Analyzing Mobile After Its Applied

In the previous post, we talked about how innovation needs to be relevant for it to have some kind of initial impact. How about we look at things later? For example, one of the questions that we pose to groups that want to work with MMM is: what else are you expecting to happen after the introduction of ‘X’ to your community?

If you will, is it possible to look far enough down the road towards the application of mobile or web technology to see some of the implications that you just won’t be able to control? For example, a group decides to add mobile technology to improve the ability for people groups to communicate with one another. But, doesn’t see that down the line, it was the use personal communication devices (and no longer sharing a single regional phone line) that caused group conflict, sometimes on a major scale (see the testimonies of the introduction and implications of mobile in the book Where Are You Africa).

Is it right to ask someone/organizations to be cognizant of the effects of mobile that can be so far down the line that its not (technically) controllable? I think so. And I think it comes in how we approach the technology as driver towards some kind of intended outcome.

What is the intended outcome of having a device that takes someone attention to their mobile device for one hour, instead of 5 minutes (the time spent on a game versus checking email)? With heads down that long, are we expecting that they will become less attached to the technology and more attached to reflection? Or, are we expecting that what we are doing is simply replacing an analogy behavior that’s done already? If we had them head down playing our ministry game/watching our movie, they now have a need to charge their device in more places. So there’s a purchase to extra batteries, car chargers, etc. They are using it more often so we now have to add sermons and teachings on fixing one’s attention spans. And the list goes on.

I’m not necessarily of the thought that gadgets are making us stupider or stealing aspects of our humanity, only that we haven’t totally thought through the implications of using this technology. While we can start for ministry (good, serving) needs, the impacts are always further. Being honest with some of the projects and applications we’ve come across, we’ve not done as good a job thinking ahead of use. That’s going to cause some unintended consequences. Some of these we’ll be ok with, but others might cause problems much too large for an application (or Facebook revolution) to solve.

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