, and some of the potential pitfalls in planning for change. Here are some excerpts:

But first let’s examine what it means to be digital first. It does not mean just putting one’s stories online before the presses roll. In that case, print still dictates the form and rhythm of news: everything in the process of a newsroom is still aimed at fitting round stories into squared holes on pages. That, as Jay Rosen says, is the key skill newsroom residents think they have (and the skill journalism schools prepare them for): the production cycle of print.

Digital first, aggressively implemented, means that digital drives all decisions: how news is covered, in what form, by whom, and when. It dictates that as soon as a journalist knows something, she is prepared to share it with her public. It means that she may share what she knows before she knows everything (there’s a vestige of the old culture, which held that we could know everything … and by deadline to boot) so she can get help from her public to fill in what she doesn’t know. That resets the journalistic relationship to the community, making the news organization a platform first, enabling a community to share its information and inviting the journalist to add value to that process. It means using the most appropriate media to impart information because we are no longer held captive to only one: text. We now use data, audio, video, graphics, search, applications, and wonders not yet imagined. Digital first is the realization that news happens with or without us — it mimics the architecture of the internet, end-to-end — and we must use all the tools available to add value where we can.

Digital first, from a business perspective, means driving the strategy to a digital future, no longer depending on the print crutch. That means creating a likely smaller and more efficient enterprise that can survive, then prosper post-monopoly, post-scarcity in an abundance-based media economy.

Print last. Note that none of us — no, not even I — is saying print dead. Print, at least for a time, still has a place in serving content and advertising. But let’s re-examine that place even as we re-examine the role of the article, the journalist, and the advertisement in digital.

I wonder how you might like to hear from, and engage with, an organisation like IFES in the new digital era. How you might like to share your own stories and interact with others. Please do share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

the big picture

What does it mean to have vision? What drives you day by day? Why do you do what you do?

I can’t say that, by nature, I’m a visionary. I’ve never really fully understood visionary types, and confess I’ve been known to find them pretty frustrating to work with at times. Always getting excited by the next ten great ideas, which you fail to get as excited about, because it normally means they’ve already lost interest in those other great ideas they’ve already set you to work on before you’ve had chance to fully implement them…

But for all those frustrations, I do enjoy implementing the ideas born of visionaries. I like the interplay of personalities, the need for one another. The visionary needs the implementer. A completer finisher. And I like turning my hand to new and interesting projects. An implementer needs a visionary and her ideas.

And until recently I’ve been happy to simply be guided by the vision of others.

That was until February, and delivering a presentation on Scripture Engagement in a Digital Age. I loved preparing for that presentation, and the interaction of the participants with the material. I started to sense an internal vision forming. Something that excited me and that I wanted to tell more people about. Something I wanted to devote more time to thinking about, and even pursuing opportunities for further study. Something that was going to start driving the way I thought about my job, my role, the wider implications for the team I am a part of, my place in IFES, and in the church.

That vision centres around technology, sociology, culture and faith.

I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the changes to society and culture in response to technological change, and the implications for faith.

I believe we are currently in the process of major change. Change in response to technology, new media and social networks. Technological change in recent decades that is more profound than we have seen in a couple of centuries.

In the same way the agricultural and industrial revolutions shaped the way we live today, I believe the information revolution will shape and redefine the way we live in the coming years. It is changing the way we read, the way we value information, the way we educate. It is changing the way we remember, and the way we organise ourselves.

I’m fascinated by the influence technological advancements in history have had huge sociological and cultural influence. I want to observe the nature of those changes, and look to predict the nature of change we will face in response to today’s technological advancements. Where are the opportunities? Where is the friction and resistance to change? What should we be rightly cautious of?

I’ll admit to being a technology optimist, and am excited by technological change. I’m looking forward to working with our communications team to consider the implications for us as we plan for the future. And I look forward to interacting with you as I use this blog to consider aloud and interact with you, shaping your thoughts and mine.

What excites you most about technological change? What do we stand to gain?
What are you most fearful of with technological change? What do we stand to lose?