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Reflections from #cnmac12

Christian New Media Conference badge

On Saturday, I travelled up to Kings College, London to participate in (what was apparently) the sixth third annual Christian New Media Conference (the awards night has been running much longer).

I signed up to attend months ago, pretty much as soon as tickets were available, and as it turned out I ended up going as a contributor, leading a seminar on ancient-future lessons and what the Tradition of the church has to say to us today.

The first thing I want to say is that I had a blast. I hardly knew anyone. One other person in the conference was a friend from r/l (that’s real life to non-geeks) and I had conversed with a few more on Twitter or via this blog, but most were brand new to me.

For me to walk in a room and not know anyone isn’t my ideal cup of tea, but actually it went fine and, despite that, I had a good time. Interesting talks and seminars, lots of fun with the Twitter feed absolutely blowing up, and met one or two really interesting people interested in similar things to me.

Here are ten things I take with me from #cnmac12.

  1. I really am such a geek
    I guess sometimes I doubted. I guess sometimes I’ve not wanted to be. But when you’re beyond excited to go to a geek conference and when you’re surrounded by other people and in each and every one you see in their passions and interests a mirror of yourself, it should be telling you something. Inhabit who you are. I am a geek. I am proud.
  2. Twitter is a tool that connects people
    As a contributor, I put my Twitter Handle on my presentation. It was also carried in the conference’s promotional material. Number of followers rose by over 100%. More to the point, a good number I think will be very useful and interesting contacts to both follow and be followed by. I also picked up one or two interesting contacts from the Twitter feed in the main hall – responding to their tweets, led to some interesting conversations over lunch. I had wondered what Twitter was about, I’m starting (but only starting) to see.
  3. We may lack a bit of depth
    Said in the nicest possible way, I think we’re just playing in the shallows at the moment. A lot of the seminars, a lot of the discussion wasn’t that deep. Sadly, some people decided to use the Twitter feed to talk garbage rather than listen and contribute to what was being said. My own seminar was an attempt at depth – what we can learn theologically from the tradition of the church, and seemed very well received for that attempt. We need more. It was also noticeable that anytime Sr Catherine Wybourn spoke or prayed, people were utterly silent. A life clearly lived in calling and commitment commanded respect. Is she the chaplain to the Christian new media aficionados? Looks like it. All round, more depth is good and needed.
  4. There is potential for new media in worship pt I
    It was good to see streams of seminars for beginners, experts, a theology stream and more. I guess I was sitting there thinking – where is the worship stream? I know people are doing some very interesting things in worship, making use of new media. I’ve blogged about a good few on this website. What a chance to share good ideas – using the PS3 in worship, asking questions of the sermon via Twitter or why sermons using Powerpoint may not be a great idea.
  5. There is potential for new media in worship pt II
    Why stop at having a seminar stream? Rather than sitting in the final session looking at which person had the sorest thumbs from using Twitter the most that day, what an opportunity to show people what is possible in worship with the use of new media. Video reflection? Tweet prayers to be read? Text a confession? I’m sure there’s lots of possibilities with that many geeks in the room.
  6. Sort out your church website
    Before you step into a room with 400 Christian geeks, and especially if you’re about to do a seminar, make sure that redevelopment of the church website that you’ve been promising yourself you will get around to finishing is actually finished. I’ve been at my new parishes for a year and, when you’re full-time ministering, it’s hard to find time for it. But now I know I better get it sorted. I’m so ashamed it has taken me so long. This blog might need a new look and feel as well. It’s been more than a while… but first things first.
  7. You’re gonna need a bigger boat
    The conference sold out its 400 tickets. I know of two people I know well who wanted to come but couldn’t. I also know of certain new media and communication professionals who didn’t even know it was happening. If this thing builds (and it could), a new venue is going to be needed but, organisers, don’t try to get too big, too fast – keep the frisson of exclusivity, hard to get into. It works.
  8. Talk about sex and geeks will giggle. If they’re Christian geeks, you’ve got no chance.
    Vicky Walker‘s excellent discussion of what we can learn from 50 Shades of Grey was somewhat lost (not entirely) for the fact that a good number of people couldn’t stop giggling because, gasp, shock, horror, somebody at a Christian conference dared to mention sex. Despite the fact shockingly few people admitted to reading it, apparently most people seemed to know of the general themes. Fact is, Vicky had some excellent points to make. Not sure how many heard them.
  9. How do you handle churchmanship?
    Let’s face it, when Premier Radio is your primary sponsor and organiser, the churchmanship will have a certain slant. That’s fine – I’ve no concern with that. Maybe it’s why worship is a no-go area? I don’t know. But I know there are some good people, experts in new media, in other streams of church life and I’d loved to have seen them at cnmac too. Some of them could have been speakers and good ones at that. I’ve no answers to that one (when does anyone ever have an answer to that one?) but just the question.
  10. cnmac12 is only just beginning
    by which I mean, new media opens up conversations. It creates discussions. If the people who were there and those who followed online don’t now take those conversations forward, well we’ve missed the point. My hope is that those who came to my seminar will follow me up, follow the subject up. I want to speak to some of the guys I spent time with and learn from their experience. I’ve already got somebody’s MA dissertation to read. Just as the end of the church service is the start of our mission, so too the end of cnmac in London ought to be the start of the digital conversation (and mission).

 

Comments

Hannah
Reply

“In real life” – this term bugs me because it almost makes out that relationships and conversations on Twitter don’t take place in the real world. Some of the blogs I read often refer to “in real life” as “in person” or “face to face”. I have two friends who I met via twitter who’d I’d class as best friends. One of them I’ve only met once “in person” and the other I have never met “in person” but are those friendships any less than with someone I’ve known “in person” for the same amount of time. Then again 50 years ago, if we met once then became pen pals would that friendship be any less, take Julia Childs and Avis DeVoto for example they were pen pals for years and years before actually meeting and even then their friendship was born out of serendipity (more info here.

The Twitter Wall – You’re always going to have problems when using a twitterfall especially when like yesterday, spammers adopted the tag. I spent maybe 15 minutes or more across the day attempting to report spammers before their tweets reached the wall – okay this wasn’t necessarily my job or responsibility but its easier than someone being tasked with watching the fall just in case a spammer creeps in. By the time the pickles discussion erupted around 4/5pm ish I think a lot of people were just getting a bit restless and what started as one comment shot over the top and became something else entirely.

Worship Thread Pt 1. – I can see where you’re coming from however at the same time I struggle enough deciding which seminars to go to anyway – especially when the title doesn’t necessarily match what is happening in front of you. I know one person who split one slot into thirds and went to about 10-15 minutes of a seminar before moving to the next one.

Worship Thread Pt 2. – I was the number one tweeter in that particular graph that Bex showed us. Part of me is proud and part of me is embarrassed but actually the point of the session was to show how we’d developed part of our story even in one day following on from Sheridan’s talk etc. Were you there last year where the person doing the last talk actually asked people to close their laptops and put down their gadgets to focus on what he had to say – I think I remember looking around to see firstly if people were doing what he had said and then secondly had people started typing or tweeting again.

I am a geek who loves numbers and spreadsheets. Show me a graph and I’m a happy girl kind of thing so the different graphs and word clouds were really interesting to me and to see those analytics used in the presentation.

Vicky’s 50 Shades Talk – I found it really interesting but I think part of the Christians talking about sex thing is inherent anyway. My husband and I went to a marriage evening at church and the couple leading talked about sex and making time for it or squeezing it in when you can but I’d say 90% of those there squirmed and wanted to hide until that bit was over. Sex is perfectly normal in a marriage but why as Christian’s do we freak out about talking about it? I wasn’t there in person but our Pastor did comment on 50 Shades in one of his Sunday preaches and my husband said it was interesting to see how people reacted. If we’re called to be Jesus to those around us should we be seen to be reading books like 50 Shades?

Part way through a conversation popped up with the Restored team along the lines of “Consensual BDSM or domestic abuse?” I came down on the side of domestic abuse. It’s about control and domination. Yes I haven’t read it but 1) there are plenty other books out there to be read (I’m reading Wuthering Heights at the moment, Cathy and Heathcliff are weird enough as it is!) 2) do I as a 26 year old married Christian girl want to be polluting my brain with something like 50 Shades? I’ve seen people’s comments pop up in my FB feed and I ignore them or switch the notifications so that their statuses no longer appear as a priority.

I really enjoyed the TED style talks – I sometimes have the attention span of a flea and do regularly question if I have ADD or something so quick, to the point talks are right up my street.

Sorry for the epic comment!!

David
Reply

Hi Hannah

Thanks so much for commenting. To respond briefly about some of the things you raise:

I know what you mean about ‘real-life’ and don’t disagree at all. I stand corrected if it appeared that way. I have some excellent friends from online interaction who I meet rarely or ever. They are no less valid as friends, in my opinion, than people I meet face-to-face.

You comment that seminars are hard, especially if they don’t match what was described. I can only speak as a contributor and say that I was told in pretty strong terms to stick to the topic given in the program. If people weren’t doing that, I think it’s important to feed that back and (for me) if I was an organiser, it would make me think about inviting them again.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying those graphs and statistics weren’t interesting. I’m just saying ‘what an opportunity’ with 400 people who understand new media to show them what worship could be like, and engage in some cutting-edge experimentation in worship. The graphs are fine – but could we have done them just as well by posting them online afterward? I think so.

50 Shades is tricky. Pete Phillips tweeted Phillippians 4.6 and he’s not wrong. Think on good and right things. However, as a church leader, I think it’s incumbent upon me to pay attention to the world I live in. As a leader, I am to listen to God, listen to the people and listen to the culture. If half the population (mostly female) is being influenced by a particular book, then I think I ought to read it. I read the Da Vinci Code for the same reason. 50 shades was crap, but it’s influential crap, and for that reason it’s important. Vicky’s TED-style talk was important because it picked up on some of those cultural touchstones and tried to reflect and learn lessons. That was my main point and it’s a shame some people couldn’t hear that for giggling. Vicky Walker didn’t mention BDSM once and rightly so – that isn’t the cultural lesson to be learning; it was only Vicky Beeching and the domestic abuse campaign that mentioned that I think. Important also as such discussion and conversation may be.

Thanks again for stopping by and engaging. It’s always appreciated.

David

Han
Reply

I’ll drop Bex a tweet in a bit and see if she can tell me who to send feedback to – it was good overall but one seminar in particular I struggled to keep up with as the person was speaking quite fast.

Although the majority do understand social media a bunch of the people came to find out more. I know my friend has a Facebook account but literally uses it for the minimum that she needs to. It’s only following Saturday that she’s decided to join Twitter and try and use both a bit more. I agree with using the opportunity for experimentation in worship but at the same time with not everyone being experts or beginners it could have been quite hard for the beginners to join in (or the experts to feel involved if it was aimed at the beginners)……does that make sense?

I read The Da Vinci Code, I think as a story it’s good but I think you have to remember to keep it separate from “real life”, just like Harry Potter, so many people were convinced that children who read Harry Potter were going to join cults and become Wiccans and things like that.

Have you read Restored’s posts about 50 Shades? It is worth a reading. I think they started it and Vicky commented and it went from there.

David
Reply

Thanks Hannah. In regard to the books, yes of course. It’s not real life. But at the same time, I had several conversations with people who don’t go to church who effectively said that the Da Vinci Code had disproved the gospels for them. So, for them, it was real life. From the perspective of needing to listen to the culture, I was forced to engage with it and we actually ended up running a very well attended evening in which we blew up the various myths the book propagates.

Not seen Restored’s post. I will look it up. Thanks for highlighting it for me.

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