Archive for June, 2011

My Take on Clay Shirky

According to Wikipedia, Clay Shirky is an author, teacher, and consultant who focuses on social and economic effects of internet technologies. In his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody, he explores the ways in which new internet and social network connections enable large scale group efforts with dramatic impact without the necessity of large scale organizational structure.

Shirky utilizes various real world examples to highlight his point. In my opinion, he hit a home-run with his opening chapter. He highlights the story of a lost phone and the remarkable extremes that one person went through to recover the phone. Through modern technologies, the phone company was able to track certain features being utilized on the lost phone by the person who was in possession of it. Through the use of email groups, social media pages, and a relentless amount of effort on the part of one man, a movement established itself which created pressure on both the guilty party as well as the local police force to create results.

Shirky shifted gears in a later chapter when he discussed the formation of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Originally created as an experiment to prove a point, the cite has grown exponentially with contributors all over the world. The interesting aspect that Shirky points out is that a community has formed around this website that not only maintain it, they actually protect it from malicious intent. I’m fascinated by the notion of a community protecting something because they feel a personal connection to it.  This idea seems to focus around the idea that a sense of personal ownership can occur even on something that we share equal access to. Namely, the individuals involved with Wikipedia, the contributors, have equal access to the various content as any one with malicious intent that can edit material in destructive ways. That being said, they exert a strong enough presence that incidents of negative contribution are quickly corrected or deleted.

The implication of this idea of communal involvement without typical motivation is world wide. Shirky points out that by the year 2008 there were 3.3 billion mobile devices in the hands of less than 5 billion adults in the world. We are a society of mobile connectiveness. This doesn’t only mean voice connection, though that is one of the often forgotten features of mobile devices.  But more so, these devices allow picture, video, texting, website updates, tweets, and on and on. There are so many ways that we as individuals can share and receive information of various kinds on a second to second basis that it becomes very easy for these large scale movements to form. If we are interested in a current event, we will stay on top of it. We will contribute to it. The more of us that do, the stronger the individual movement becomes.

I pose a question. What do you get excited about. What do you get behind? Is there a moment in recent history that comes to mind for you? Did you follow the stolen phone saga? Do you contribute to Wikipedia? What’s your corner of the global social neighborhood? Weigh in and let me know.

Be Careful What You Post

During one of our many discussions in the classroom portion of Media in Parish Ed, we discussed safety in postings on the internet.  Clearly this is an important topic to be aware of, though admittedly it is most often after someone makes a foolish decision that backfires on them before we really hear about it.

Case in point…Rep. Robert Weiner and his many woes.

One could argue that he should have known better. Well obviously. But in light of a new development within the ongoing saga, we start to see that it is not only him that is being effected by this one boneheaded move. In a new story seen here, we find that others seems to be jumping on the “stupid move” bandwagon.

Apparently now the picture is spreading beyond just the immediate circle surrounding Weiner and is becoming a hassle for some of the people that he originally sent the explicit pictures too.

Now obviously this presents the immediate issue at hand of be smart about what you post/text/tweet/etc. But you could argue that I’m being slightly dense to post this. Duh right?

I feel the need to play devil’s advocate just a touch, and keep that in mind as you read on. Who can we trust? Not that I’m defending what Weiner did, but he obviously thought he was sending something privately to someone he could trust.  Did the exposure of the pictures present a breach of privacy? Was the issue greater that someone else published the images or that he sent them in the first place?

As you think about this, disregard the explicit nature of the images. What if it was something else. If this was an issue of plagerization online, wouldn’t the uproar be focused on the other person. Wouldn’t the role of “offender” fall upon them?

The question that I’m struggling with is “how public is something sent online?” Obviously, it can go out to the entire world, but should it?

Case in point…about 18 months ago, I recorded a youtube video from Luther Seminary for my kids to view as I was on campus for a long period.  To date, its been viewed 7 times…and I might have even been about 4 or 5 of them.

Now I have nothing to worry about within this short video…its literally 30 seconds of me saying Good morning and have a great day. But should I worry about it surfacing somewhere else? Would I consider it a personal invasion for other people to start using my short little video for my kids?

Now, I don’t really have an answer here. And perhaps it doesn’t really measure up to compare my situation with the firestorm going on around Weiner…but at the moment, its the best comparison that I have.


Faith Represented On Reality TV

We live in a fascinating reality in terms of television programming. Ironically, this trend is called Reality TV. Though it certainly wasn’t new at the time of the recent Writers Strike, reality tv really jumped in terms of the total number of shows being produced.

An unfortunately trend of this reality is the lack of interest and therefore content focusing on matters of faith.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by a very popular reality tv show that saw fit to buck this trend over the course of this past spring’s broadcasting season. I’m an avid fan of Survivor. Its been on for 22 seasons over 11 years, making it one of the earliest reality shows to experience a lot of popularity.

This past season, called Redemption Island, featured a very open Christian. He was the second person “voted off the island” but in this season, a new twist was that contestants voted out would go to Redemption Island to duel and remain in the game. This particular castaway, Matt Elrond, was featured very heavily in the editing of the footage. Because of his extended time in the game due to the Redemption Island twist (voted out 2nd episode but was still featured through to the finale), there was a great deal of footage in which Matt discussed his faith.

This trend went beyond the individual interviews as well. His interaction with other cast members had visible effects and even went so far as to have featured footage of Matt discussing his faith with host Jeff Probst.

As a future pastor, and someone that is obviously interested in matters of faith, I get excited when I see people openly discussing their faith on tv. That being said, its been my experience…and trust me I have a lot of experience with watching tv…that editors tend to shy away from this subject. I can only assume that it is due to the low popularity of faith matters with much of the American public. Let’s face it, the point of a television producer is to create a show that people want to watch.

But now you take a story line that developed throughout the course of the entire season of the Survivor, one that was important to a contestant that went deep into the game as they tend to say. So the editors needed to develop his story line. Matt didn’t waver from who he is. He is a man of great faith that lives to glorify God and to become more like his savior Jesus Christ. Something tells me that the producers of the show knew that they could get away with it. Survivor is enormously popular and I’m guessing that they felt little danger of losing viewers because they explored one mans spiritual life.

Perhaps this is a one time thing for Survivor. But it’s one that I found extremely gratifying as a man of faith. How many viewers were touched by the witness? Perhaps we’ll never know, but either way, I was doing jumping jacks over this one.

Blogging about…Blogging?

Tonight we had the first meeting of Media in Parish Education, which as I’ve already mentioned fills out my Senior level education class at Luther Seminary. It was a lengthy 4 hours to spend on a Friday night, but admittedly, discussion was good, and I do enjoy getting credit for a class that explores the many facets of social media. Especially considering my personal affinity for social media. Case in point, my facebook page. Check it out, though be warned, you will be overwhelmed by status updates.

Tonight as we sat in class, my mental thought process went in many different directions. That being said, one specific question came to mind, which in turn raised some more questions along the same line.

How do we, as clergy that embrace social media within our own lives, embrace social media in a way that enhances or stands as a specific part of our ministry?

I ask this question as someone that has come to rely on social media over the past few years. I’ve been a prolific blogger for a long time in several different settings. The longest running one was on my former MySpace site (long since kicked to the curb for personal reasons). Now, the contents of this particular blog were basic. Literally, it was a day to day account of my own experience. It included news from my job as a trucking broker, life with my family, as well as the early days of my seminary education. It developed a small following. Approximately 20-30 people if memory serves me correctly. Nothing spectacular but the audience was spread around the U.S.

The interesting thing about this was the comments and conversations that arose from this blog. I had individuals from different places such as Kentucky, New York, and Seattle engaging me with questions of faith simply because I opened up my life as a seminary student.

I’ve seen how the Holy Spirit can use my words in a blog to open matters of faith. In many ways, this reminds me of advise I once received about preaching…once the words leave my mouth, they aren’t mine anymore, but we never know how the Spirit will use them for someone else.

So coming back around to my original question, I do wonder just how we go about making this (and by this I mean social media) part of our ministry. Can we embrace it? Will our congregations embrace us embracing it? How do we find balance between active ministry online and simply wasting time online?

Admittedly, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I certainly throw them out there.

Do I view my past history as a blogger as a good thing? Yes I do because it open doors for conversations with people…people that I would have never encountered if not for a MySpace blog. Do I think it replaces face to face interactions in ministry? No I don’t, but I haven’t made up my mind as to if one is more important than the other.

Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He didn’t say “Stay put and only talk amongst yourselves.” Hmm…I wonder if Jesus would retweet this?

Education 1 Continued Goal #2

The second goal that I plan to focus on in Media in Parish Education comes from the Education 1 objective nourishes personal curiosity about God’s activities int he world, and is able to wonder with awe at God’s activities.

At the end of Ed 1, I wrote a goal which stated I plan to continue to seek out God’s hand in day to day life. I don’t think this is limited to seminary at all.

I’ll be the first to admit that my initial “goal” was pretty weak regarding this objective. However, there is a grain of truth in what I wrote 2+ years ago.

As I think about the realm of media in the world and the extent that it completely permeates different people’s lives, I believe that God’s hand is present in the creation of these various tools. One of the books that I read in preparation for this class discussed the notion of God revealing Himself in new ways. I believe that social media, as well as media in general, is an example of how God is choosing to be revealed.

I have had the opportunity to develop friendships with various people around the country based on social media such as Facebook and Myspace. While it is very unlikely that I will ever meet some of these people, it has been excited to interact with them through these sites and to be able to share my faith both through messages and blogging experience. I believe that God has chosen to be revealed through this interaction.

Additionally, I’m also a big fan of movies. I’ve encountered several different congregations that host movie based Bible study. I think that this is a very effective means for opening conversations between individuals regarding faith and the way that God is working within the world. I have a knack for “seeing” the faith story within the story lines of movies and love discussions based on this trend.

I’ve often pondered on experimenting with creating online discussion groups on Facebook based on this notion of the Biblical message found within movies. To date, I haven’t done anything about it, but I believe that this may be an exciting option to pursue in the future, and it may also double as a means to explore in my final project for this class.

Backtracking to the goal itself, I don’t want to imply that I think that God’s work in the world is now limited to means of media simply because of the focus of this class. Rather, what I’m trying to establish is the thought that media is a substantially important way to share what God is up to. Personally, I find this based on the idea of relationship. John’s gospel places very high emphasis on the notion of relationship with God. This relationship is also mirrored within the relationships we have with others, and particularly other Christians. Media is a powerful tool to explore and share what we as individuals see God accomplishing in the world.


Education 1 Continued Goal #1

Back in January ’09, I took Education 1 during an intensive at Luther Seminary. One of the things that we did was establish goals for continued development through our personal seminary education.

The first goal that I’d like to focus on during Education 2 (Media in Parish Education) is based on the following objective. Capable of engaging at least one pressing contemporary learning challenge from within a faith community framework (denominational pluralism, interfaith dialogue, media culture, environmental pressures, socio-political unrest, peace and justice issues, race and class issues, gender, disability, etc).

At the end of Ed 1, I listed my personal goal as the following: Learning more about the various issues facing the church during/after seminary. When I am in the parish, I hope to begin to address issues and challenges as best I can in the context that it is presented.

As I ponder on this goal 2.5 years later, I realize that I’ve begun to deal with some of these issues in various degrees. I spent 4 semesters serving my home congregation back in Iowa as a contextual education student, as well as spending 5 months working on staff as a lay minister during my CPE experience. Additionally, I’ve found my own pastoral identity growing throughout my seminary education.  With this growth, I’ve also found myself facing issues and needing to formulate my own opinions on some of these issues.

The first example listed in the objective of denominational pluralism has becoming increasingly important for me. Very recently, I preached based on John 17:1-11, focusing on the final verse “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” The focus of my sermon was unity within the body of Christ. Now, while unity is important, it is not synonymous with uniformity. Divisions are not a bad thing within the greater church. However, I do believe that we can learn from each other across denominational lines. I’ve explored this idea in teaching confirmation and helping students to study the differences and similarities between denominations in my contextual education site. The more I learn, the more blaring differences seem, yet the less important they seem to be in my opinion. We are connected by a single truth. Jesus Christ lived, Jesus Christ died, and Jesus Christ rose again.

Running the risk of going on too much of a tangent, I’ll switch gears now and talk about the second portion of this objective that has become important to me. That deals with race, gender, and class issues.

I come from a place, and also from a generation, where these issues do not seem to be so pronounced. Granted, I do hail from a place where racial diversity is not a reality. Gender roles seem to have been broken down and most people fall into the same class category. Perhaps that’s why people get along. Perhaps I am sheltered from these issues. However, I have often found myself silenced in conversations because I fall in the category of white middle class male.

It’s my hope that I’m able to begin to explore how the use of media, which is integrated into so many of our lives to explore these issues, and can possible help to break down the barriers that have been created.

The collar and the Orange hat

You may be wondering just what the heck I’m talking about when I call my blog the collar and the orange hat. Well, let me attempt to enlighten you.

As a Lutheran seminary student, I’d like to think that the collar would be pretty obvious. Traditional outfits for pastors tend to have the white collar. Although that being said, I’ve got to admit that I was surprised when I actually started exploring the collar.

I’m currently wrapping up my middler year at Luther seminary. In laymen’s terms, my second year of class. Next up is my internship year and once that’s done I’ll head on back to seminary for my final year of class. As an intern, it’s common to begin wearing the collar, although admittedly some will start wearing the collar sooner.

I bought my first three pastor shirts within about the last month. What surprised me was just what you find when you start poking around at the collar itself. Its just a little white plastic piece about an inch and a half wide and about 5 inches long. It slips under the collar of the shirt leaving the little white square visible. Just this past weekend I was providing pulpit supply at my old church back home. I wore the collar for the first time.

I have to admit it, I was fully decked out. Black shirt, black suit. I heard one joke that I was ready for a funeral, but that’s alright. The really exciting part was that my parents were there so they got to see me the first time I wore the collar in an official manner.

Now, all that being said, back to the orange hat.

That’s it. Honestly, it all began as a joke. I’ve had this stocking hat for years. Honestly, I don’t even know where I got it. Way back when in January of 2009, I was getting ready for my first time on campus of Luther Seminary. I began my education in a distance program called Distributed Learning.

Now, January in Minnesota is cold. In fact we averaged about 20 below zero for the two weeks I was on campus. I knew I needed a stocking hat and this was the one I grabbed. By the end of the two weeks, it became something of a gimmick. I became known as “the man in the orange hat.” Over the course of 3 years and several intensives, its been my thing.

So there you go. Just a brief introduction to explain the blog name. Keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be blogging here for awhile. Admittedly, its for a class. Media in Parish Education, which is my second Education class at Luther.

Side note…the first time on campus, when I first had the orange hat…I was taking Education 1.

Side note #2…I also write a blog from the student perspective for Luther…I’m one of 6 bloggers at the site, though admittedly it’s winding down for the summer. Feel free to check it out here.