It is clear in several conversations (online and offline) that mobile ministry is one part understood for its potential, and another part misunderstood at how mobile can best be applied in ministry contexts. I think that this opens a can of beans by stating it like this, but its better that its just stated now since mobile ministry is still at its infant stages.
(Refined*) Definition of Mobile
Communication and computational events facilitated through the use of handheld devices which expand personal contexts to mediated and shared life experiences.
(Refined*) Definition of Mobile Ministry
The use of, and application of devices, services, and experiences classified as mobile to experience the fullness of religious faith traditions.
*Both of these refined definitions were taken from our GCIA 2011 Presentation Deck; you can refer to our other discussions on the definition of mobile ministry by using the tag reference to our articles on this subject.
There are a few pieces to note within this definition key to my position on this. First, mobile isn’t about having a certain kind of mobile device. Mobile devices are considered to be any computing device that is portable. That means laptops, tablets, PDAs, phones, music players, personal media players, gaming systems, and even calculators are mobile computers. What you do with them doesn’t yet drive the definition, these are all devices which process several types of input and output another type of data without physical tethering by either the user or the computing device.
Next, there are three parts of mobile which aren’t exclusive to mobile, but do drive the understanding towards how to proceed forward. Mobile is made up of three layers: devices, services, and experiences. Devices include all of those which I described in the paragraph above. However, when you hear “mobile devices” in marketing and similar communications, it is implied that you are speaking of computing devices that have screens between 5in and 2in in diameter. This doesn’t mean that other devices aren’t mobile, only that the marketing term for mobile has been constrained to this type of device form factor only.
Portable devices without a screen that also facilitate computing-style interactions are also mobile computers, but again, marketing or functionality determines their name, and therefore their perception. This includes how we think about portable computing devices for those with disabilities.
After the idea of devices, we have services. Services include those applications, wireless networks, applications (and their frameworks and development tools), and those tools of analysis and monetization that enable the devices to perform/facilitate communications or describe/analyze events. On this layer you have the fun of mobile platforms, cellular frequencies, developer tools, regional idiosyncrasies towards using a device (SIM, no SIM, MVNOs, etc.), SMS, etc. It is in this layer that much of what has happened to date in terms of the application of mobiles in ministry has taken place.
Lastly, you have experiences. Experiences include “soft” aspects of mobile including design, marketing, intended effects (education, salvation, discipleship, etc.), and the environments effected by mobile (politics, psychology, theology, etc.). The experience of any mobile device, for example, how hard is it to call up a verse in the Bible when listening to a preacher, overall determines how we judge the device and service layers of mobile as an entire experience.
One of the many difficulties that organizations (not just in terms of digital faith) are having with mobile is that they are letting the device layer direct the application of mobile to their intended audiences. Unfortunately, when that happens, especially when you take smartphones out of the equation, is that the development of consistent experiences and integration of services becomes very difficult. Engaging any mobile audience requires a clear understanding of how these three layers are going to be effected, and decisions need to be made very early in the process as to what layer you will most focus on, and how you will craft your expectations around that layer.
This continues in Part 2 next week.