Category Archives: mobiquity

Before You Give Up On Social Media…

Social media is often accused of making society more narcissistic and self-centered.   Although there is truth embedded in the diagnosis, I argue against the treatment that is often prescribed.  The disease does exist but the underlying problem is not the technology – it is us.

In many ways, social media is a technology that has given everyone a platform and a megaphone.  It allows everyone a voice without filter or control.  As a result, the megaphone amplifies what we all, unfortunately, have always cared most about – ourselves.  These megaphones are addicting, ubiquitous, frustrating and, I would argue, hopeful.

In many ways, social media has taken the web of the Internet and placed interconnected megaphones of self-expression everywhere.  This reality frustrates us and, as a result, we protest, complain and even threaten to give up social media completely.  We consider and contemplate putting the megaphone down in protest.

Before you give up on social media and put the megaphone down, try turning it around.  

There are reasons people are posting information about themselves on their social media channels.  People desire to be heard, loved, respected, etc.  Social media provides a unique and amplified opportunity to express these needs but it also provides a unique and amplified opportunity to hear what is going on in the lives of our friends, family, and culture.

I often picture social media as millions of people with megaphones shouting words, ideas, pictures, links, etc. at each other in amplified fashion.  But what would it look like if we took that same technology and turned it around, allowing us hear the hurts, challenges, successes, desires, etc. of our friends, family, and culture?  What would it look like for God to use us in amplified fashion through our amplified listening and awareness of others?  What would it look like to use social media in a way that allows us a unique and amplified view of what God is doing in our world?

Before you give up on social media and put the megaphone down, try turning it around.

The Future of Privacy in a Digital Age

Google recently unveiled Google Glasses for beta testing (see the news story here), bringing up a number of questions regarding the future of privacy.

In the pre-digital age (before the Internet, social media and mobiquity (ubiquitous use of mobile technology)), a sign of one’s wealth and power was demonstrated as public fame.  Although we are still riding the crest of this wave, it is beginning to break on the shores of the present.  As that wave breaks on the present’s shore, it will begin to pull back into the ocean of history, reversing direction and changing culture’s landscape in the process.  One of the many impacts of the retreating waves of history is the reversal of public and private.   As the crest retreats, privacy will become a sign of wealth and power rather than public fame.

The controversy and conversation that Google Glass is creating highlights this shift.  The future of technology will, increasingly, compress everything into the public sphere with accumulative complications.  Google Glass is the latest manifestation of this increasing reality, conjuring several privacy related questions:

  • Where is it appropriate for the average person to film and publicly broadcast, and where is it not?  
  • What is private and what is public?  
  • Are private and public distinctions an increasingly archaic and obsolete distinction in an emerging digital society?

It is an interesting observation that although the general populace is, typically, infuriated by the government’s video surveillance, they are largely ignorant of the pervasive cameras in their possession, sharing videos, pictures, audio and text that are filtered through private companies’ servers (this information is then sold to the highest bidder – remember with free services (Gmail, Instagram, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), you are the product being consumed).  Consequently, we have moved away from cities with thousands of cameras (owned, operated and regulated by governments and corporations) to cities with millions of cameras (owned and maintained by individuals, filtered through private companies’ servers, with little to no regulation).

In our emerging world of DUB (this is an acronym for my phrase “Democratized Ubiquitous Broadcasting”), will privacy, rather than public fame, be the new sign of wealth and power?  Will wealth be shown through the ability to hide?  Will wealth create privacy behind virtual digital fences the way it does with physical mansions and estates?  Will a sign of wealth be anonymity, in a way the vast majority of the populace can’t experience?

I am, intentionally, posing questions rather than answers.  As we enter the digital future, in mobiquitous fashion, we need to be asking these questions – recognizing the ubiquitous effects of social media and Internet technology.

Another Facebook Prediction

As Facebook forges ahead into the undiscovered social media landscape, it has and will continue to push boundaries on many levels affecting and shifting culture as a result.  Consider the cultural change to online pictures and privacy in the last couple of years.  It was only a couple of years ago when people were concerned about people seeing images of their children on Facebook and they initially refused to post them.  This privacy concern emerged again with the addition of the GPS tagging and location sharing.  It was considered an invasion of privacy at first and now has been adopted into our collective and ubiquitous use.

Inevitably, the next stage of this development is what I call: “auto-tagging.”  I predict that Facebook will soon release a software upgrade allowing face recognition to automatically tag your pictures based on the facial profiles of your friends.  This technology already exists on a consumer level with Apple’s iPhoto and it will be inevitably utilized by Facebook in the near future.

In fact, you may have recognized this already beginning to develop.  Still in its infancy, it is already utilized by Facebook.  Just try tagging someone.  When you place your cursor over the image, Facebook already can identify what is a face and what is not.  The next inevitable evolutionary step is to utilize facial recognition software and “auto-tag,” saving the user time and effort.

People will, as they always do, cry foul at first; however, people will, as they always do, eventually accept it and welcome it into their ubiquitous social media experience.

This reality highlights the cultural shift that is occurring regarding our concepts and perceptions of privacy.  In people’s desire to narrate their lives with social media and mobile technology, privacy is being eroded into the public sphere.  As more and more of our lives are lived online with open transparency, it is creating sweeping cultural impact and societal change.

In the pre-digital age, people longed to be wealthy and famous, living public lives on a public stage, but this is changing and so will people’s desires.  As the future unfolds and privacy erodes for the average citizen, people will desire what only the wealthy and select few will be able to experience – privacy.

A shift is occurring and privacy is experiencing a tipping point.

Mobiquity: Part Three of Three

Mobiquity: A Semiotic Analysis of Google Glass
Part Three of Three

This is the last of three posts (to view the first post, click here – to view the second post, click here) presenting a semiotic analysis of Google Glass and the ubiquity of mobile technology (Mobiquity).  Note: these posts have been edited and reformatted from a paper I wrote for my doctoral program at George Fox Seminary with Dr. Leonard Sweet.

Google’s Use of Metaphor

It is interesting to note that in the video, the main character, after he begins his day with a reminder of his anticipated virtual meeting that night with Jessica, journeys to buy a book in order to learn a new skill (to play the Ukulele) that he later uses to connect relationally and emotionally with her.  This is a metaphor for the video itself.  Through the video, Google Glass is portraying itself as a technology that, if learned and adopted, can help one connect with others in new and emotive ways.  Whether or not this promise is possible, it highlights the important, subtle and effective use of metaphor to communicate this reality.  As Geary argues “Though we encounter metaphor every day, we typically fail to recognize it.  Its influence is profound but takes place mostly outside our conscious awareness.  Yet once metaphor has us in its grasp, it never lets us go, and we can never forget it.”1

Google brilliantly does what the church needs to embrace.  The church needs to learn and sharpen its skills at communicating with metaphor as Jesus brilliantly did.  As Liu argues in Imagination First, the ability to employ and mix metaphors is an important part of the imagination process, allowing us to see things differently and explore the world in radically different ways.2   Google employs a metaphor to tell the story, evoking the imagination and by doing so, they open possibilities and allow the viewer to imagine what connections are possible if they adopted Google Glass mobile technology.

As the Church moves forward, it needs to re-adopt the use of metaphor in preaching and its discipleship methodologies.  Metaphors are pathways to the imagination3  and “A metaphor that rings true is more powerful than logic or a mathematical proof.”4   The re-embrace of the metaphor, particularly in preaching, would result in evoking imagination, increased reflection and application, as is the case with this viral video.


Mobiquity is upon us; we are “… now living in a world of information and communication abundance.”5   This abundance is having profound effects on us and between us.  As highlighted, the viral Google Glass video uniquely demonstrates many of the shifts we are seeing in culture as we move into a Secondary Orality.6   We are moving to a culture that increasingly embraces narrative and metaphor as ways of learning and reflection.  As a result, culture is shifting to new modes of learning and educating.  In addition, mobiquity is creating a culture that has never been simultaneously more connected and more alone.  These trends are brilliantly displayed in this viral video, highlighting so many of the cultural changes that are occurring.

As mobiquity continues to shift culture, these trends will not only continue, they will expand and evolve with increased public adoption and acceptance.  As we move into this new frontier of cultural change, the church will need to continue to change and shift its interface for interacting with culture in order to serve and speak into the changing world that God deeply loves.  Culture is constantly changing.  Consequently, the Church has the choice between two questions: Will it grievingly weep for the change the world is experiencing?  Or, will it weep over the world that is constantly changing?7   I hope the church and its leaders choose the second option and as a result, effectively love God and love others in the midst of mobiquity.

1  James Geary, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), Kindle, 104.
2  Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon, Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009), Kindle, 80.
3  Ibid.
4  Leonard Sweet, Real Church in a Social Network World: From Facebook to Face-to-Face Faith. Kindle. Location 1040.
5  Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better than You Think, Location 304.
6  Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Methuen, 1982).
7  This is based on Leonard Sweet’s challenge of whether, like Jesus at the Triumphant Entry, we are willing to weep over our Zip Codes (Postal Codes for Canadians).  

Mobiquity: Part Two of Three

Mobiquity: A Semiotic Analysis of Google Glass
Part Two of Three

This is the second of three posts (to view the first post, click here) presenting a semiotic analysis of Google Glass and the ubiquity of mobile technology (Mobiquity).  Note: these posts have been edited and reformatted from a paper I wrote for my doctoral program at George Fox Seminary with Dr. Leonard Sweet.

Connected but Alone

As many skeptics have pointed out, the protagonist in the Google Glass video is depicted as living alone, meeting a friend for a short meeting at a portable coffee shop and then having a virtual meeting with his female friend over a video connection.   Many have noted that the future being presented is lacking of human contact, demonstrating the proliferation of social technology to the place where one is more connected than ever and yet, also, more alone.1

This concept video brings into view the reality that people desire connections; this desire for connection is what has driven the proliferation of the Internet and Social Media technology.2   “The Internet may be a virtual community, but still it’s a community that’s readily available in a disconnected world.”3    As we move forward into a virtual world, there will be increased need for relational connection.  Dyrness points out  “In a world where we struggle not to “lose touch” with one another, Christ has given us this image of himself to hold on to, and by which we orient ourselves…”4   Technology offers Facebook, effectively and successfully providing connection, but people will increasingly desire Face-to-Face time (relationship).5   As the Google Glass video demonstrates, the protagonist is connected like never before, but the skeptics make a solid argument that he simultaneously seems alone.  In our increasingly connected but alone world, the church has an amazing opportunity to provide face-to-face community and relationship in a Facebook world.

Instant, Simultaneous and Constant Access to Information

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Google Glass video is the fact that it demonstrates how technology will increasingly make any and all information available on-demand visually (personal schedule, weather, web search), sometimes without prompting (example of the automated suspended subway services announcement in the video).  This evolution is simply another further step in information technology’s mobiquity.

In Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Google cofounder Larry Page describes the future of search in similar terms: “It [Google] will be included in people’s brains. When you think about something you don’t know much about, you will automatically get the information.”6 

Google Glass’s emerging step in mobile technology announces the emergence of the next stage in evolution for mobile devices.  This next stage will radically effect how we learn.  Just as the calculator continues to change how we learn and teach math, the constant access to seemingly infinite information will change how we learn history, geography, literature, etc.7  The need to memorize dates, times, figures, etc. will increasingly become unnecessarily.  Even the skill of writing will continue change as texting and typing become increasingly dominant.8   With this seemingly limitless amount of information, it will become increasingly important to teach critical reflection and discernment skills to skillfully sift though the flood of information being fed on the Google Glass display.9  

This effect of technology will radically affect discipleship in the similar way it has education.  The traditional way of disciplining and evangelizing Christians (in fact, all religions over the last several hundred years) has been through education defined as the teaching of information.  “All religious evangelism is premised on the conviction that you can change people’s beliefs by educating them on the issues.”10   This shift in education is not coincidental to the discipleship crisis many see on the horizon.    In relation to the Church, this will have massive effects on the crumbling state of discipleship within North America and will spark a major shift in how we view and facilitate discipleship within the local church.

Interestingly, just as the Church had an instrumental role in the creation of higher education at the height of the Medieval Period, the church has the possibility to seize this opportunity and, once again, be on the cutting edge of education. Many see the state of discipleship as a major crisis; however, in the spirit of the book Abundance, it is also an amazing opportunity that could be fashioned by God for revival and renewal in the church that could, once again, be on the cutting edge of education.11

This is the second of three posts…to read the next post, click here.

2   Leonard Sweet, Real Church in a Social Network World: From Facebook to Face-to-Face Faith (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2012), Kindle, Location 699.
3   Ibid.
4  William A. Dyrness, Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life. Kindle, Location 798.
5  Leonard Sweet, Real Church in a Social Network World: From Facebook to Face-to-Face Faith.
6  Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better than You Think (New York: Free Press, 2012), Kindle, Location 1111.
7  The calculator is another example in how mobile devices have taken this technology to the next stage of its mobiquitous evolution.  The smart phone has placed a calculator in the hands of most North Americans (as well as many other continents) available at every given moment.  Google Glass technology will take this one step further with real time, artificial intelligence initiated, calculations.
8  Leonard I. Sweet, Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2012), 17.
9  This tsunami of information will continue the journey into the recognition of the subjective nature of information and the continued rejection of modern sciences claim to objectivity.  This reality is effectively introduced and argued my Michael Polanyi.  
Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge; towards a Post-critical Philosophy.(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).
10  Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong (New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2010), 107.
11  Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better than You Think.