November 2011 Archives
At approximately 11:45am yesterday morning, Concordia University, St. Paul hosted Jason Deboer-Moran, in their Buenger Education Center for a convocation titled, "Social Media: The Rise of Strategic Authenticity and Transparency." Prof. Deboer-Moran was introduced as one of the Top 20 Social Media Innovators in the Twin Cities, and did not live down his title throughout the presentation. He encouraged the audience to "think beyond the tools" they use, and focused on three key points: (1) being strategic, (2) using authenticity, and (3) determining transparency. While he was also attempting to introduce the audience to a chapter from his soon-to-be-published book, "Manager's Pocket Guide to Social Media," Prof. Deboer-Moran seemed to be targeting business or marketing centered audience members. However, in the end each audience member was led on a social media journey that seemed to begin and end with their self.
In the light of reading "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle, I was shocked at the language of Prof. Deboer-Moran, especially when referring to communication made through social media. "Conversations among human beings," he claimed, "sound human, [and] businesses want to sound human." At first, it made sense. It sounded alright. No big deal. But then something clicked, sound human? He talked about how businesses like Zappos form relationships with their customers by having all of their employees, including their CEO, have Twitter and Facebook accounts that customers can see and interact with. Similar to the way people form relationships with their robots in "Alone Together", people were attempting to connect with the business itself through its CEO and/or employees. Why? How? Is this truly a relationship? What constitutes a relationship? Turkle discusses this further in her book, but I won't give it all away. All I know is her argument is lacking one thing . . . Jesus. Okay, okay, okay so it doesn't have to be Christianity, but can I get some sort of theological perspective on this social media relationship between humans and businesses? How far is too far? Should one even attempt to set limits if one knows such limits will be pushed?
It drives me a little nuts when I think about relationships 'built' online. The need to connect to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr in order to feel connected or even loved seems absurd, yet sometimes one can find it to be true. There are college students without a significant other, without close family, without someone to greet them as they enter their dorm room, and it's lonely! That doesn't necessarily mean that one needs to be on social media twenty-four hours a day or invest in a robot companion, but it does draw attention to the fact that we need each other as human beings, as Christians, as friends, and as family. Being alone is good sometimes, but I believe each individual on this earth needs a daily cup of social interaction so that they are not forced to turn to building a relationship with a CEO who might never care to learn about them or a robot who can never care.
The book makes it very obvious that, yes, this is happening and, yes, people need to be aware; however, it seems that people still refuse to be. While tools such as the computer, internet, and Google allow for quicker, easier, and cheaper methods of spreading the Christian Gospel, members of the faith must be aware that this medium is affecting their message. This does not necessarily mean Christians need to be anti-internet, anti-Google, or anti-computer, but they do need to realize: (1) how much more personal a missionary is compared to an e-mail, (2) the loss of the depth in the word of God when its message or verses are online. It is great for people to have them available and easier to search through; however, what kind of God do non-Christians understand when all they see are snippets of Bible verses or even a full verse taken completely out of context? One might claim a specific book of the Bible as favorite or most important, but in the end the entire Bible is the word of God and in order to understand it, one must take the time to go through it deeply, analytically, and actually think about how it affects one's life; how it can bring one hope, new meaning, and/or a passion for life.
I was surprised by how quickly ELIZA responded, faster than an actual human response, but at the same time the quickness worried me. If there was no time for processing the information as a Human mind would process the information, then it only further emphasizes the lack of emotion, understanding, and/or sympathy that this machine could never have in comparison to a human being. It definitely didn't seem to actually understand what I am saying as it continually reassures that what I said is accurate. "Yes," I tell her, "You are sure," she responds confirming my response, "Yes," I say again, "I see," she finishes. I don't think she saw or fully comprehended anything that I nor she was communicating. As Sherry Turkle's book Alone Together explains, ELIZA was simply created to respond as a therapist would and did not actually understand what was being communicated, she was simply reorganizing the words given to her and forming them into a question or sentence of reassurance. It is interesting that ELIZA is able to deceive the responder so quickly. One just might spill out their deepest darkest secret believing that maybe this time someone would hear them, yet, all ELIZA says is "You are sure," and "I see," while our human selves desire so much more. A comforting hug, words of encouragement, or even just a smile would do, but ELIZA could not do that.
"Concordia University St. Paul empowers you to discover and engage your purpose for life, career, and service in a dynamic, multicultural, urban community, where Christ is honored, all are welcome, and Lutheran convictions inform intellectual inquiry and academic pursuit."
Wednesday, November 9th, at approximately 12:00pm Rev. President Tom Reis began his second convocation of the year with a recap of what has already come to pass within the "Uncover the Promise" Process. He reminded the audience of the differences between a mission, vision, and promise statement, and clarified the makeup of a promise
statement as something that is: (1) compelling, (2) differentiating, and (3) true. This would be the promise the University makes to its students, and would provide a new lens through which all new strategic planning would be evaluated. Although this convocation may have been directed towards higher administration, staff, and faculty members, its good news will deeply affect the futures of many students.
Words such as empowers reminded audience members that the University is constantly attempting to work with students in order to assist their life long process of learning. When observed on a minor scale, Resident Assistants must do the same. What first comes to mind for myself are the various services related to tutoring, career, health, disability, and diversity which are available and free to all students. However, for other students this empowerment might not be as clear, and it is my responsibility as their Resident Assistant to ensure that it is. When witnessing a resident struggling over homework, worrying about filling out an application, or even coughing and sneezing severely, I must remember the word of empowerment and direct residents to the right services accordingly.
The word purpose was used within the Promise Statement because it embodies both the concept of vocation and the concept that God created each of us for a reason as explained in Psalm 139. Immediately, this reminds me of my duty as a Christian called to do the right thing and called to share the good news and how it correlates with my daily work as a Resident Assistant. Remember to serve others, embracing Concordia's dynamic, urban, and multicultural community, and sharing the Gospel whether that's through a communal floor event or simply by offering to help a resident carry in her groceries is important.
President Reis did not carefully lay out the details for how each staff, faculty, or student of Concordia should all live out the promise in what they do at Concordia; however, he did explain and demonstrate that all members of the Concordia community would begin to automatically do so as they get excited or constantly remind each other of the statement itself. It is a very inspirational promise; one which I am given as a student and one which I am obligated to as a Resident Assistant. I believe it is important for resident assistants to get excited about this statement, hold true to it, and live it out daily for all residents as a promise.