Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christians engaging Web 2.0

As I mentioned in my previous post Great Library Experiment and A Story that proves a point, I believe that Christians should engage in the instututions of our culture to make sure that we are fairly represented. In these prior posts, it was simply about requesting that the library stock Christian titles that are of interest to us (and then actually checking them out) -- Note, this does not entail asking the library to REMOVE objectionable titles. That's counterproductive and just ticks everyone off.

Now, the Web 2.0 offers a great opportunity for Christians to further present a Christian worldview in a positive and winsome way. Web 2.0 is the next generation of web design that is based on "social computing". Old websites were monodirectional -- companies/individuals put up their websites and fed you content and you the good consumer devoured said content. Much like Television or Radio.

Web 2.0 stresses interactivity and social networking. (see Joshua Porter's fine overview of the concepts) Blogging is a fine example -- blogs represent individual opinions, but they allow for comments, trackbacks, and opportunities for ongoing discussion. Now there are dozens of interactive tools out there that allow uses to share data and information -- here are a few of the most exciting opportunities I've found:

Wikipedia The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Here's how it works -- you go online and read the article -- you find something that's a little off, you simply log right on and edit it. It's that simple. What about abuse, you say? Someone going on to deface content or spread false information -- quickly corrected by the next person who comes along and edits. The Time Magazine article from early 2005 indicates that obscenities placed in articles are removed in roughly 1.7 minutes. It already has hundreds of thousands of more articles than the Encyclopedia Britannica. For an example, see my article on Wikipedia about Thomas Watson -- it has generated a few links back to The Eagle and Child.

Flickr This Photo sharing website allows you to browse millions of photos submitted by people all over the world. They can tag the photos by subject, so you can search by tag, you can see the portfolio of individuals, you can copy the photos and use them in your own search (many of the photos I've been using in my recent posts come from Flickr). As an example, look what photos have been submitted from all over the world that have been tagged with the label "Jesus".

Squidoo This is Seth Godin's latest attempt at social networking. Any user is allowed to create a lens to showcase his/her expertise on a particular area. The website provides the tools to build the lens. Again, there is tagging and the ability to look for lenses that are similar. The ranking system puts the lenses in the marketplace of ideas -- the better lenses rise to the top and are used more frequently (and thus generate more ad dollars). For an example, check out the Lenses I just built on Christian Worldview Thinking and C.S. Lewis - his life and writings

LibraryThing LibraryThing is Flickr for books. You can catalog your library, tag books with subject tags, and submit reviews. This has driven web traffic for the Eagle and Child, for every book review I do here gets a link on library thing -- interestingly, Farenheit 451 has brought more people here than anything! Check out my profile there -- please note that the library construction is still in process (perhaps the biggest drawback to this site -- the labor intensive early work).

Now, these may seem nice and all, but realize the power behind this communication revolution. You can present your thoughts from a Christian Worldview to anyone that shares your interests. I did a post a few weeks back about the Rankin Bass production of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and that has brought dozens of readers to the Eagle and Child -- here they get exposed to a Christian worldview in a way that a print magazine or bricks and mortar presence could not. Now magnify that by millions of people engaging in the social architecture of Web 2.0.

Go and make your voice be heard.

Soli Deo Gloria