For the last few weeks I’ve been hearing a lot about ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that can tell stories, write code and answers questions. My brother had told me he’d had it write code for him and then correct bugs in the code when he pointed it out to ChatGPT. I was intrigued. I’d experimented some with Stable Diffusion that generates art based on prompts and also with short stories written by AI, but the buzz on the internet seemed to indicate this chat bot was taking things to a new level.
This evening I finally sat down to try it out. I started by asking ChatGPT to generate some Amish romance stories set in space, which it dutifully did with fairly cliched results. Then I moved on to a a much more obscure sub-genre: Amish Cyberpunk. This is a microgenre of which I am a huge fan boy. There’s only three novels in it that I am aware, all by author Stephen Beachy. If you want to hear more about it, check out this podcast interview I did on his first Amish Cyberpunk Novel: Zeke and the Singularity.
I thought that Amish Cyberpunk would provide a novel challenge for ChatGPT: combining a well known religious community (which many of my ancestors were part of) with a well known science fiction genre. (more…)
December 13, 2022
Peace & Peacemaking, Stories, Technology, Theology
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In understanding the storming of the capitol one year ago today I’d like to focus on the framework of the “armed flash mob,” a term used by scholar Darrell Miller that connects with concepts introduced to me by Bill Wasik, an article in Wired magazine 10 years ago. I’m also drawing on the 40 minute NY Times’ documentary Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol (published June 30, 2021) that offers minute by minute analysis of January 6, 2021 drawn from thousands of primary sources including a lot of video from the rioters themselves.
I’ll look at each term in the phrase “armed flash mob” in detail in the context of that day.
Mob – Insurrectionist crowd dynamics
We’ll begin by understanding how the insurrectionists on January 6 functioned in ways familiar to scholars of mob behavior. One of the key moments in the storming of the capitol happened at 12:50 pm. “Day of Rage” covers this moment in detail starting at about 10:00 in the video. They emphasize the role of the Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs and his brief conversation with Ryan Samsel, a Trump supporter who was the first to approach the police and challenge them. While leaders like this played an important role, it is important to understand the broader context of the crowd dynamics (both in this moment and as things escalted) to violently attack police. (more…)
January 6, 2022
Journalism, Polarization, Police, Power, Social Media, Social movements, Technology, Violence
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This was originally published by Tim Nafziger in Jesus Radicals on December 18, 2010
The arrest of Assange and attacks on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal by “Operation Payback” have garnered far more attention than the cables themselves. Their denial of service attacks shut down these major sites by loading the site over and over again very quickly. The real world equivalent might be a huge crowd of people showing up to the mall with no intentions of shopping so that no one could get in to shop.
The New York Times quoted one Internet guru comparing Operation Payback to the battle at Lexington that started the Revolutionary war in the United States. (more…)
September 5, 2021
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This blog post was originally published on my blog for The Mennonite two years ago.
In his address to graduating students at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on May 2, President Loren Swartzendruber complained about social media. On May 2, the Daily News-Record quoted him:
“Here’s the challenge we face,” he said, “namely the question of how we engage in meaningful, life-changing, civil conversations in a world that’s impatient for quick answers … and is all-too ready to vilify those who disagree.”
He said important discussions “are extremely difficult to conduct via social media,” and require intra-personal relationships.
There’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about social media, but there’s a story and a pattern behind this complaint that needs a closer look. Swartzendruber’s critique comes after months of pressure on his administration around its handling of Luke Hartman’s employment at EMU. Social media played an important role in that pressure.
August 23, 2018
Institutions, Mennonite Church USA, Power, sexual abuse, Social Media, Technology
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Read all about the strike and why its so important to oppose SOPA and the Protect IP bill here: SOPA Strike. Or you can watch Stephen Colbert explain it:
Here’s another video: (more…)
January 17, 2012
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Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.
Tottenham High Road by Nicobobinus Some Rights Reserved
Last week, riots and looting moved through neighborhoods in London that I know well. The broken windows, fires and shouts of “I want a satnav*” were juxtaposed with a familiar map that I bicycled through to work for nearly two years. I found myself turning to Facebook to reach out to friends in those neighborhoods and processing my thoughts through comments on my favorite blog.
August 19, 2011
Anabaptism, Social Media, Technology, Young Folks
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Today Wikileaks began its release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables in conjunction with media outlets around the world. I believe the work they are doing is on the emerging edge of resistance to US imperialism. The releases not only unmasks the powers in meticulous detail, but threaten the very mechanisms through which empire seek to influence, control and coerce. After all, if client states and their leaders know their collaboration with the U.S. could be published all over the world, they may be less ready to go along with imperial machinations.
For example in Newsweek, Christopher Dickey describe a cable in which Yemeni leaders promising to lie to their own people and parliament. He goes on to complain, “That bit of dialogue is not just embarrassing, it’s going to make the covert war against the most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise that much harder to wage.”
For once, it is the empire that it is on it’s back foot, scrambling to respond. (more…)
November 29, 2010
International Relations, Media, Technology, US Military
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The Global Anabaptist Wiki is an interactive community of Anabaptist-Mennonite groups from around the world. Initiated by the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, the site is committed to helping individual groups: 1) tell their own story; 2) post and preserve electronic archives; and 3) become better informed about other groups in the global Anabaptist fellowship. Like all wiki-based projects, this is a collaborative venture that relies on the local expertise of many people.
This project is still in its early stages of construction. John Roth and others led a workshop at Mennonite World Conference Assembly Gathered (Paraguay 2009) about it…listening to perspectives and discerning whether or not it was a good idea. What do you think about the idea? Will you use it as a resource?
I think this is a good idea because everyone around the world can contribute to create collective knowledge. Some of the things written by people in their home churches about themselves may make North Americans (perhaps especially mission agencies) uncomfortable. This could be a good thing for dialogue. Wiki creates a space that is not owned by anyone. Following up on Alan’s initial post, this decentralization of “ownership of the story” could be a healthy thing. Since young people are more tech saavy, it can be a way that we connect to the background stories of our Anabaptist friends from around the world.
If you want to collaborate with the project in a substantial way, (it needs volunteers to help monitor it and encourage posting) feel free to contact John directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 9, 2009
Anabaptism, Change, communication, Education, Global Church, Group Identity, Power, Stories, Technology, Young Folks
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I have been involved in some pretty strange things–a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me–heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.
Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.
At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I–radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person–would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (more…)
April 9, 2009
Anabaptism, Church, Current Events, Discipleship, Education, Leadership, LGBTQ, Love, Mennonite Church USA, New Monasticism, Peace & Peacemaking, poverty, Technology, The Bible
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(I’m still thinking about our use of technology in worship. This post continues my earlier thoughts: Part 1 and Part 2)
The best books on technology and worship offer methods for carefully appropriating devices that contribute to the unique form of a congregation’s worship. Technologies should not be imposed from above, but should arise from the communal discernment of the church. I’ve already offered two authors who take this route (see links above).
While I appreciate these critical investigations into the liturgical use of technology, they aren’t haunted by the voices that I can’t get out of my head. They haven’t yet exorcised the histories of terror that come with each bit of technology. From their explorations, one is left assuming that devices magically appear in catalogs and electronic stores like Best Buy and Circuit City. But we know that technologies are not creatio ex nihilo. They have a history; they come from somewhere; and they materially remember what we would like to forget.
Walter Benjamin, the tormented Jewish Philosopher, teaches us to be honest about the history of oppression that produces the cultural achievements that we enjoy. In his essay, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (see Illuminations, pp. 253-264), Benjamin describes how the barbarism of progress delivers to our doorstep the useful fruits of civilization:
Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession. They are called cultural treasures… For without exception the cultural treasures [the observer] surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another.
The record of civilization is also a record of barbarism. (more…)
February 2, 2009
Church, Civilization, culture, Technology
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Part 2 of Isaac’s post on worship and technology and the resulting discussion inspired me to crosspost of my review review of What a way to Go: Life at the End of Empire.
Recently I watched the DVD What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire which simply and succinctly points out the fatal flaws in the myth of salvation by progress and growth that are at the core of our culture. It lays out the case of why the North American life style is unsustainable for humans and all of creation through interviews with scientists, artists and activists.
I believe it’s imperative that we hear and understand the message of this movie. So for those of you who won’t watch it, I’ll summarize some of it’s key points. The first section is a look at four different ways in which we are reaching the limits despite our best attempts to ignore them.
The concept of peak oil is one of the simplest of the four to explain and the most difficult to deny. Oil companies are not finding enough new oil to make up for how much we’re using. At some point in the in the next few years, oil production will flat line. In other words, peak oil is the day when we will not be able to produce more oil then we did yesterday. Oil will still be produced, but it will not meet the ever increasing demand of our ever increasing consumption.
September 8, 2008
Civilization, Environment, Technology
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