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Real Friends? August 3, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Media, Young people.
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There’s been 3 items about social networking that have caught my attention in the past few days

The first was the report written by 15 year old Matthew Robson claiming that few of his friends ued Twitter and wanted stuff for free off the internet. It seems to challenge some of the previously held views about the way teenagers use the internet

Second was Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflections that over use of soical networking leads to young people not being able to form authentic friendships

Finally was Thought for the Day by Giles Fraser that argued that too often church was only interested in ‘thick communities’ ie the traditional close knit community. Whereas for young people who were different, either through ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, fashion or whatever then the ‘thin community’ on-line provided a place for them to find genuine community.

Different views, different ages. No real conclusions but a discussion that youthworkers need to keep up with in the coming years / months / weeks depending on how fast all this changes!


Christianity in the digital space July 14, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible, Media.
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digitalsymp3I am spending three days this week at St John’s College Durham at a symposium – ‘Christianity in the Digital Space’. Today has been full with a presentation by Mark Brown available here. Then 4 groups looking at Bible, Spirituality, Community and Mission in the Digital Space. This mornings discussion raised on Mission raised some very interesting questions around how we might actually create neutral, safe or sacred spaces on the net as part of our approach to evangelism. This afternoon we talked about on-line religious or missional orders. There’s loads of stuff to look at on-line videos on YouTube here and you can follow the live video feed here 7.30pm this evening

Addicted to shops July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Consumerism, Media.
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Interesting article in the Times on Saturday. A review of two new studies on the psyschology of shopping. Nothing very startling really – but useful reminders.

all consumingNeal Lawson writing in ‘All consuming’ suggests that a consumer society can’t allow us to stop shopping and be content because then the whole system would die. This ‘turbo-consumerism fosters a ‘new selfishness’. (I’m not sure what was wrong with the old selfishness and wonder if the biblical word for it all is still sin!)

Interestingly he suggests that young people are sidestepping consumerism by using social networking sites – relying on their own (or perhaps their created) personalities and wit.

I need to read the book but it seems to me that the social networking sites are fuelled by this same narcisstic consumerism and financed by those who want the world to remain consumerist. What would it really mean to challenge our addiction and to help young people to do the same?

Torchwood – the impact of story July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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torchwoodI have just finished catching up with Torchwood this week – a highle enjoyable series for sci-fi fans. It was fascinating to see some really interesting issues being raised through the programme. In many ways this is how issues are raised in contemporary society

Some particular issues were

1. Live forever – Capt. Jack Harkness can’t die and comes back to life. In the end this ability means that he sees hundreds of lifetimes and in the end he can’t cope with what he sees

2. Worth – when requested to give up 10% of the world’s children, the UK chooses its 10% by taking the bottom 10% schools from the league tables. So do we think that children who are more academic are worth more than those who don’t achieve in this way. Even if we don’t think that do we treat them differently?

3. Sacrifice – the government have to choose between sacrificing millions of children or the whole human race. Jack has to choose between the death of his own grandson and the death of the children. It seems that one being sacrificed for the manyis a theme in contemporary story. Of course we have the ultimate example of that in the death of Jesus

But these themes (and others including friendship, family etc) are raised in these stories. How do we help young people develop the tools to think critically about these issues and engage biblically? If we don’t then they will remain passive consumers of the entertainment industry and their lives will be shaped by those many stories

Making an Impact July 3, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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michael jacksonI have not really known what to make of the news relating to the death of Michael Jackson this week. Given that we are almost the same age he (or at least his music) was part of the soundtrack of my life when I was growing up. I’m not sure I would call myself a fan but I have been very aware of the impact of his work through his iconic albums like Thriller. In recent times I have found myself saddened by the stories about his relationships with children. Sad to see his life seemingly in such a mess. The child who wasn’t allowed to be a child when growing up, simply seemed to revert to childhood when he became an adult.

But this morning footage of some of his rehearsals for his forthcoming tour have been released and watching them I was struck by how well he looked and reminded of his talent. This week his music sales have shot through the roof and it looks like he will be more succesful in death (good thing given his debt) than Elvis or Lennon.

That set me thinking – as someone who believes that the good news of the kingdom of God is the most significant news in the world, what do I need to do to allow that good news to make a similar impact on the lives of children and young people today. I realise that the entertainment indistry is superficial and commercial but here is someone who used their talents to make an impact. How do I live my life for God so as to make an impact on those I am called to serve? Makes me think!

Flickering Pixels June 30, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media.
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Flickering PixelsI discovered that Shane Hipps has written a new book on relating to the digital worls. Its sub-title is ‘How technology shapes your faith’. Shane writes clearly and there are some stimulating ideas – not all of it new. I am at a synposium in a couple of weeks ‘Christianity in the Digital Space’ where I hope we might get further thinking done.

Anyway my plan is to post my thoughts and summaries on the book here over the next week or so – return here regularly for updates. If you have the book why not read along with me and post your thoughts.

In the meantime perhaps we could start with a question: ‘Does technology shape your faith?’

Lack of contentment June 21, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media, Youth Work.
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I’ve had a busy week and there are a number of items that I’ve read but haven’t had time to post about sio will spread them out over the next few days.

On Tuesday the Times reported on the fact that we are better off than we have ever been, but we have lost any sense of contentment. The reason? The Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that this is because the institutions of the past – including family and church – provided ‘commitment devices’ that stopped us thinking only of our own interests. We lose things because of the rampant march to individualism. This is all part of their publication ‘Contemporary Social Evils’.

As I think about youth work I am left wondering if we are pampering to societies norms rather than offering alternatives that enable young people to think differently about the world?

Youth Work in a digital world June 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Education, Media, Youth Work.
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I noticed an interesting article in the Times on Wednesday about the governor of California getting rid of textbooks and replacing them with digital versions. Of course his motivation is saving money.

It did make me wonder about the Bible. With the growth of the digital world and e-books will the next generation be likely to read on-line and what does that do to Bible Study and understanding

Shane HippsI need to read Shane Hipps book ‘The Hidden Power of the Electronic Media’ again but also think about the digital age. Social networking is a massive area for today’s community building. What difference might it make to learning in the future? How is involvement in the digital world affecting the way that faith develops and grows?

Relating to today’s world June 5, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media, Youth Work.
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I am currently at a Scripture Union conference and we have been thinking about the way in which the world – particularly the digital world – influences our task of mission with children and young people. Andrew Graystone from the Churches Media Council suggested that there have been 4 ages

a) Oral (one to one) – communication largely through face to face relationships

b) Print (Literary) (one to many) – now the need for face to face shifts and the ability to communicate without relationship opens up. It encourages linear and propositional truth

c) Broadcasting (a few to many) – control rests in all cases with those creating the content

d) Digital (many to many) – all are broadcasters and the network functions to allow truth to be relative and undermined

Its a simplistic analysis but it offers a useful framework for thinking about how we work with children and young people in today’s world.

He also talked about the way that media is converging – perhaps the 19.2 million watching Britain’s Got Talent are an indication of the convergence. Maybe there will be some things that breakthrough the tribal nature of youth culture.

God is back May 4, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media, Youth Work.
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God is back

God is back

A couple of economists have written a book – ‘God is back: How the global rise of faith is changing the world’. The brief description says

‘Since the Enlightenment, intellectuals have assumed that modernization would kill religion, and that religious America is an oddity. This title argues that religion and modernity can thrive together, and that the American way of religion is becoming the norm.’
The book also promoted a really interesting article about this issue in the Times on Saturday – summarising much of the content. You can find that here.
One of my questions is really around how much of this takes account of two issues
a) Globalisation and
b) the world of young people.
Although they may not influence politics they do have the power to shape the future. As Bono sings on the latest U2 album ‘ Each generation gets the chance to change the world’. What will today’s young people do and how will today’s youth workers help them? Perhaps that is the biggest challenge of all