essay: Christianity and the Future of the Book

Really enjoyed this essay – Christianity and the Future of the Book. Looks at the history of Christianity in terms of the emerging forms of communication that have happened over the millennia: from scroll to codex to book to iPad.

If you’re trying to make sense of the effect of smaller or larger screens has on the way that we understand a text, then this is worth a read. There are advantages to reading a book that we might be missing in our rush to move toward e-books.

Gypsy Espresso, Potts Point

Gypsy Espresso, Potts Point

Gypsy Espresso Coffee. Shop 6, 81 Macleay Street Potts Point. I was interested to see the latest project of Gavin from Single Origin was working on. In the site of the old Toby’s Estate cafe, the space has been reinvented. The interior walls have been painted dark, but with all the glass, there’s plenty of natural light.

Gypsy Espresso, Potts Point

As you would hope, the coffee is excellent. Decaf is ground to order, the single origin on offer was really pleasant as an espresso, and the house blend was well crafted, though a bit different to what I was expecting. Worth a look.

View Larger Map

DVD – The Muppets

DVD: The Muppets

I missed this on the big screen: my kids are still too small to sit still for this long, so we waited until it was available to bring home. I’d heard only good things about this movie: the only question marks were around whether small children would be able to follow what was going on onscreen.

Having watched it with some grown-ups in their 30’s and kids up to late primary school age, it seems that the kids were consistently entertained, but the adults were absolutely loving it. There’s a real recreation of the kind of humour that was present in the original Muppet Show and Muppet movies: the same slapstick and puppet-based humour, some great breaking of the fourth wall, and drawing the humour from parts of life that make sense to kids.

One of the underlying plot points is whether the world is now too cynical for the type of humour that the Muppets offer: the Blues Brothers style plot of “getting the band back together” works well as a plot device, and to give individual characters their screen time.

If you were in any way a fan of the Muppets, then this movie is worth a look. 

enslaved by the smartphone

An odd experience on the trip home last week. I bumped into a friend from church at the train station, and then he bumped into a friend while we were on the train. There we were, three young(ish) fathers, awkwardly chatting. It wasn’t long until we decided to share photos of our kids. And so, three smartphones came out, and we were all flicking through at the recent photos. 

The smartphone has changed everyday life for a lot of us.

I’ve had some kind of smartphone with me most days for over 6 years – an imate k-jam, then an iPhone 3G, and most recently an iPhone 4. The latter I’ve had for long enough that I’m starting to wonder what my next phone will be – the home button is starting to stick a little bit, and it’s starting to feel a bit old and slow already (much like my only-eighteen-month-old-laptop). 

It surprised me to find, especially in the last couple of months, that I’m not enjoying having a smartphone in the same way that I have for the past few years. The sense of always having access – to Facebook, to Twitter, to my work and personal email, to wikipedia and IMDB, to Google maps, to an endless procession of games – is convenient, but seems more an addiction than something that is enriching me.

First thing in the morning, I find myself checking social media sites and email – almost on autopilot. The single-tasking of the iPhone makes me intersperse this with waiting for things to load, which increasingly makes me feel impatient. And this is before – likely as not – I’m out of bed. I can tell from reading the tweets of others that I’m far from alone in this.

I like having ready access to a reasonable-quality camera all the time, and I’m enjoying the ability to create short-form content (though not as well as I could with my first smartphone) and post it online, but there are so many distractions that I feel like I’m short on motivation to create content.

Being mindful of this as a problem is helping. I’m trying to put my smartphone in another room when I spend time with the kids. I’m not as worried when I leave the phone charging at my desk when I go and talk to someone.

But is the temptation going to be too strong? Should I get a “dumb-phone” instead as my next phone? One that can’t access the Internet so readily, or provide such distractions? There are fewer and fewer such phones. Could I really cope with not having access to all this information, or would my life be poorer somehow?

And this is the trap. Once you’ve tasted the power of ubiquitous Internet access, can you really go back to having to wait for a wifi connection? Reading Paul Miller’s essays during his self-imposed exile from the Internet for a year don’t fill me with confidence, although there is the sense that there’s some clarity to be had by unplugging for short bursts.

Has anyone had a technology sabbatical, or ditched their smartphone for a period of time? I’d be keen to hear of your experiences…

social media and online cruelty

Jeff Roberts, writing on GigaOm about a recent online cruelty case:

How many restless women wouldn’t fall for an animal-loving firefighter who sent gifts and liked to talk on the phone? One Illinois woman fell hard and now she has nothing but a hole in her heart and wallet after a court refused to do anything about a sick online prank.

Paula Bonhomme met James on a site for fans of the HBO series Deadwood. She soon realized the EMT and volunteer firefighter was “the one” after an intense flurry of messages, calls and gifts. Paula started communicating with James’ friends and family in California and soon a visit was in the works.

You can guess where this is going. As it turns out, there was no James but instead a twisted 58-year old woman, Janna St. James, who had fabricated James and more than a dozen other online identities to support the fictional romance. The phone calls? Janna had used a voice disguiser to sound like a man. The planned trips to California? Called off after “James” first attempted suicide and then suddenly died of liver cancer…

With the laws around cyberbullying still moving slowly, it’s possible to work these complex deceptions, and still see no significant consequences. This should be a serious encouragement to be careful with what you disclose online, and how you interact with people when you’re not certain who they are.