Steampunk Internet

The telegraph room at the original Mundaneum in Brussels.
The telegraph room at the original Mundaneum in Brussels.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “réseau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.”
The New York Times, The Web Time Forgot

Two years later, Shoghi Effendi wrote:

A mechanism of world intercommunication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvelous swiftness and perfect regularity.
Shoghi Effendi, World unity the goal, 1936

Or was Shoghi Effendi plagiarising the ideas of Hermia S. E. Nobileo, D.D., Ph.D, the founder of the First Church of Metaphysical Science?

We must have a mechanism of world inter-communication, embracing this entire “Earth” “Plane”, freed from inter-national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with perfect regularity.
Hermia S. E. Nobileo, The Path to World Peace, 1927

The Garden of Dunedin

Vegetable garden

Behaviour is often very situational. Alison and I occasionally meet people who have first gotten to know us over the Internet – and they often initially comment on how different we are face-to-face. Much less scary, apparently.

Different settings bring out different aspects. Get me at home and I’ll talk about my cat, my vege garden and whatever I’ve just heard on public radio. On the Internet it’s Baha’i, Joomla and saving the Ngunguru sandspit. Does anyone on the Internet even know I grow vegetables? Does anyone off the Internet know I’m nuts about Joomla?

The Internet is my church

I’ll tell you what hits my buttons. Any discussion on how the Internet can be used to host a spiritual/religious community.

Dr. Alison Marshall has some thoughts about the subject:

“It’s not generally believed that an on-line religious experience is possible, and there is certainly debate around this issue. People don’t think you can have a religious or spiritual experience when you’re clicking a mouse. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. If these experiences can take place in a temple or church, why not on-line? Some people don’t believe you can have the same experience on the Internet that you can in a temple or church. But I believe people can have meaningful experiences or interactions while they are on-line.”

Brandon University profile:
Dr. Alison Marshall
Assistant Professor, Department of Religion

My latest discovery is from the blog Church Marketing Sucks. One of the entries there is about What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church.

But what does web 2.0 look like inside the church? What happens when we apply the same web 2.0 attitudes to church marketing?

  • What if your church web site wasn’t just another place for information, but what if it was a connecting point for community?
  • What if your congregation provided the content instead of your pastor (or in addition)?
  • What if events were proposed, planned and put together by the people in the pews?
  • What if the church staff did less and the congregation did more?
  • And what if money wasn’t an issue?

Do you see where this is going? Suddenly you don’t have an overworked communications team doing all the updates. You have youth group members maintaining an online events calendar. You have a Sunday School teacher posting lesson notes on a blog and the learning suddenly happens outside of the classroom. You have older members of the congregation sharing their wisdom with younger members. You have people sharing and people connecting. Suddenly it’s not the pastor trying to do everything.

Web 2.0 is about giving power to the people. Nowhere does that have greater implications than the church.

I think a similar revolution is happening in the Baha’i Faith.