Thursday, October 23, 2008

My one political foray this season: No on Issue 6

Here's the text of a letter to the editor that I submitted to the Cincinnati Enquirer ... thus far they have chosen not to print it. So, I thought I'd share it with you. It's an article encouraging a "No" vote on Issue 6: the Ohio Casino Initiative.

There is an episode of The Simpsons in which a con man comes to Springfield promising a solution to the town’s economic woes in the great benefit of a monorail. It’s part of a rich tradition of popular entertainment that relies on the motif of the smooth talking con-man who plays on the fears of the populace in order to fleece them. Think of Henry Hill in The Music Man and Starbuck in The Rainmaker. These popular stories teach us a basic truth: hucksters capitalize on fear, promise a great benefit, and get us to support their schemes. When they’ve made their money, they skip town leaving the citizenry holding the bag.

That’s exactly the sense I get when viewing the advertisements supporting Issue 6. These advertisements appeal to fear: fear that Ohio is missing out on great casino windfalls; fear that we’re falling behind other states; and fear that if we don’t do something – anything – soon then we’ll fall further behind. Their solution is a casino.

This primary appeal to fear should be a loud warning signal. Fear shuts down rational thinking. The fear that casino backers try to arouse distracts us from the truth that Issue 6 would create an unfair monopoly in the state for one casino. This same fear distracts us from the truth that our country is already saturated with casinos and gambling establishments. The dream of easy windfall profits is an illusion that will fade in the harsh reality of competing in an overdeveloped gambling market. Again, this fear diverts our attention from the truth that the profits will be leeched mainly out of the paychecks of Ohio’s citizens, rather than out of some imaginary tourist boom. What money the casino does make will be siphoned off out of the state into the pockets of the gambling industry.

In his second inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Rather than caving in to our fears, let’s put our energies and our hopes and our thinking into what we in Ohio do well. Let’s invest in agriculture to take advantage of the coming biofuel boom. Let’s work together to make our manufacturing the best in the world again. Let’s encourage entrepreneurs who actually make products that add value. Let’s develop tourism around the areas where we’re already strong: arts, sports, outdoor recreation, to name a few.

On election day, say no to the fear mongering of Issue 6, but then let’s get creative about building on our existing strengths.

Russell Smith is pastor of Covenant-First Presbyterian Church. These views do not necessarily reflect the position of the church, but his own as a private citizen.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

More on Cross-Platform Institutions

Earlier this year, I put up a post about Hollywood's New Geek Elite... how they've transformed the entertainment industry by taking popular TV shows across multiple platforms. The idea was that storytelling would no longer be confined to the TV show itself.... the big arc of the story would be developed online, through gaming, graphic novels, tv, movie spin offs, book deals, etc. I put up some questions about how the church can also use these kind of media options.

Since then, I've found the wonderful weblog Museum 2.0, which is asking the same kinds of questions for Museums. How can museums extend their relationships with patrons/visitors beyond the physical visit? How can exhibit design be tweaked to draw more people in to asking questions? How do we engage people in participating in the museum rather than just viewing the museum?

At said weblog, they just put up a great post on how Scholastic Books is going cross platform for their new book series 39 Clues. Then they consider what museums can learn about enhancing their online experience:

But the approach is valuable. It takes humility to acknowledge that museum visits can't--in most cases--accommodate every kind of relationship museums would like to have with visitors. There are content-related experiences and preferences that would be better served in alternate environments. Art museums have always created catalogues to accompany exhibitions, which are one cross-platform way for obsessives to deepen their relationships with content.

But what about the grazers, the visitors who come once but never make it back to that time- and location-specific experience of visitation? What other engagement platforms could connect those individual museum experiences into a more continuous, growing relationship?The Web is certainly one of these platforms. Too many museums have an overly structured concept of the online pre- and post-visit experience that limit the opportunities for pervasive engagement. Rather than thinking of extending one museum visit with a pre- and post-visit, we should be thinking about linking many museum visits with online experiences.

Scholastic has the audacious attitude that people will want to read all ten books, and The 39 Clues online experience is unapologetically geared toward that long-term investment. Imagine a museum game that requires visitors to visit six times in a year to connect with six different exhibits that punctuate a more open-ended online narrative. Forget "build the exhibit and they will come". This is "build the narrative and they will return".These narratives need not be crass advertising grabs; they can become opportunities for visitors to educate themselves in a range of ways about museum-related content. Because despite what the New York Times may say, it's not an OR situation. All of the media experiences in our lives--of objects, of books, of games, of video--can be ANDs. We just need a good enough story to help people make the connection.

So the question becomes, how do we build multiple experiences, opportunities that build and provide opportunities to delve deeper..... how do we enhance our online and offline experiences to draw people in deeper?

Some practical for instances from Covenant-First. We're putting together a devotional for Advent. I've asked several authors to write individual reflections and we're compiling them and professionally printing it through (I'll put up an announcement when it is available online). This advent devotional can be done as a standalone devotional, but it is designed to support the sunday sermon series we're doing through advent.

This in of itself is a cross-platform attempt to get people encountering scripture together. Additinoally, it won't be place bound.... any of our extended family anywhere in the world will be able to order this devotional through Lulu and go through it. Lord willing, we'll have our sermon-audio challenges worked out and anyone will be able to download the sermons as well.

The next step? Online interactions. Perhaps we put together a Facebook Group to allow people to discuss insights, or tell their stories online. Enhance the reflections by adding your own... that kind of idea.

Your thoughts?

Soli Deo Gloria