Blog Archives

Sabbatical, Day 51: Clay Shirky Chapters 1-3

Not being sure how much chance I’ll get to be in range of wifi or mobile broadband signals this Monday to Friday while I’m at Lee Abbey, I’m preparing a few short posts on Clay Shirky‘s book Here Comes Everybody.

Chapter 1 We now have what Tim O’Reilly calls ‘an architecture of participation’. Human tendency to work in groups plus new social tools means vastly reduced overhead costs. Institutions won’t disappear, but their role as a barrier to group action has collapsed.

So why do we still bother putting so much energy into church as institution?

Chapter 2 Social networking sites like Flickr have reversed the old principle of ‘gather, then share’ into the much more inexpensive ‘share, then gather’, thanks to tagging. The old state versus commerce choice assumed people couldn’t self-assemble. Now through social tools they can. They can 1. Share; 2. Collaborate; 3. Take Collective Action.

This has the potential to launch a new Reformation, undermining not just the Catholic priests of 500 years ago but all authority/institution figures today.

Chapter 3 Today’s social tools with their ‘mass amateurisation’ attack professionalism on two fronts. First of all, professionals control access to scarce resources. Blogs and the like mean that in the media, resources are no longer scarce. Secondly, professional depend on the recognition of fellow professionals. That too is blown apart when everybody is a media outlet. 

What implications might this have for the professionalism we cherish in the church?

Sabbatical, Day 38: Music And Search Engine News

Today has involved a fair bit more reading of Clay Shirky, including the chapter where he describes how the revolution in technology and social tools completely changed the ability of Catholic laity to protest against sexual abuse by priests in Boston. When I’ve finished reading Here Comes Everybody, I’ll blog it in a series.

Family-wise, we’ve been giving Rebekah a severe lecture for knots in her hair that we had to cut out. She seems more obsessed with twiddling her hair (or that of school friends) than concentrating on her work. Being the mean parents we are, we are sending the hair we cut to her teacher.

I’ve also done some more Cross Rhythms reviewing today. A special word for Welsh singer-songwriter Phil Lewis (Facebook page here). Highly recommended for lovers of 80s-influenced pop-rock. He doesn’t have the big budget some artists have, but if he did I think he’d make a big impact. And for something different, Native North American worship music from Waking The Sound. There’s no way I would have heard that without being a CR reviewer. Quite extraordinary.

In other music news, I was delighted to receive an email from Vineyard Music UK announcing the release of a new CD by bluesy American worship guy Chris Lizotte. Nothing sugary about his stuff, even when the lyrical content is conventional. Here he is, singing Brighter Day with Crystal Lewis:

In technology news, The Guardian has a piece on the latest potential Google-killer. Wolfram Alpha claims to have found the holy grail of computing with the intelligence to understand human questions. It launches in May. It’s confusing that it’s caused Alpha: it sounds like it hasn’t even reached beta status. However, you can apply to participate in the beta testing on the site. It only seems months since the last Google-killer was announced and hyped, only to be ruined by bloggers (including obscure ones like me) pointing out that it didn’t deliver good results. I wonder whether this will be any different.

Sabbatical, Day 37: In Between Reading, Some Links And Videos

Today, some odds and ends. In between reading some Clay Shirky, here are some links I’ve found.

John Martyn 
The official John Martyn website reports today that BBC4 will be repeating the one-hour Johnny Too Bad documentary, and by a half-hour solo acoustic performance from 1978. Dates and times for the documentary are Friday 20th March at 10:00 pm, Saturday 21st March at 1:20 am and Sunday 22nd March at 10:00 pm. The concert is being shown immediately after the Firday 20th documentary and immediately preceding the Saturday showing. It is not being broadcast on the Sunday.

This video is doing the rounds of certain Christian blogs at present. N T Wright would be apoplectic in its denial of the physical and material in the afterlife. OK, don’t take it too seriously, but this is part of the problem with much populist Christian understanding of life after death:

(Via Parables of a Prodigal World and On Coffee.)

This one is popular, too. American comedian Louis CK interviewed by Conan O’Brien on the theme, ‘Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy’. I watched this just after reading some more of Clay Shirky‘s book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ where he says that social change happens not once new technology is invented, but once is becomes ubiquitous. Louis talks more about how easily jaded we become with new tech:

(Via Collide Magazine and others.)

At least these are YouTube videos you can watch in the UK. From next Monday, UK viewers won’t be able to see premium music videos on the site.

David Wayne has a very pointed ‘failed Gospel tract‘.

American pastor Mark Batterson on his rules for writing.

And that will have to do for today. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest somewhere in the abvoe.


Sabbatical, Day 31: Links, Lent, Movies And Books

Before today’s news, here are some links. Let’s kick off with a survey. What kind of technology user are you? The Pew Internet and American Life Project has a quiz. I am an ‘ominvore‘. (Via the Comodo Monthly Insider email.)

The Evangelical Alliance has a resource launching on 5th March entitled ‘Square Mile‘. To quote their email:

Mercy: demonstrating God’s compassion to the poor
Influence: being salt and light in the public life of the community
Life Discipleship: equipping Christians for missional living as workers & neighbours
Evangelism: faithful and relevant communication of the gospel
Square Mile is an exciting initiative, designed to catalyse and equip the UK Church to take a truly integrated approach to mission in partnership with the Alliance and Community Mission.
Square Mile resources include a new DVD-based course designed for small groups, which explores these four areas of mission. Featuring insights from: Shane Claiborne, Mark Greene, J John, Tim Keller, Elaine Storkey, Jim Wallis and N.T. Wright, as well as examples of grassroots projects around the UK. A journal is also availabe containing daily readings, reflections and activities covering four weeks – ideally used alongside the DVD course.

Ruth Haley Barton has an article for the first week of Lent: Practising Repentance.


If it isn’t one, then it’s the other. Mark went back to school today, and Rebekah was off sick. She had diarrhoea in the night and this morning. I’ll spare you further grisly details. 

Thus today I have been a teacher and an entertainer. Not that far removed from ministry, is it? I helped her with her reading, her spelling homework and her Maths game.

As a reward, we allowed her to paint a mug. Not one of our existing mugs, one that came in a box with paints and brushes. She has decorated a couple before, but I put the last one in the dishwasher and the paint began to peel. If everything King Midas touched turned to gold, most things I touch shatter into several pieces.

Either side of lunchtime, Debbie, Rebekah and I watched ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘ on DVD. It came out in 1968, and I saw it at the cinema first time around. If I didn’t feel old enough already, what with the fact that tomorrow I enter the final year of my forties, I felt even more decrepit remembering that fact.

As I watched it, I mused on this thought. Today, we are used to discussing serious themes in films. Organisations like Damaris Trust and others produce first class material to help in that matter. Usually, the movies chosen are not children’s titles. Yet Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has some simple ideas that would bear some exploration. Here are just a few. 

Career-wise, do you follow your dreams, imagination and creative talent, even into penury that affects you and your family, in the hope it will work out in the end, or do you just take a routine mundane job? (Caractacus Potts)

How do you deal with the fact that evil is sometimes blatant and other times disguised? (The Child Catcher)

How do you hang on in the face of evil while injustice reigns? (The villagers keep their children underground, not seeing the sun, while the Baron and his forces seek to eliminate children.)

Can you have successful marriages and relationships across wide socio-economic barriers? (Caractacus Potts doesn’t propose marriage to Truly Scrumptious until he realises his invention of Toot Sweets is going to make him wealthy, just as she is.)


And finally, just a little tiny bit of sabbatical work today. Some of that was reading the terms and conditions for signing up to Survey Monkey. I’m glad I read these. I have to be very careful how I word emails in which I invite people to complete my survey, and include various items to avoid Survey Monkey deleting my account. Clearly they are protecting themselves against use by spammers. I have to include an ‘unsubscribe’ link and my snail-mail address. The problem with ‘ubsubscribe’ will be that I may not be using a mailing list full of individuals, so I’ll need to think of a way around that.

The other thing that has happened is this. You may recall my recent series of posts on The Starfish And The Spider. There was another similar book I also wanted to read. Well, at last, after several weeks on order and being number one in the queue to read it next, ‘Here Comes Everybody‘ by Clay Shirky found its way to North Melbourne Library today, and it is sitting on my desk at last. I had taken to reading something that is not sabbatical related, but which is thought-provoking on a general theme: ‘The God I Don’t Understand‘ by Chris Wright. I may need to return to that later now.

You Can Do Big Things With Love

Just found this Clay Shirky video rather belatedly via Bill Kinnon last month:

Shirky uses geeky stories to make the point that the old model of doing small things with love whereas large things need commerce isn’t the whole truth any more. There are plenty of applications to church and mission. See what you think.