a window into my world.

Cloud Communities, Part 3

by Benjamin Anderson 24. June 2009 21:31

This week, while I was studying cloud computing platforms and the current definitions for the new buzz words, I started thinking about how the new terms translate to the new social and relational paradigms.  Cloud Computing is being used in a broader sense to describe virtualization of computer resources and systems.   Our new online social interactions have produced a virtualization of our relationships.  There are both benefits and scary repercussions to our behavior and the transition to these Cloud Communities.

As a result, “Cloud Communities” is getting a more specific definition.  Cloud Communities aren’t just communities formed on the internet, they are communities formed around an individual on the internet.  Each person forms, drafts and manages their own Cloud Community around them.  These community is completely free-form and free-floating.  It is constantly changing.  It is constantly abuzz.

For anyone involved in computers for 15 or more years, the online communities and connections with strangers isn’t a new thing.  Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) were used for electronic communities before the Internet and World Wide Web were wildly available.  These systems allowed individuals with similar interests to gather and commune in an electronic gathering place.  Most of the communication was done through forum posts on the BBSs.  Through those conversations and means the computer “nerds” formed relationships with perfect strangers.  Today, everyone is doing similar things by connecting with strangers through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the thousands of other niche networks available on our cell phones, computers and entertainment devices.  It has become a mainstream activity for perfectly disconnected strangers to cross paths in these networks and form relationships.  The “strange” and weird relationships of the BBSs have become perfectly accepted in today’s culture and completely invaded our everyday life.

Along with the completely new relationships we’ve thrown our real-life relationships onto these networks as well.  The Cloud Communities don’t include just tangent relationships formed over the Internet, but they now include our family, friends and co-workers.  There isn’t anything wrong with having our everyday relationships included in our online lives, but there is a problem with the degree that the online relationships and our real-life integrate.  Unlike the BBS friendship, or the AOL chat buddy, the online networks aren’t locked down to a system that is only accessible through our computer over a modem.  These relationships, with stranger or family member, are all directly accessible through countless means, the most common one being our cell phones.  The online relationships are beginning to encroach on our real-life relationships.  Tweeting, checking our friends’ Facebook status and reading email replies to our latest post within a community have trumped the conversation and relationship of the people sitting in front of us.  It’s gone as far as being the means in which some relationships are maintained, even when person is just down the street.

The virtualization of our relationships and communities isn’t all doom and gloom, but the extent of which it has interfered with reality has made more people local introverts and global extroverts.  When a text message across the room is a more common means of greeting people in a group rather than finding them and shacking their hand, our environment and bodies no longer matter.  Which makes motivating and connecting with groups even more complicated.  Attempts to connect and commune online results in a direct competition with all the noise already welcome in the individual's Cloud Community.

One voice among several hundred aren’t the ideal odds someone fresh out of bible schools wants to deal with, but with an online connected teenager the odds become one voice among  hundreds-of-thousands.  How does the church connect, commune and counter-act the noise outside of our local environment when it is welcomed in by the one we’re trying to reach?  What do we do with our involvement in the online communities to stand out within each individual’s Cloud Community that they built up around their self?  How do you communicate peace to an individual that is surrounded by more activity and noise than ever imagined, especially when the Cloud Community is always there even when our local community is no where near?  How does a group outside of someone’s Cloud Community connect with them and become apart of their community?

How has the virtualization of your own relationships and interactions impacted your local environment?  How has it impacted your peace of mind?  Do the costs of maintaining and managing your own Cloud Community out weigh the benefits of maintaining the connections, community and invasion of your life and privacy?


Categories: Cloud Communities | rants

Why should I...

by Benjamin Anderson 13. June 2006 02:07

This summer has already been quite an experience for me.  I’ve been out of Master’s for over a year, and I watched several of my friends graduate from their second year and move on to other areas of life.  I’m now one of the senior guys at work, though my title doesn’t reflect it, and I’m working on getting my own place.  It’s a lot of change, and yet it’s really all still the same.

Over the years while working with the young adults group at church, I’ve seen alot of things, people, and events come and go.  I’ve watched people storm out of the church, fall out of the church, hide from the church, been asked to leave to church, and others leave on good terms.  I’ve been through five name changes, four format changes and a boat load of leaders and regulars.  Our emphasis has always been on relationships, because as young adults that’s what matters more than the teachings, the events and the outreaches.  All of those things help build relationships, but the relationships and connections are what keep the people coming back.  Too many young adults are caught up in themselves so much that a growing relationship with God isn’t exactly possible without first coming into contact with others that are solely focused on their and other’s relationship with Christ.

There are times when I’m selfish and I sleep in on Sundays, and times with I have some much to do that I’m still gather things when everything is about to start, but there is never a time that I put anything else higher than building relationoships with other young adults.

This summer though has brought on a whole different perspective on connecting with young adults.  I’m not a partier, and I never have been, so this summer was my first time to ever attend a keg party, and this weekend was my first time to ever go to a club aside from business and convention events.  Both of these “opportunities” opened my eyes alot.  The party was hosted by an old friend from high school, and nearly everyone there was a complete stranger.  I knew four people there, and by the time I finally left there were at least 40 to 50 people there.  I hadn’t really talked any to those that I knew already since high school, but everyone at the party was very accepting.  It didn’t matter how laid back you were, how loud and roudy, or how dorky you were, everyone accepted you.  Whether it was real or not, I didn’t stay to find out, nor do I really care, because the reality of it is, it felt real.  The feeling wasn’t a result of alcohol, because I didn’t drink enough to even feel the slightest bit.

My first time in a club was a very similar experience, though my interaction with others never exceeded more than three words, I felt like everyone there accepted me.  I’m not a dancer, I’m not the most attractive, nor am I very bold and out going, but people treated me with respect when we came into contact, and I felt cool despite my short comings.

I wouldn’t ever advicate that someone should seek out clubs or parties for their acceptance, but I know that I haven’t felt or seen that kind of openess and acceptance from anyone in a church, ever.  That is something seriously wrong.  Now, I’m not saying that the churches I’ve attended are bad, or there is something horribly wrong with them, I’m saying that there is a void in the church’s atmosphere that is a very noticeble emptiness to anyone that doesn’t have Christ or has strayed too far away.  Without that emptiness that I know and feel being filled by Christ himself, I couldn’t stand to go to church myself.  And what I’m saying doesn’t apply to every christian group or organization, because some are so overwhelmingly accepting that it’s hard to tell that they are even Christian, not because they are immoral or deviant, but because their overwhelming acceptance is louder than their message about Christ.

It’s sad to say there there will never be a way to have it both ways, because it’s the message and the principles that make us who we are, but what are we really doing to give people a reason not to go the the clubs, bars and parties?  What do we offer someone that hasn’t heard the message already to even give them the slightest interest in who we are and what we do?

Your prayer meetings and bible studies aren’t going to get people to leave the clubs.  Your outreaches aren’t going to give people the confidence and medicate the problems they are facing, but the alcohol does.  You’re activites will never recieve the visitor like a party does while the members feel superior and can’t associate with someone that has problems.

God can reach these people. God can help them with their problems.  God can give them a perminent fix to their empty problem.  But he needs us so he can do the work.  What are we doing, how are we offering it, and why aren’t they accepting it?

Yes, I did get a high from my experience this weekend, and despite being sick, I felt great.  But I know that the affects that my experience had on me are very much temporary, and without a perminent and everylasting fix, the process would have to be repeated ever so often, with the ‘ever’ becoming shorting and the ‘often’ becoming the more frequent.

How is it so easy to get caught up in the temporary.  It’s so expensive and harmful, yet it is so effective… Why is it so hard for people to truly connect with God without going through Hell first?

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Categories: mental dump | ministry | rants


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About the author

Benjamin is a software developer in the DFW area.  He spends his free time playing video games, programming, doing graphics design and photography, and reading.

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