Saturday, February 10, 2007

General Conference and the Use of Technology

Sorry for the lack of posting - I've had a busy week. As I mentioned, I had a Book of Resolutions Task Force meeting this past week, in conjunction with the Interagency Legislative Task Force Meeting. The Interagency thing is where staff/members of different boards and agencies get together to talk about legislation they will be submitting to General Conference 2008. The idea is that agencies will be able to collaborate on legislation and avoid submitting similar/overlapping petitions or avoid assigning work to another agency without informing them beforehand.

During our conversation together, the issue of technology and General Conference came up. Someone asked about the rules for using things like PDAs, cell phones, and laptops during GC, especially for delegates. Currently, there are no rules in place. The conversation quickly turned to all the 'bad' ways technology might be used at GC, and a suggestion that device-use be restricted for delegates, and signals jammed onsite.

At this point, I had to speak up. I think the conversation was showing some fundamental differences in the way people make use of technology. I immediately thought of Leonard Sweet's language of 'native' and 'immigrant' when it comes to digital technology. I don't always agree with Sweet's ideas (he was a professor of mine at Drew) but I think he puts this in a helpful way to think about. Natives don't just 'use' technology - it is a fully integrated part of life, a way of life. But 'immigrants' may use technology, but more as an external tool that is employed to facilitate work. To me, attempting to limit use of technology at GC would be limiting a huge part of how people expect to be able to live, interact, and carryout work and relationships during GC. I think some of the folks as the meeting only thought of ways that technology could distract from the 'real work' to be done, but I see exciting possibilities for how it can actually positively and radically impact the work of the church.
I'm not sure I convinced everyone, but there were some who were certainly on the same page as me. To illustrate the point perfectly, one member received a text message while we were talking that had important information for our meeting. God moves in mysterious and timely ways, right?

What do you think? How can/might/will/should/shouldn't technologies be used at General Conference?
**Update: Jay mentions in comments that some rules are already in place. I'm surprised no one at the meeting knew about these. I understand the concerns Jay mentions - really, I do. But how long will these rules hold up against a changing world? That's another issue...
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