Hangouts and the “Social Singularity”

When I hear people talk about “the Singularity” (Wikipedia: “a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature”),  I think of the claim that AI will become GREATER than human intelligence and wonder what that “greater” represents in the mind of the “Singularity experiencer”.  So I have some difficulty in seeing a time when such a thing REALLY happens.  I am all in on the concept of INCREASING the ways in which AI can APPROXIMATE certain aspects of the brain.  But we’ll leave that larger,  fascinating question and discussion for later.  For now,  I am thinking a lot lately of what only this morning came to me as “Social Singularity”.

I have no problem anticipating a day when the “Social” can be TRANSFORMED by the “virtual”.  We can see that already, of course,  but there is still a rapid growth of the ability for our communications to SURPASS certain obstacles we face in “meat space”.  First let me say that I am NOT suggesting we go “ALL VIRTUAL”.  I STILL exist and work and crave “meat space”  (let me use FTF from now on, though.  “Meat space” just makes me hungry. 🙂 )

Further,  FTF is STILL and WILL REMAIN,  for me anyway,  the primary value around which all these “extensions” (represented by the communication technologies and applications)  are ways of “taking with us” or “bringing to us”  the core relationships which ,  if the technology does its job,  circle us back around to the physical spaces and bodies from which our “social media” first emanates.

The “Social Singularity” I have in mind,  therefore,  is the point at which ubiqutous technology allows us to easily tap in to the most immanent and desired social space from practically anywhere.  This is NOT to give free reign to any intrusion, anytime,  in any FTF environment.  In the church,  I believe,  we still have a call to be present to one another.  ALL of our advances in social media are not without social consequences,  many of them representing a somewhat disturbing ” detachment” from our immediate surroundings (and the people close to us).  Without , in any way,  forgetting about the troubling trends,  we can also carefully consider the technologies that ADD to our communion with others.

On these matters,  I believe,  hinges the deeply theological nature of social technologies.  Far beyond the “online resources” and “prayer chains” that are often cited as “instances” of the “good” of technology and how “technology is JUST a tool”,   the manner in which we use whatever technological tools and means can greatly enhance or else detract/distort the core ingredients of  social space.

This past weekend,  I embarked upon an experiment with Google Hangouts,  attempting to get some folks who were in Denver for #C21Denver (the Christianity21 Conference)  to join a “Hangout on Air”  that I opened,  and invited several participants and some people in the “diaspora” (those who could not come but wanted to).  The purpose was to create a virtual space in which participants could give testimonials about what WAS happening (in the case of my Hangouts DURING the conference)  or what HAD happened (in the 3 hangouts AFTER that).  People who were NOT there could also participate to listen, ask questions,  and essentially “Hangout” as if they were able to “join the various social clumps of people between sessions, after sessions, and after the end of the conference,  much like the various “group lunches and dinners or impromptu  discussions around a cup of coffee.

These hangouts did not connect with anyone AT the conference,  although a few people from outside “dropped in” and chatted with me,  where I described for them my intentions and hopes.  So those connections themselves were a good result of my experiment.   But the failure to connect with anyone AT the conference (I tweeted to the #c21Denver hashtag muliple times to announce my intentions and opening of this or that Hangout and gave the link to the “Event” page for the Hangout on Google. )   I had anticipated a “small” response,  but not NO RESPONSE,  as far as the participants who were “Hangout capable”,  or those with Smart Phones with the front and rear facing cameras and Cell connections  (assuming that there was either no or skimpy wifi available that would be insufficient to support video chats).

I realize many factors that contributed to this,  some technological, some social.  I had thought, however,  that at this point (2014), there might be a small handful of “geeky enough” people that would try it.  I am accustomed, however,  to the “not quite yet” nature of widespread or “widespread-enough” adoption of techno-tools,  so that my reaction to it all is just another “sigh” and “maybe next time” ,  but with an intention to use this experience to think about all these THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS  once again, and perhaps discover new questions presenting themselves.

(End of this blog post but just the introduction to what I intend to be doing in the days ahead,  maybe even starting later today).


About Theoblogical

I am a Web developer with a background in theology, sociology and communications. I love to read, watch movies, sports, and am looking for authentic church.

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