Monthly Archives: March 2012

End of March Resolutions Checkup

2012 calendar from Just CalendarDuring the month of January, we posted six articles which corresponded to five resolutions suitable for those working in and around mobile ministry. We are now wrapping up the third month of 2012, and so how are you doing in terms of these or your personal/organizational resolutions?

Here are the items we posted:

  1. An App is Not A Strategy
  2. Specifically Define Mobile in Education
  3. Get Connected to Tech, Mobile, and Mobile Ministry Events
  4. All Books Project and Mobile UX Standards and Raising the Bar on Mobile UX Standards
  5. Become a Digital Faith Advocate

When Do We Count Success

At what point in any mobile ministry endeavor do we count it as being a success:

…While the comment has faced criticism from those in technology and education circles, it certainly made a splash. OLPC still makes a laptop (the XO 1.75), but the organization now has its eyes firmly set on its new tablet (the XO 3), a solar-powered device that the group describes as “unbreakable and without holes in it.”

But OLPC’s visions have never quite materialized. Negroponte’s “tablets from helicopters” comment was reminiscent of his earlier announcement at the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia, where he proclaimed OLPC would sell a laptop for $100. Then in 2009, OLPC announced that its tablet would also break the $100 barrier, despite the fact that the original laptop project had never reached that price (it still hasn’t; the price remains about $185).

Negroponte originally hoped his organization would sell “tens of millions” of laptops and could get the price low by requiring each country that wanted the machines to buy a minimum of one million, a figure that never panned out…

Read the rest of Ars Technica’s Look at the OLPC Project and Its Influence on EduTech Initiatives

When I’m asking these questions about mobile minisyry – its viability, its potential, its challenges – I am also asking where success is defined. Generally, the ministry answer is that success equals the salvation and maturity of people who align themselves with Jesus Christ. But, I wonder if such aims are going too far, or if they are too broad to be of any impact.

Instead, I wonder if those whom are able to make plans towards that larger end are able to collect the smaller victories in their methods? If they are in fact able to keep that big picture goal in mind, but see whatever they are working on as being a part of something more than just the usual evangelism and colonization approach?

You’ve got challenges and successes; where do you stop and see what’s affirming your goals, and where do you continue to press forward when you don’t see what’s affirming that mission?

Speak Unto That Object: Be Thou Computer

Was speaking with my friend about an post that I’d done on my personal blog at the beginning of the year, and to contextualize things, I used the following Scripture (Mark 11:12-26):

…And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.” And his disciples heard it.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.” And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

When I was a member of a particular church community in PA, they would use this Scripture often as a jumping off point to the power that a believer has to activate their fatih my speaking, believing, and acting. While I’ve got my own quibbles about the doctrines of “word-faith” approaches, I can appreciate the attention to the creative and instigative ability that God Himself used when taking objects that had no form, and after speaking, they became all that we know of as the earth and all that’s wihtin it (Genesis 1).

That article on my personal blog was about a similar approach to computing being taken on by Alvaro Cassinelli and Alexis Zerroug called invoked computing. You can think of this simply as invoking a specific context of computing to an object that might not by its nature have any computing ability. Invoked computing comes from taking the characteristics of a multi-modal, spatial augmented reality, and grafting it into a system which changes objects into (computational) communication devices. Here’s a snippet of their interview at The Guardian:

…In the invoked computing scenario, the object itself works as an “invocation” trigger and supports interactivity. We naturally looked for trigger-objects that are more or less pervasive in the real world, hence food-related items (the banana and pizza box). As triggers, they operate in ways similar to icons in a computer operating system: these are not the applications themselves, but keys to open them, to invoke them. On the other hand, real physical objects become the support for the interaction, provide surfaces on which to project images or sound.

So, in effect, you’re turning everyday objects into touchscreens?

Not exactly. The invoked computing project proposes systems to project “function” on real objects, but without making the interactive space resemble a screen with icons. Indeed, we are not trying to project icons or conventional representations of computer applications into the real world that when touched will launch a particular computing routine. Instead, affordances in the physical world itself should suggest and trigger function – even new, improvised functions….

Read the rest of You Really Can Use A Banana As A Telephone at The Guardian

This idea of invoked computing goes a good bit beyond mobile, and even further than simply “a computer for everyone and everyone with the ability to access whatever a computer terminal offers.” Inovked computing is about literally speaking and utilizing the activity of computers (linking, computation, creation, and communication) on objects which would not be normally associated with computing.

We can see this in part today with some of the USB items that you’d catch in a swag bag (USB bracelets that also tell time, or a rock that’s also a memory key). This goes a good bit further though. Invoked computing asks us to consider a reality where what we need from a computer is as close as what we speak out of our mouth. With such a reality, would we speak life and death as Jesus did with the fig tree, or would we move a mountain out of the way of someone else’s life so that they could see the path they were intended to travel a bit clearer?

What we do in mobile with Siri, Google Voice Commands, Vriingo, and such is going down this road. What kind of faith are we teaching people to have for their lives when more than just a question can be answered or a text sent is the result? What happens when we provoke a different kind of reallity into objects than what was originally designed?

~ video via Wired Magazine and DigiInfo.TV

4sq and Pastorial Leadership

foursquare buttonsOver at the Faith and Leadership blog, Tom Arthur talks a bit about foursquare and pastorial leadership:

…So what does foursquare have to do with pastoral leadership? Good question. I really wasn’t sure until I started. I began using foursquare because of a commitment I made to get out of the office and work more in the community. I now only spend about one day in the office each week. The rest of the time I’m hanging out in coffee houses, restaurants, on Michigan State University’s campus, or in the local library (did I mention I’m mayor of the library?). I’m doing this because I don’t read much in the Gospels about Jesus hanging out in the office. But living out this commitment brought on a particular problem: how do people know where I am if I’m rarely in the office and if they want to stop in and talk? My first thought was to simply post this info to facebook as a status update. But then I found foursquare which does the whole thing in a lot smoother package…

Makes for an interesting question, and something once brought up before in conversations online and offline with many of you whom are pastors – how can mobile make you available, if your location changes often? I’m not a pastor, but I am quite mobile. And it is through the use of URLs and social networks that I maintain a sense of being findable, while also present within the communities I frequent. Can the same expectatation be laid at the feet of pastorial staff (or even their admins and support staffs)?

Now, in the article linked, Arthur does mention that it was noticed that Jesus didn’t have an office (though, if we pay attention to the travels and stopping points, we can get a clue as to his movements and what was and wasn’t able to be easily tracked by others who might have need of him). Is it possible, or right, to assume that a pastor today can or should follow the same model of being present in their communities, but not by means of an address that remains? 4sq would be a means of seeing where your pastor has been – not necessarly that they’ve been an effective minister in those spaces. Then, there’s also the point of tracking the motions of a pastor – how far is too far, or should that even be addressed?

Impacts of Computation on Faith (via 5 Points from RWW)

headshot of Stephen Wolfram from SXSWthis article from ReadWriteWeb (RWW) in which the author talks about five lessons for the future that he learned from a Stephen Wolfram talk at SXSW (Computation and its Impacts on the Future). I see these lessons not just as fruitful for the author, or even just technologists, but as brokers towards perspectives and conversations that faith communities should be having within themselves, and engaging towards their surrounding communities with.

Here are the five lessons spoken about in the RWW piece:

  1. Nature is a Computer
  2. Programming is Easy
  3. Data [is] Good for Our Health
  4. Computers Belong in the Classroom
  5. Humans Still Matter

Now, these have a different framing within the RWW article, but I do see where they intersect here quite easily. Follow me if you will:

Nature is a Computer
When we look at Genesis 1 and Genesis 8, we can see that God designed this world to function within prescribed boundaries, with little direct management needed by Him. In fact, he designed it to be maintained by us – you could almost say that we are small batch programns within this world designed to carry out tasks to keep things rolling. And like any good System Admin, if the batch programs get out of hand, then the Admin needs to go in and flush the system. Thankfully, it wasn’t a complete reimage (at least not at that point) to all of creation. God did a backup, and then setup his desktop back to the way he could appreciate the goodness of what works.

Programming Is Easy
I’d be the first to tell you that it isn’t. There’s a type of thinking that goes into programming that not everyone has. And that’s to be respected. What’s also to be respected though is the capacity for all of us to adapt and learn. One of the reasons that I’ve taken on projects over the years isn’t because it was something that I could do, but I knew that given some intentional behaviors on my part, that I could learn and adapt, and eventually be a success into what I’m setting out to do. The same kind of perspective should be able to be taken on by anyone learning or teaching others about the Bible/history of religion(s). Its not that building what you believe will be easy, but that your intentional behavior to how you go about learning this puts you in position to reprogram your life.

Data [is] Good for Our Health
I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much information, if you have the right expectations and filters about that information. Remember that the filter is Proverbs 4:7, and with such a filter, you can and should make decisions that allow you to better understand what is going into your life, and therefore what comes out of you would better able to be health for you and others around you.

Computers Belong in the Classroom
Well, of course they do. Did you know that computer was a term given to people who did complex calculations with various mathematical, sociological, and mechanical tools before it was something given to a machine? Found that out when visiting the National Computer Museum in San Jose last year – and when I did, it made a lot of sense. That’s why everyone you come to should be in the posture of being programmed by God (Colossians 3) to be in their world showing forth the data and applications of our Master Programmer. Does that mean that people-as-the-computer shouldn’t have the tools of their age to help them better navigate their world? No. It does mean though that there’s going to be a limit as to how much a person can do until they add some additional programming to their system (learning, understanding, wisdom – James 1 kind of stuff).

Humans Still Matter
That kind of sits at the conclusion of the RWW author’s lesson, as it did with God’s in Genesis 1. We were placed here to steward and build on top of this marelous system (Earth) with all that God’s provided (how many APIs have you seen when you walked through the forest). Its not even just that you matter, but you – and everyone that you interact with – is a key cog into making sure that this entire system functions the way that it was designed. There are different cogs for the job, and you’ve got to respect and encourage those cogs to do what they are designed to. Then appreciate them, and be the bot that creates something new along the way.

Those are some of the ways that I’d seen those five lessons translate into this space. Do you have any thoughts on these, or perhaps you were there for the talk at SXSW and other items came to mind?

How Has Tech Changed Ministry for You

We usually have something along the lines of the thinking piece for Sundays since many people are attending service and have their local communities on their hearts and minds. And so with that in frame, we’d just want to continue that with a simple question about computer tech and its appearance within faith communities:

How has the use of mobile and social technologies influenced or changed your perceptions of ministry?

Place your answers in the comments.

Research Publishing Tracking Evolution of (Digital) Tech within Faith Communities

At the time of this writing, I’d not taking a deep look into the survey, but I do think that its on course for being good for reflection (an investigation of the methodology and research process would answer any questions of value beyond what’s been published). From Church Mag:

…As of 2010, the percentage of churches that had no web or Facebook presence was 24%. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too shocked by this number. Considering how only an estimated 78% of the North American population uses the internet, maybe it should be expected that roughly the same amount, 76% of American congregations, have an internet presence. But then I have to ask, who is using the internet? The population of North America is roughly 350 million. As of 2011, it was estimated that about 272 million were using the internet. I may be wrong in this assumption, but my guess is that the majority of ‘non-internet users’ are either infants or elders. The percentage of the population under 15 years old is roughly 19%; the percentage over 65 is roughly 13%. (I realize that children, especially going into their teenage years, are on the internet quite a bit; however, statistically speaking, this gives us a good estimate for comparing usage vs. necessity of usage.)  If we only consider the percentage of 16 – 64 year olds who are using the internet, the age range with whom most churches try to connect, the percentage of this population who are online definitely increase from the overall population estimation of 78%…

Mobile Industry Review and the Emporia Telecom Series

For a number of weeks now, Mobile Industry Review has been doing a series with Emporia Telecom, a company whose mobile offerings are designed around the needs of those persons who might be older or have needs for simpler and easier to undestand mobile devices. I hesitate to pigeon-hole their offerings into something just for an older audience, because everyone can do with better designed user interfaces, attention to detail/behavior, and such. But, their focus on this group is notable, specifically because it seems to follow along the lines of what we were getting at with our 4th resolution, intentional design decisions and UIs/UXs which follow mobile perspectives.

The Mobile Industry Review series has about six videos (at the time of writing) already published. I’d encourage you to take a look at them:

While watching these videos, or after watching them, consider these points in view of what you are planning or doing in respect to mobile ministry:

  • Does your application or service not just include smartphone and non-smartphone users, but the various ranges of age groups within each?
  • How does your application or service scale to age groups where information is consumed and retained in a different bucket than a UI guide’s recommended “lines per screen?”
  • How do you track or model healthier communication behaviors across age/demographic groups?

A step perhaps towards addressing that resolution by seeing the wisdom of designing for those who carry the most wisdom in many of our communities.

[Event] Biola Digital Ministry Conference (June 5-7)

Just a heads up that the Biola Digital Ministry Conference is coming up in a few months (June 5-7). The theme for this year’s conference is the disruptive nature of digital.

The Biola Digital Ministry Conference is designed to empower individuals with the vision, knowledge, and relationships necessary to be thoughtful designers, developers, and practitioners of digital technologies for the cause of Christ.

There will be three tracks this year: theology, strategy, and technology. I’ll be doing a breakout session teaching folks how to (quikcly) build a mobile website, and there will be a score of opportunities to network with many ministries and organizations throughout this mid-week conference.

If you are a missions organization, developer/development shop, or just have some general interest about what’s happening in the space of digital ministry, definitely consider coming out. Would love to connect with you if we haven’t already there.

For more information, including registration and session topics/speakers, visit the Biola Digital Ministry Conference.