Category Archives: technology

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

Footnotes
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.

Footnotes
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.

Mobiquity: Part One of Three

Mobiquity: A Semiotic Analysis of Google Glass

Part One of Three

This is the first of three posts 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.

INTRODUCTION

With the introduction of the cellular telephone in 1973 by Martin Cooper (Motorola) and its subsequent evolution into the exponentially expanding realm of information technology, the way people communicate, relate and understand the world around them has drastically changed.   Mobile technology has evolved and proliferated significantly over the last forty years to the point where the technology has reached ubiquity – “Mobiquity.”

This evolution experienced a climatic moment on April 4, 2012 when Google publicly presented its Google Glass concept video resulting in wide spread attention and a viral response.   The viral video was simultaneously accepted by some with a hopeful embrace, while rejected by others with a fear of societal collapse.   Although the debate about what life would be like with this emerging and democratized technology has been intense, all sides agree it is on the immediate horizon and will continue information technology’s propagation into our lives and relationships.

The following is a semiotic analysis of this cultural catalytic event, making semiotic connections with specific emphasis on the effect it will have on the Christian faith and the Church.

The Introduction of New Technology Expressed Through Narrative

Before looking at the specifics of the Google Glass video, it is fascinating to note that Google has chosen to present its new technology concept in the form of a narrative told though a YouTube video rather than a press release, presenter or through a list of bullet points of specifications.  This expresses something about how culture is changing regarding how it conceptualizes and understands new ideas and concepts.  Google understands the need to weave the exploration of its new product concept through the narrative of someone’s life from morning to evening.  Precisely, it is not just a glimpse of life but it narrates an arching story of a young man’s quest to learn and perform a ukulele song for Jessica (we presume to be his girlfriend).  Google brilliantly utilizes narrative, showing how the Google Glass technology assists, aids, effects, and alters the protagonist’s experience throughout his quest  (Even the slight detour to make a note about buying tickets to the Monsieur Gayno concert is related to the arching narrative as Gayno is shown as a Ukulele artist).

This phenomenon is, in part, what Ricoeur would call a series of “emplotments.”  In other words, “…the tendency to make sense of one’s life as a kind of poetic activity.”1   Encapsulated within narrative circle technique, Google is using the narrative to put together little stories (“emplotments”) to create a larger narrative, drawing the audience in and presenting the technology in a way that is, presumably, assisting the protagonist’s life, connecting these smaller narratives together, helping to form meaning and relational connections.2

As the church moves forward, it will have to re-learn what it means and provide opportunities to allow people to fulfill their God-given need to fit their narrative into God’s redemptive metanarrative, helping people find meaning and purpose.   As technology futilely seeks to fulfill humanity’s God-given need to be in a larger story, it promises what it cannot deliver, providing the church with a unique opportunity.  The church has the opportunity to help people see that their story is part of a greater story (God’s redemptive story) and tell that story better and more effectively to a story-starved world and culture.  People are increasingly using mobile technology to narrate their lives, to place their emplotments alongside others and through that process, find identity, meaning and purpose.3   The challenge for the church moving forward is to pose and empower its people to be story-listeners and storytellers.4

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

Footnotes

1  William A. Dyrness, Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011), Kindle, Location 1043.
2  There is a form of circle narrative in this video.  It begins with a reminder about meeting Jessica at 6:30pm and ends with the encounter, both notified through Google’s technology.  Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), Kindle.
3  For more on this, see the following post I wrote about my prediction on the future of Facebook’s Timeline.
4  Leonard I. Sweet, Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010).

A Week Filled With Hope & Mission

Picture taken by Gordon Govier

Recently, I had the tremendous opportunity to participate in the Lausanne North America Young Leaders’ Consultation in Madison, Wisconsin.   For those not familiar with Lausanne, it is an evangelical movement birthed in Lausanne Switzerland at the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelism in 1974.  The following description is from the Lausanne website:

Lausanne is a global Movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization. It grew out of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization convened in Lausanne, Switzerland by Rev. Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain. The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (October 2010) in Cape Town, South Africa, brought together 4000 Christian leaders, representing 198 countries. The resulting Cape Town Commitment serves as the blueprint for the Movement’s activities.

Lausanne’s vision is to: See the whole church take the whole Gospel to the whole world.  If you have never read the Cape Town Commitment, I would encourage you to do so, it is breathtakingly beautiful in both language and tone.

I am a big believer in what Lausanne is about and what it is doing.  Too often we see only part of the church (inevitably, our part) take only part of the Gospel (the part we are most comfortable with) to only part of the world.  The Great Commission is so much greater than this and is only possible if we put our denominational differences aside and humbly work together.   We can never see the whole church take the whole Gospel to the whole world if we keep ourselves and our organizations isolated in safe and comfortable denominational silos.  This is where Lausanne has been a catalyst movement, breaking down the silo ministry mentality and facilitating mission bridge-building and collaborative partnerships to see world evangelization happen.  This is the context and backdrop of the consultation I had the privilege to be part of.

Picture taken by Gordon Govier

The North American Young Leaders’ Consultation involved the consultation of 120 select thought-leaders and change-agents from across North America to discuss key elements of the Cape Town Commitment from a North American perspective (there will be several other Young Leader Consultations in different parts of the world culminating in a world consultation at some point in the future).   Within the consultation, I had the privilege of being in the Media and Art’s Working Group (my passion and growing area of expertise) where we discussed the areas of the Cape Town Commitment related to the Media and Arts.

In terms of reactions, my time in Madison was phenomenal on several fronts:

  1. The people I met were amazing, resulting in the creation of some life-long friends, partnerships and connections.
  2. The discussions were profitable, fruitful and honoured Jesus.
  3. The experience was incredibly hopeful.  I meet some amazing change-agents, authors, and leaders, resulting in an extraordinary hope for the future of the church in North America.  My new friend Adam Jeske (@adamjeske) skillfully expresses this hope here.
  4. The collaborations and discussions that occurred will lead to catalytic partnerships, ministries and future dialogue that will have an enduring impact on world evangelism.

My participation in Lausanne (this consultation in particular) has helped to re-orientate my life, ministry and passion around the mission of God to see the whole church bring the whole Gospel to the whole world.  It my joy and privilege to join with others to serve our Triune God in His mission for His beloved world and for His glory alone.

Art From Old Technology

This is one of the many examples of the Book Surgeon’s art.

I came across this picture (one example of many by the artist) via social networks on the art of “The Book Surgeon.”  It reminded me of a great thought from Marshal McLuhan: If it works, it is obsolete and if the obsolete still works, it becomes an “art form.”  (McLuhan via Duggan in “Zuckerberg Galaxy“)

With the rise of ebooks, the old Guttenberg technology of mass published books has been usurped by the rising tide of the exponentially democratized ebook era.  Personally, I was wary of ebooks but after using them for almost a year, I now prefer them (they are, in my experience, faster to read, easier to carry, convenient to reference, and my notes are instantly accessible).  I know others prefer the tactile feel of paper books, but even they have to admit that their preference is based on a nostalgic experience that won’t be equally held by future generations.  We have entered what Len Sweet calls the TGIF era (Twitter, Google, Iphone and Facebook –  I would just add Kindle to the list but that would throw-off his great acronym) and the speed of change and its impact are exponentially growing.

Ebooks and the technology it represents, are changing culture.  As prophetically warned by Marshall McLuhan:  “Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen.”