Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the medium is the message

I haven't read Flickering Pixels yet, but I'm a big fan of Shane Hipps and his first book, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. In fact, that book inspired one of my responses in my dad's upcoming book. First, a few words from Shane:

(thanks to Jonathon at Missio Deo for posting about video)

Now a few words from me:
"The medium has far more impact on the culture than its content." I’m guessing many Christians would disagree with this statement. I certainly found it shocking when I first read it, but after more reading and thinking, it’s beginning to make some sense. So, if you’ll bear with me, here’s what I learned.

With the vast cultural shifts we have experienced in America, many churches struggle to connect with the culture and are not keeping up. I hear things like the church is often decades behind the culture. Churches are involved in many exercises of trying to keep up. Pastors and lay leaders are eager to employ the latest technology, gadgetry, structures, musical styles, fashions, and espresso bars in the search to be relevant.

After reading The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture by Shane Hipps, I think we’ve got it backwards. I think the problem may be a misconception held by almost everyone involved with church and that is that the message should never change, just the delivery methods that will allow the message to "reach" the culture. First, it seems obvious to me that "the message" is not only slightly or very different for each Christian denomination; it’s different for every congregation and every individual inside or outside a congregation. Each of us brings our own interpretative lens to the message. Our faith and our beliefs are impacted by our experiences and our community. Belief and faith cannot be measured or checked off on a list.

Second, we fail to realize that the medium is the message. Shane skillfully identifies and describes basic media inventions that have had enormous impacts upon Western civilization. So all consuming are the resulting cultural shifts that we often no longer recognize their birth was caused, in part, by technology we now take for granted. That is the hidden power behind the medium. One of the pivotal technologies that has shaped faith from Martin Luther’s time on is the mass-produced, printed word. Shane writes that the printed word has "caused a cultural shift and an emphasis on the individual, on objectivity, on abstract thinking, on rationality, that – for better or worse – came to dominate nearly every aspect of social, political, and religious life during the modern era."

So what do we do with this printed word, this Bible that is at the heart of our Christian tradition? As Christians, we are called to be in "the word" daily. Many approaches to studying the Bible begin with the admonishment to "be objective" and not to let our own preconceived notions color our interpretation. I even have a discipleship study that encourages approaching the Bible with a "scientific method" of investigation. There’s this process called exegesis that many pastors and scholars employ to try and peel back the layers until one finds the kernel of "truth." Whose truth is that? We need to understand that this medium of the printed word has caused us to believe we can be far more objective and rationale creatures than we really are.

George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and author of The Political Mind said some amazing things about how the brain works in an interview with Diane Rehm: things like; "people mostly think their thoughts are conscious, however 98% are unconscious" and "we think reason is dispassionate, however reason requires emotion."

So, here's the deal: once we open up a Bible and read from it, we’ve already gone beyond it because we’ve brought our unconscious thoughts and passion to it. Does this make the Bible irrelevant? I don't think so. I agree with Marcus Borg "to be Christian is to be centered in the God of the Bible. This is not a mark of Christian exclusion, but of Christian identity." He goes on to say that "the point is not to believe in the Bible – but to see our lives with God through it." We live these lives in community and so it is with our community of faith that we pray, listen, learn, study, teach, struggle, admonish, encourage, and try to live our lives in God’s way. A way that has been recorded for us in the Bible by our predecessors and continues to be lived out, beyond the Bible in Christian lives today. The medium is the message and we, the people, are the medium for God’s message. - excerpt from Un-American Activities: Countercultural Themes in Christianity

Monday, March 23, 2009

it's enough to make you go crazy

love the message in this song - started making a list of the things making me crazy - too long, depressing and convoluted to post today - now I'm mad
don't hesitate to speak your mind
never hesitate to speak your heart
they'll call you crazy, when you speak your mind
so never, never hesitate
cause it's enough to make you go crazy
it's enough to make you mad
- Make You Crazy by Brett Dennen

Monday, March 16, 2009

10 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of Your Kids

Here's an article I've been working on for parents at the school where I teach tech - basically targeted at parents of 4th thru 8th graders. I hear the kids talking about stuff they are doing online that I'm not sure their parents are aware of. Who can really keep up with it all? It's a challenge, but I also think it's the responsibility of the parents to figure it out if their kids are online at home.

What's your online supervision experience with your kids? What kind of help, advice or assistance do you need?

10 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of Your Kids

1. Create an Online Safety Contract, review and sign it with your kids and post near all computers in your home. You can find a good example at

2. Keep computers and other wired technology in public spaces in your house where you can easily check in on what your children are doing online.

3. Create a list of "approved" websites for your kids to use. For instance, the Upper Elementary students have a list of websites they may use at Here are some examples of free resources that you can use to create your approved website list: or

4. Consider using a filter with some sort of parental control, but do not consider filtering software a replacement for your hands-on monitoring. At the very least, ensure that Google's SafeSearch is set to "Use strict filtering". To set this, select Preference from the Google home page.

5. Peruse the history on the computers used by your child. See if there are any patterns or websites that are new that are being visited a lot. Talk to your child about it.

6. Are your kids using a social networking site, like Facebook? Are they playing a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), like Runescape? Are they posting videos on YouTube? Did you know that all these sites have a under 13 years old age restriction?

Here is the Facebook policy in a nutshell:
"Children under 13 years old are not permitted access to Facebook. In addition, parents of children 13 years and older should consider whether their child should be supervised during the child's use of the Facebook site."

If your child wants access to this kind of site, first take the time to thoroughly review the site yourself. If you approve, then you should consider having full access to their accounts. This is not an invasion of privacy issue, this is a safety issue.

7. If your child sets up a web page or blog online, subscribe to the page over RSS or bookmark it and visit it daily.

8. Carefully consider the ramifications of allowing your child to have an e-mail account. There is no good way to avoid all the inappropriate spam that's bound to come in. There is a way with a gmail account to use the plus-addressing feature to create filtered inboxes. If you approve of your child having an e-mail account, then you should set up the e-mail account together and let your child know that you will occasionally be monitoring their e-mail activity. This is really no different that an administrator at a company or school having access to e-mail account info of their employees for security purposes.

9. Google your child. Nothing will probably turn up, but you never know. Just in case, every once in a while, you should Google your child's name, nickname, city (put your child's name in quotations and then type + the town, eg. "John Doe" +Anytown)

10. If your child is living online it is your job to supervise online! They should know that you are watching, vigilant, and involved and that you care.

(adapted from Cool Cat Teacher blog)