Category : –Social Networking

(WSJ) China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

Zhao Wei spent the past two decades as China’s equivalent of Reese Witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business mogul.

She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China’s Twitter -like microblogging site. She also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies.

Today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country’s biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series “My Fair Princess,” have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film “So Young” on China’s equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn’t know she was the director; the field now reads “——.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(WSJ front page) Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show

Eva Behrens, a 17-year-old student at Redwood High School in Marin County, Calif., said she estimates half the girls in her grade struggle with body-image concerns tied to Instagram. “Every time I feel good about myself, I go over to Instagram, and then it all goes away,” she said.

When her classmate Molly Pitts, 17, arrived at high school, she found her peers using Instagram as a tool to measure their relative popularity. Students referred to the number of followers their peers had as if the number was stamped on their foreheads, she said.

Now, she said, when she looks at her number of followers on Instagram, it is most often a “kick in the gut.”

For years, there has been little debate among medical doctors that for some patients, Instagram and other social media exacerbate their conditions. Angela Guarda, director for the eating-disorders program at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said it is common for her patients to say they learned from social media tips for how to restrict food intake or purge. She estimates that Instagram and other social-media apps play a role in the disorders of about half her patients.

“It’s the ones who are most vulnerable or are already developing a problem—the use of Instagram and other social media can escalate it,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, Women

(NYT) Big Tech Has Outgrown This Planet

The already bonkers dollars of Big Tech have become even bonkers-er.

My colleagues and I have written a lot about the unreal sales, profits and oomph of America’s five technology titans — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. This might feel like old news. Tech’s Titanic 5 have been big and rich for a long time, and they’ve gotten even more so as people and organizations have needed their products during the coronavirus pandemic. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We get it.

But no, we really don’t get it. American’s technology superstars have launched into a completely different stratosphere than even other wildly successful companies in tech and beyond.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Science & Technology

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Facebook’s Next Target: The Religious Experience

Months before the megachurch Hillsong opened its new outpost in Atlanta, its pastor sought advice on how to build a church in a pandemic.

From Facebook.

The social media giant had a proposition, Sam Collier, the pastor, recalled in an interview: to use the church as a case study to explore how churches can “go further farther on Facebook.”

For months Facebook developers met weekly with Hillsong and explored what the church would look like on Facebook and what apps they might create for financial giving, video capability or livestreaming. When it came time for Hillsong’s grand opening in June, the church issued a news release saying it was “partnering with Facebook” and began streaming its services exclusively on the platform.

Beyond that, Mr. Collier could not share many specifics — he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Religion & Culture

(C Of E) The church that grew out of a lockdown WhatsApp group

“Within a couple of days we had received lots of messages from people – mainly young adults,” Venessa said.

“We started engaging via WhatsApp on questions of spirituality and faith and out of that we began meeting on Zoom for social activities and to talk about faith. Gradually that transformed into something more formal and into an inter cultural worshipping community that we call Roots.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CT) George Yancey–In the Push for Racial Justice, There’s a Middle Path Between Passivity and Aggression

….in our current society, we often deal with race by consistently trying to overpower our “enemies,” rather than by finding ways to communicate and persuade them of our perspective. Why can’t we work at finding common values and agreements? Why can’t we listen to each other until we accurately understand the interests and desires of others? Should not everyone be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” as James 1:19 reminds us?

Sometimes I think that we already know what we need to do to improve race relations but we simply don’t want to do it. But we are going to have to live in this society together. We are going to have to find answers to the racial issues of our day. We can choose to remain in a power struggle with each other, or we can begin to learn how to dialogue in a healthy fashion.

Many people on different sides of these racial issues have a vested interest in continuing our unproductive fighting. But if we learn to stop listening to those voices and start listening to each other, we can finally take important steps toward real racial unity and equality.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Apologetics, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Chris Martin) 10 Facts from New Pew Data on Social Media Usage

4) Young people flock to Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
Summarizing the data from the report, Brook Auxier and Monica Anderson write:

Majorities of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram or Snapchat and about half say they use TikTok, with those on the younger end of this cohort – ages 18 to 24 – being especially likely to report using Instagram (76%), Snapchat (75%) or TikTok (55%).

These shares stand in stark contrast to those in older age groups. For instance, while 65% of adults ages 18 to 29 say they use Snapchat, just 2% of those 65 and older report using the app – a difference of 63 percentage points.

This is probably the least surprising data of the whole study, if I’m being honest, but the stark contrast in age usages of these apps is notable.

5) About 95% of Americans ages 18-29 use YouTube, the highest usage rate of any social media platform by any demographic.
The greatest affinity between any demographic and any social media platform is 18-29-year-olds and YouTube. Check out this table (I’ve circled the stat for you). The darker the boxes on the table, the greater the affinity/usage.

YouTube is television for the youngest American adults, and I hesitate to say that 95% number could ever reach 100%, but it very well could.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

(RNS) Likes and prayers: Facebook tests new ‘prayer post’ feature

When the unfamiliar pop-up touting a new feature appeared on Robert P. Jones’ Facebook, the CEO and founder the CEO and founder of PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) posted a screen grab to Twitter.

“Wondering what fb algorithm thinks it knows about me?” Jones mused.

The new Facebook feature? Prayer posts. The function will allow members of Facebook groups to ask for and respond to prayer requests.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Religion News Service that the social media platform is currently testing the prayer post feature.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer

(PD) Adam Seagrave–The 50/50 Problem: How the Internet Is Distorting Our Reality

Many causes combined to produce the US Capitol insurrection on January 6. In the immediate aftermath, most of the blame has been assigned to Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. Those inclined to look deeper connect the spark of Trump’s words to the tinder of extreme polarization that accompanied his presidency. Subgroups of Americans increasingly live in entirely different worlds from one another.

This is more than a metaphor. We—in the United States and throughout the world—have actually and quite literally lost the ability to interact and coexist in the common world we once shared.

I’m not just talking about conflicting worldviews, radically differing perspectives, disparate education, or political party polarization. I am talking about a specific, simple, everyday problem that has led to and reinforced all of these broader social and political causes. This is a problem so pervasive, so ubiquitous, so powerful, and so subtle that most of my readers probably have no idea what I’m about to say.

I’m referring to what I call the 50/50 problem: more than 50 percent of Americans spend more than 50 percent of their waking hours living in virtual, artificial worlds rather than the given, created one in which their bodies exist. The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(University of Cambridge) Is Social Media Changing Your Life?

“Social media is inherently complex, but trying to set guidelines for ‘consumption’ the same way we do for alcohol or food – as policy makers have tried and failed to do – is a massive oversimplification,” says Orben.

Everybody uses social media differently, and it affects our lives in such a diversity of ways, that setting a recommended daily screen time is far from simple.

Orben adds: “You could use it for twenty minutes to keep in touch with family abroad, or twenty minutes to look at self-harm images on Instagram, for example. The relationship with mental health is really complicated.”

She has found that adolescents who use more social media score lower on mental health questionnaires – but it’s not clear whether social media makes them feel worse, or whether they turn to social media more when they feel worse. And of course, social media isn’t the only thing affecting how adolescents feel.

“There are other things like sleep, parenting, and environment that all affect wellbeing. I don’t think we have the evidence yet to say we should invest lots of money into decreasing social media use, and not invest in other things like youth clubs or better mental health care for adolescents,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Sky News) Government urged to close loophole that allows extremists to radicalise others

The government has been urged to close a loophole in the law that allows extremists to operate with impunity, spreading hateful ideologies without fear of prosecution.

The Commission for Countering Extremism wants to see the introduction of a legal framework, enabling authorities to prosecute those who propagate harmful and hateful extremist views.

It said the “gaping chasm” in existing legislation meant many groups – from radical Islamists to far-right neo-Nazis – were able to spread hatred and radicalise others.

The commission – which was formed in the wake of the 2017 London Bridge attacks – said current legislation was focused on dealing with the threat of terrorism.

However, it meant that much extremist activity – so long as it did not cross a certain threshold – was not covered by the law.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Terrorism

Charleston, South Carolina’s St. John’s Chapel Experiences Growth through Social Media During COVID Pandemic

Before the lockdown, the Rev. Matthew Rivers wasn’t a fan of Facebook. But last spring when COVID-19 shut the doors of St. John’s Chapel, he reluctantly ventured into preaching via social media. To his surprise, the sermon and worship videos allowed the church to grow during the pandemic and expand the ministry far beyond its Eastside setting.

“God used the thing I wasn’t really enamored with, to enlarge the church,” Rivers said with a laugh.

In recent months, 22 new members have joined St. John’s Chapel, with about 30 percent discovering the church through its Facebook postings. In addition, more than 60,000 people around the world are following its Facebook services, which also feature the First Lady of the church, Chaplain Henrietta Rivers.

“The online ministry has been pivotal; St. John’s has been exposed,” Henrietta says. “We know God’s vision is larger than our small building.”

Read it all.

There are so many ways God can use us, especially when we follow him into uncomfortable and unknown places. Rev. Matthew…

Posted by The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina on Saturday, February 6, 2021

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, - Anglican: Latest News, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry

(FT) Boom in private companies offering disinformation-for-hire

Politicians are increasingly hiring private companies to spread disinformation online, according to researchers who found campaigns run by third-party contractors targeting 48 different countries over the past year.

The Oxford Internet Institute said the “disinformation-for-hire” market is booming, with advertising, marketing and public relations companies offering to manipulate online opinion for political parties and governments.

The OII said private contractors help to identify which groups to target with messages, and then “prompt the trending of certain political messages” either through fake accounts or with armies of bots, or automated accounts.

Researchers said they had found evidence of at least $60m of spending on such campaigns since 2009, although the real total may be far higher.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(LA Times) Muslims reel over a prayer app that sold user data: ‘A betrayal from within our own community’

Five times a day, tens of millions of phones buzz with notifications from an app called Muslim Pro, reminding users it’s time to pray. While Muslims in Los Angeles woke Thursday to a dawn notification that read, “Fajr at 5:17 AM,” users in Sri Lanka were minutes away from getting a ping telling them it was time for Isha, or the night prayer.

The app’s Qibla compass quickly orients devices toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia — which Muslims face when praying. When prayers are done, the in-app Quran lets users pick up reading exactly where they left off. A counter tallies the days of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Listings guide users to halal food in their area.

These features make it easier to practice the many daily rituals prescribed in Islam, turning Muslim Pro into the most popular Muslim app in the world, according to the app’s maker, Singapore-based BitsMedia.

But revelations about the app’s data collection and sales practices have left some users wondering if the convenience is worth the risk.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Wired) The Russian Hackers Playing ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ With US Infrastructure

Over the last half a decade, Russian state-sponsored hackers have triggered blackouts in Ukraine, released history’s most destructive computer worm, and stolen and leaked emails from Democratic targets in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. In that same stretch, one particular group of Kremlin-controlled hackers has gained a reputation for a very different habit: walking right up to the edge of cybersabotage—sometimes with hands-on-the-switches access to US critical infrastructure—and stopping just short.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published an advisory warning that a group known as Berserk Bear—or alternately Energetic Bear, TEMP.Isotope, and Dragonfly—had carried out a broad hacking campaign against US state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies, as well aviation sector targets. The hackers breached the networks of at least two of those victims. The news of those intrusions, which was reported earlier last week by the news outlet Cyberscoop, presents the troubling but unconfirmed possibility that Russia may be laying the groundwork to disrupt the 2020 election with its access to election-adjacent local government IT systems.

In the context of Berserk Bear’s long history of US intrusions, though, it’s much harder to gauge the actual threat it poses. Since as early as 2012, cybersecurity researchers have been shocked to repeatedly find the group’s fingerprints deep inside infrastructure around the globe, from electric distribution utilities to nuclear power plants. Yet those researchers also say they’ve never seen Berserk Bear use that access to cause disruption. The group is a bit like Chekhov’s gun, hanging on the wall without being fired through all of Act I—and foreshadowing an ominous endgame at a critical moment for US democracy.

“What makes them unique is the fact that they have been so focused on infrastructure throughout their existence, whether it’s mining, oil, and natural gas in different countries or the grid,” says Vikram Thakur, a researcher at security firm Symantec who has tracked the group over several distinct hacking campaigns since 2013.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology

(NBC) Best Story of the Week Candidate–Man’s Groovy Morning Commute Goes Viral

‘When Nathan Apodaca’s car broke down, he made a TikTok video of himself riding his longboard, drinking juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Now millions of Americans have enjoyed his video, and it’s changed his life forever.’

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Music

(Phil Inquirer) Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic

Excessive social media use during the pandemic is a predictor of symptoms of depression and secondary trauma, suggests a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.

The study, published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 320 participants living in Wuhan about how they accessed and shared health information with friends, family members, and colleagues over WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. They also used a stress scale to measure anxiety and depression by asking participants to rate statements such as “I felt that life was meaningless” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

Bu Zhong, a journalism professor at Penn State and a coauthor of the study, said that the team began looking into the effects of social media use on people’s mental health right after Wuhan was locked down to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We didn’t expect that this would become a global pandemic,” he said. “We were just thinking that we could reveal some invisible harms caused by the outbreak. In China’s situation, local media was not reporting on COVID-19. If you just read the local newspaper and watched television, you didn’t get information about the virus. This made people extremely stressed, and they began relying overwhelmingly on social media.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(MIT News) Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it

The numbers make this clear. In 2005, about 7 percent of American adults used social media. But by 2017, 80 percent of American adults used Facebook alone. About 3.5 billion people on the planet, out of 7.7 billion, are active social media participants. Globally, during a typical day, people post 500 million tweets, share over 10 billion pieces of Facebook content, and watch over a billion hours of YouTube video.

As social media platforms have grown, though, the once-prevalent, gauzy utopian vision of online community has disappeared. Along with the benefits of easy connectivity and increased information, social media has also become a vehicle for disinformation and political attacks from beyond sovereign borders.

“Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Now Aral has written a book about it. In “The Hype Machine,” published this month by Currency, a Random House imprint, Aral details why social media platforms have become so successful yet so problematic, and suggests ways to improve them.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Science & Technology

(Church Times) National Church Survey: respondents bored, but prayerful during lockdown

What did the laity experience?

Throughout the lockdown, most laity felt well supported by their clergy (51%) and by the members of their church (49%). A high proportion accessed services online (91%), but this figure needs to be read against the fact that these were people also responding to an online survey.

Among those who attended online services, the sense of participation was not as high as may have been expected. About two-fifths reported that during online services they actually prayed (40%) or recited the liturgy (36%), but fewer reported that they joined in singing (27%).

Privatising holy communion

The lockdown brought into sharp focus questions about celebrating and receiving communion. The survey revealed some significant differences between the views of those giving ministry and those receiving ministry. Whereas 41% of laity agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate holy communion in their own homes without broadcasting the service to others, only 31% of ministers did so.

Similarly, 43% of laity argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 34% of clergy.

The survey also revealed divided opinion between people from different traditions: 49% of Anglo-Catholics agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate communion in their homes without broadcasting the service to others, compared with only 25% of Evangelicals.

Conversely, only 23% of Anglo-Catholics argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 55% of Evangelicals.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CT’s The Exchange) On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies: Gullibility is not a Spiritual Gift

Sadly, Christians seem to be disproportionately fooled by conspiracy theories. I’ve also said before that when Christians spread lies, they need to repent of those lies. Sharing fake news makes us look foolish and harms our witness.

We saw this in the last election when some of the troll factories focused on conservative, evangelical Christians. Here we go again.

What now?

First, we need to speak up— particularly to those fooled yet again— and lovingly say, “You need to go to trusted sources.” Social media news feeds are not a trusted source. That’s why we created coronavirusandthechurch.com, to provide credible information for pastors. But, there are plenty of credible news sources— generally from outlets that do not have a track record of conspiracy peddling.

Second, God has not called us to be easily fooled. Gullibility is not a Christian virtue. Believing and sharing conspiracies does not honor the Lord. It may make you feel better, like you are in the know, but it can end up harming others and it can hurt your witness.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Media, Politics in General, Theology

(NPR) Psychiatrists Lean Hard On Teletherapy To Reach Isolated Patients In Emotional Pain

Psychiatrist Philip Muskin is quarantined at home in New York City because he’s been feeling a little under the weather and doesn’t want to expose anyone to whatever he has. But he continues to see his patients the only way he can: over the phone.

“I’ve been a psychiatrist for more than 40 years; I have never FaceTimed a patient in my entire career,” says Muskin, who works at Columbia University Medical Center, treating outpatients in his clinical practice, as well as people who have been hospitalized. Normally, he says he walks patients to the door, shakes their hand or touches their arm or shoulder to reassure them. “Now I’m not doing that, and that’s weird to me. So it’s a whole new, very unpleasant world.”

The pandemic has already robbed many of his patients of their livelihood, or at least their sense of safety. People literally feel trapped, he says.

That, in turn, is leading to a spike in anxiety, depression and addiction — not just among Muskin’s patients, but across the U.S. To try to address those needs, physicians of all kinds are adopting the techniques and technology of telemedicine, which had been only slowly gaining wide acceptance — until the pandemic forced everyone to isolate themselves, mostly at home. The recent demand for telecounseling, as well as for other types of online medical visits, is causing backlogs of care for many providers who offer it.

There are now also even fewer in-person treatment options for some of the most acutely mentally ill in New York, Muskin says; the psychiatric wards at Columbia, where Muskin normally works, have all been converted to beds for COVID-19 patients.

“That means,” he says, “we have no place to send patients who need admission.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts

p class=”css-exrw3m evys1bk0″>The official experts, under such conditions, are most trustworthy insofar as their admonitions track with nonexpert common sense. The approach that most experts are currently urging, for instance, is not some complicated high-science approach to disease management, but the most basic pre-modern method of disease control, as obvious to 15th-century Florentines as to 21st-century New Yorkers — shut things down, quarantine the sick and hope for the best.

Whereas the more specific and granular the experts get, the more the fluidity and chaos of the situation makes their pronouncements dubious. It’s good that we’re modeling the arc of the pandemic, but that doesn’t make any of the models trustworthy. It’s good that we’re trying to figure out how the disease spreads, but none of the claims so far about how you’re most likely to get it (from air, surfaces or otherwise) or who is most at risk (whether from viral load or pre-existing conditions) can be considered at all definitive. It’s good that we’re practicing social distancing, but all of the rules we’re implementing are just rough and ready guesstimates.

And you don’t want to overweight the pronouncements of official science in a situation that requires experimentation and adaptation and a certain amount of gambling. Yes, you should trust Anthony Fauci more than Donald Trump when it comes to the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine. But the exigencies of the crisis require that experiments outrun the confidence of expert conclusions and the pace of bureaucratic certainty. So if you’re a doctor on the front lines trying to keep your patients from ending up on a ventilator, Dr. Fauci’s level of caution can’t be yours, and you shouldn’t be waiting for the double-blind control trial to experiment with off-label drugs that Spanish and Chinese doctors claim are helping patients.

The same logic applies for policymakers, for whom there is never going to be a definitive, one-size-fits-all blueprint telling them how and when to reopen cities or communities. Every single reopening will be its own unique experiment, with confounding variables of climate, density, age and genetics that are nearly impossible to model, and the advice of epidemiologists will only go so far. Governors and mayors will have to act like scientists themselves, acting and re-acting, adapting and experimenting, with expert advisers at their shoulders but no sure answers till the experiment begins.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Paul R. Hinlicky–Why Virtual Communion Is Not Nearly Radical Enough

Now to return to virtual communion and the recommendation for Eucharistic fasting during this divine judgment on our social greed. Let’s take an exemplary proponent, Lutheran theologian Prof. Deanna Thompson, who is now at St. Olaf College. She is a personally credible interlocutor on the question of “virtual” ministry, as she writes out of her excruciating experience of life-threatening cancer in the prime of life. She’s published a book, The Virtual Body of Christ, in which she makes the case for employing the new social media technologies just as the Lutheran Reformation employed the Gutenberg press. I agree with much of this, as I said above. Nevertheless, I respectfully and yet sharply disagree with her urging in the present pandemic crisis that people at home should set up bread and wine, as if to participate via the Internet in the live streaming of the Lord’s Supper liturgy. As I’ve listened and pondered the arguments being made in favor of this proposal, I have come to a certain realization which I would like briefly to argue here.

Let me begin, by affirming that Christ is “really” in the preached word which can be conveyed through these media. He is really present to offer himself in his righteousness, life and peace for the auditor’s sin, death and disease. Long ago, however, I discovered that in the Lutheran confessional writings what was at stake was never this so-called “real” presence but rather the “bodily” presence of Jesus Christ according to his word and promise. What difference does this apparently subtle distinction make? Answer: historically it excluded the so-called “spiritual” (or “real”) presence as the specific blessing or benefit of the Lord’s Supper just as it excludes notions of “invisible” church as the “real” church as opposed to the visible assembly gathered around Word and sacrament. By the Holy Spirit the word of the gospel awakens faith and if we want to speak of “spiritual presence,” we are talking about this ministry of the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus Christ “real” to us. But what differentiates the Lord’s Supper is the promised presence of Jesus Christ personally in his own body-and-blood, so that the blessing is not merely privative, the forgiveness of sins, but also positive: life and salvation on account of this specific union with Christ that consists in physical eating and drinking in the common meal of the Lord.

Why does this specificity of Jesus’ bodily presence matter? For one thing, it concerns the identity of Jesus Christ as the very body born of Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate but vindicated and exalted to be present in his glorified body for the gathering of his faithful. This act of identification is precisely what the Lord’s Supper liturgy depends on, the specific act in the gathering as the church when a specific loaf is picked out with the words, “this is my body given for you….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

(CT) Most Pastors Bracing for Months of Socially Distant Ministry

A new survey by Barna Research found over the course of just a week, most church leaders went from thinking they’d be back to meeting as usual in late or March or April (52%), to projecting the changes would extend to May or longer (68%).

“There is this realism that’s setting in,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president.

But while most pastors are realistic, they’re also optimistic, according to Kinnaman. “One of the cool things about pastors we’ve learned over the years is that they are by job description and by disposition more upbeat, positive, hope-filled people,” he said. “So they are often pretty capable of putting a good face in a tough situation, and they, like other leaders, are going to face a lot of tough decisions in the coming weeks as the crisis continues.”

Though most had already called off normal activities at church, pastors also implemented swift changes in policies around smaller group meetings over the past several days.

The percentage who still allow the church building to be used for “small meetings and gatherings” has dropped by about half (from 18% to 8%), according to Barna’s Church Pulse survey, hearing from 434 Protestant senior pastors and executive pastors in the US. A plurality say the church staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future (up from 25% to 40%).

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Coronavirus Weakens China’s Powerful Propaganda Machine

Exhausted medical workers with faces lined from hours of wearing goggles and surgical masks. Women with shaved heads, a gesture of devotion. Retirees who donate their life savings anonymously in government offices.

Beijing is tapping its old propaganda playbook as it battles the relentless coronavirus outbreak, the biggest challenge to its legitimacy in decades. State media is filling smartphones and airwaves with images and tales of unity and sacrifice aimed at uniting the people behind Beijing’s rule. It even briefly offered up cartoon mascots named Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man, characters meant to stir patriotic feelings among the young during the crisis.

The problem for China’s leaders: This time, it isn’t working so well.

Online, people are openly criticizing state media. They have harshly condemned stories of individual sacrifice when front-line medical personnel still lack basic supplies like masks. They shouted down Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man. They have heaped scorn on images of the women with shaved heads, asking whether the women were pressured to do it and wondering why similar images of men weren’t appearing.

One critical blog post was titled “News Coverage Should Stop Turning a Funeral Into a Wedding.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Media, Politics in General

(PS) Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance Capitalism

As we enter a new decade, we are also entering a new era of political economy. Over the centuries, capitalism has evolved through a number of stages, from industrial to managerial to financial capitalism. Now we are entering the age of “surveillance capitalism.”

Under surveillance capitalism, people’s lived experiences are unilaterally claimed by private companies and translated into proprietary data flows. Some of these data are used to improve products and services. The rest are considered a “behavioral surplus” and valued for their rich predictive signals.

These predictive data are shipped to new-age factories of machine intelligence where they are computed into highly profitable prediction products that anticipate your current and future choices. Prediction products are then traded in what I call “behavioral futures markets,” where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to their business customers.

Google’s “clickthrough rate” was the first globally successful prediction product, and its ad markets were the first to trade in human futures. Already, surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, and ever more companies across nearly every economic sector have shown an eagerness to lay bets on our future behavior.

The competitive dynamics of these new markets reveal surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives.

First, machine intelligence demands a lot of data: economies of scale.

Second, the best predictions also require varieties of data: economies of scope. This drove the extension of surplus capture beyond likes and clicks into the offline world: your jogging gait and pace; your breakfast conversation; your hunt for a parking space; your face, voice, personality, and emotions.

In a third phase of competitive intensity, surveillance capitalists discovered that the most predictive data come from intervening in human action to coax, tune, herd, and modify behavior in the direction of guaranteed outcomes.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(FT) Religions show faith in power of technology

The Vatican is praying that this year’s must-have Christmas gadget will not be an Apple Watch or Kindle, but rather its eRosary device.

The £99 bracelet, which is activated by making the sign of the cross with it, is aimed at tracking a devotee’s progress through a range of prayers and is accessed using an app called Click to Pray. It even doubles as a fitness monitor, tracking the wearer’s steps, location and calories burnt.

In increasingly secular western societies, technology and religion may seem at odds. Since 1993, for example, the number of Britons who think “we believe too often in science and not enough in feelings and faith” has fallen from 43 per cent to 27 per cent, according to the British Social Attitudes annual survey.

Some organised religions, however, are using technology to interact with communities in an attempt to forge connections between devotees and fuel engagement. Religious education, relationships, habits and knowledge are being transformed as social media allows laypeople to network with clerics and other religious figures.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

([London] Times) A Profile of a Married vicar whose (theology? or) good looks has won him 116,500 Instagram followers

With 116,500 Instagram followers, many more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Chris Lee has built a cult following with his “60-second sermons”, short selfie videos in which he chats about the Bible and his faith.

He insists fans are drawn more to the power of the gospels than to his good looks, but Mr Lee, 36, who is married and has two young daughters, has been sent messages saying “I love you” by adoring fans. He said: “It’s never a horrible thing to be told you’re good-looking, but I think most people follow me because of my content, because I speak to them on a deeper level.”

Read it all (requires subscription). You may find out more about the parish in which he serves there.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CNBC) As the cost of dying rises, more families try crowdfunding for funerals

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, Helen Ramos tried to wake up her son, Michael Bowen. Something about the 37-year-old looked strange.

Ramos, 65, uses a wheelchair, and running errands can be a struggle. The day before, Bowen had gone grocery shopping for her. Later, Ramos pleaded with him to spend the night at her house in Milford, Connecticut. It was raining heavily and she wanted him to be safe, but now she couldn’t get him to rise.

Bowen had died in his sleep, from either medical or drug complications. He had suffered from drug addiction since he was 13.

Bowen’s death threw his family into grief — and a financial problem. Neither his four older siblings nor his parents had enough savings to come up with the $10,000 it would cost for a funeral and burial at Keenan Funeral Home in West Haven, Connecticut.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology