Category : –Social Networking

(CEN) Church Chatbot on the Way

A Chatbot and a new site to share digital resources with lay people and clergy were the two winners of the Church of England’s ‘Digital Labs’ this week.

The event brought together Christian coders, techies and creatives to present their best ideas for helping the Church develop its technology.

One idea to win was Ask the Church, a chatbot to enable people enquiring about faith to ask the Church questions through Facebook Messenger, Twitter and the new website and, in future phases, Alexa, Google Home and Siri.

Meanwhile CofE House will be a site to allow the sharing of high quality new and existing resources and digital assets, to support lay leaders and clergy across the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(II)–yesterday’s New York Times

The video, which appeared on the online forum Reddit, was what’s known as a “deepfake” — an ultrarealistic fake video made with artificial intelligence software. It was created using a program called FakeApp, which superimposed Mrs. Obama’s face onto the body of a pornographic film actress. The hybrid was uncanny — if you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was really her.

Until recently, realistic computer-generated video was a laborious pursuit available only to big-budget Hollywood productions or cutting-edge researchers. Social media apps like Snapchat include some rudimentary face-morphing technology.

But in recent months, a community of hobbyists has begun experimenting with more powerful tools, including FakeApp — a program that was built by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google. FakeApp makes it free and relatively easy to create realistic face swaps and leave few traces of manipulation. Since a version of the app appeared on Reddit in January, it has been downloaded more than 120,000 times, according to its creator.

Deepfakes are one of the newest forms of digital media manipulation, and one of the most obviously mischief-prone.

Read it all.

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

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(I)–a Radiolab Podcast from last summer

Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes.

Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet.

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

(Nieman Lab) Disinformation spread online is so disorienting that it’s messing with the researchers who study it

This week I got to hear Kate Starbird, assistant professor at the University of Washington and director of its Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation (emCOMP) Laboratory, speak about her research into how online disinformation spreads during crisis events (like shootings and terrorist attacks) and what she’s learned about the networks spreading this information and the tactics that they use.

A few of the intriguing bits from Starbird’s talk:

— She and her team have looked a lot at the language that conspiracy theorists use both in tweets and on sites like This is “question-mark language,” Starbird said. “‘I’m not gonna tell you what to think, I’m just gonna put the evidence out there and you can make up your mind yourself’ — this way of talking persists across different events” from Sandy Hook to the Boston Marathon bombing to the Orlando shooting.

— Starbird spent a lot of the time reading the sites that were spreading these conspiracy theory posts — the sites behind the links being tweeted out. (“I do not recommend this.) Stuff she looked at: Homepages, about pages, ownership, authors, common themes and stories. She developed coding schemes for theme, political view, and so on. Common themes: “aliens, anti-big pharma, chemtrails, anti-corporate media, geo-engineering, George Soros, anti-globalist, anti-GMO, Flat Earth, Illuminati, Koch Brothers, anti-media, 9-11 truth, New World Order Cabal, nutritional supplements, pedophile rings, Rothschilds, anti-vaccine, anti-Zionist.” (On the subject of GMOs, by the way, please read this tweet thread, which is not about conspiracy theories but is really interesting to keep in mind as you read about Starbird’s work.)

Read it all.

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

(LARB) James KA Smith on INC Christianity: How to Find God (on YouTube)

What [Chuck] Smith, [John] Wimber, and [Pater] Wagner shared was an aversion to hierarchical authority and a penchant to set up their own shops whenever they encountered resistance. All of them moved from more traditional denominational affiliations to looser nondenominational “fellowships,” eventually setting up their own independent ministries such as the Wagner Leadership Institute, which is “perhaps the largest and best-organized promoter of INC teachings.” This pattern will be repeated and sacralized in INC Christianity. The demand for autonomy will be baptized as “religious entrepreneurship.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that leaders in this movement would also retrieve the title of “apostle.” Most traditional forms of Christianity understand the office of apostle as restricted to the first century of the Church. Apostles are those who, having witnessed the resurrected Christ in person, were then sent (the Greek root from which we get the word means a “sent one”) with a unique authority. But Wagner, for example, has described the INC movement as a “New Apostolic Reformation.” And the network is really one of leaders who claim the title “apostle” by virtue of supernatural manifestations in their ministries, and thereby seek the allegiance of followers. In turn, these apostles provide “spiritual covering” for other leaders and practitioners. To claim to be an apostle is to claim some kind of unquestioned authority and power.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Mr. [Roger] McNamee said he had joined the Center for Humane Technology because he was horrified by what he had helped enable as an early Facebook investor.

“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he said. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm.

“This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong,” Mr. McNamee said.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Food for Thought from Patrick Deneen in 2014–The Coming Persecution

From there:

[Michael] Shermer lauds the liberal society being brought ever more fully into view under the liberal dominion as one of equality, liberty, prosperity, and peace. This is at the very least a willful misreading of the signs of the time. The society that comes ever more clearly into view is one that efficiently and ruthlessly sifts the “winners” from the “losers,” the strong from the weak. It has transformed nearly every human institution – from the family to the schools to the universities to the government – to assist in this enterprise. Modern liberalism congratulates itself on its liberation of disadvantaged minorities – so long as some of their number can join the side of the winners – but is content to ignore or apply guilt-assuaging band-aids to the devastation of life prospects experienced by the “losers.” Tyler Cowen has described this aborning world as one in which “average is over,” in which you will either be one of the 10-15% of the winners, or 85-90% of the losers destined to live in the equivalent of favelas in Texas where you will be provided an endless supply of free Internet porn. This is the end of history, if we follow the logic of liberalism.

So, since Shermer ends with a prediction, let me make one also. Those Christians and other religious believers who resist the spirit of the age will be persecuted – not by being thrown to lions in the Coliseum, but by judicial, administrative, and legal marginalization. They will lose many of the institutions that they built to help the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the disinherited. But finding themselves in the new imperium will call out new forms of living the Christian witness. They will live in the favelas, providing care for body and soul that cannot not be provided by either the state or the market. Like the early Church, they will live in a distinct way from the way of the empire, and their way of life will draw those who perhaps didn’t realize that this was what Christianity was, all along. When the liberal ideology collapses – as it will – the Church will remain, the gates of Hell not prevailing against it.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Barna) Who is Gen Z?

“First, why are we calling them Gen Z? Well, you may remember that Millennials were originally called Gen Y because they were born after Gen X, before they became Millennials. The same is probably true for Gen Z. Eventually, they’ll get their own name, once the particularities of their generation become clear. You may hear some people already referring to them as the ‘iGen’ or ‘digital natives’ because of their relationship with technology. Others called them the ‘homeland generation’ because most of them were born after 9/11. You may also hear ‘centennials’ or ‘founders’—but for now, the most widely accepted title is Gen Z.

“Gen Z was born between 1999 and 2015, making the oldest of them 18 this year. Most of them are in their teens and childhood years. Gen Z is the second largest generation alive today. In the U.S. there are 69 million of them, compared to 66 million Millennials, 55 million Gen Xers and 76 million Boomers. The parents of Gen Z are Gen X and Millennials. They are most ethnically diverse generation alive today, and they have, for better and worse, grown up with technology at their fingertips. The smartphone was invented before most of them were even born.

Read it all and there is more there.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

(BBC) Meet the religious social media stars–Their Instagrams are all about god and spirituality

Official religious bodies have long been making the most of technology. Last Easter, the Church of England encouraged followers to share “photos of baptisms, dawn services, church celebrations and more using the hashtag #EasterJoy” on all forms of social media. On Facebook, the page ‘Ask a Catholic Nun’ has almost 270,000 followers, while a Christian-based ad agency found more than 30% of churches said they updated Facebook each day. The Dalai Lama is arguably the leader in this field; he has had a Twitter account since 2008, now with 17.3 million followers.

Now, ordinary individuals are following suit. In the same way as people interested in particular diets or exercise regimes use social media to promote the lifestyles they espouse, social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are providing a platform for spiritual influencers to spread the word. These individuals can have virtual congregations of thousands, who often follow them with passionate loyalty. In many ways, they’re the digital successors to American TV preachers who used to reach their audiences in their living rooms.

In the UK and America, Christian believers appear to be those accruing the largest fanbases. One of the most prominent Christian influencers in the UK is the fashion and textiles student Dephne Madyara, with 100k subscribers on YouTube and 20k followers on Instagram. In America, influencers such as Sadie Robertson (5m followers, across Instagram and Twitter), Heather Lindsey (350,000 followers) and Emma Mae Jenkins (130,000 followers) amass thousands of likes on their videos extolling the benefits of their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) Church of England looks to millennial ‘creatives’ for digital ideas

The Church of England is turning to millennial ‘creatives’ to boost its online reach as regular church attendance is replaced with digital engagement.

Around 50 ‘technicians and creatives’ from around the UK are being brought into central London for a day-long event pitching ideas for new apps, hashtags and websites to help the Church boost its web presence.

Their ideas will be judged by an expert panel including the BBC’s senior digital producer Lynda Davies and the LEGO Group’s global social media team senior manager, James Poulter.

It comes as the Church battles dwindling numbers coming on a Sunday and instead is trying to reach people through social media and digital marketing techniques. Figures released in October say 1.2 million people every month engage with the Church online through its videos, images, podcasts and blogs.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Language, Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Young Adults

Anglican Church of Kenya to Launch Facebook service for youth who cannot go to worship in 2018

Head of ACK Archbishop Jackson Jackson Ole Sapit has announced that the church will start training its priests on how to use social media ahead of the launch of the online service.

“As a church we cannot afford to be left behind and weneed to embrace technology. It’s a high time we start our online church to tap on the larger community in the social
media,” said Dr Sapit.

He explained that the bold move in meant to reach out to the diminishing numbers of young people attending church services. He urged fellow clergymen to be ready to embrace social media platforms.

“Most of our young congregation have the latest gadgets and are not attending church services and the best way to loop them back is to introduce online church services as they are permanently on socialmedia,” said Dr Sapit.

“As the world is becoming a global village by the day, it’s about time we in the leadership of the church embrace technology and start online services” said Dr Sapit.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anglican Church of Kenya, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

Irwin Stelzer–Silicon Valley at the Intersection of Facebook and the iPhone

“Forgive me Lord, for I knew not what I was doing.”

No, not Victor Frankenstein after creating his monster. Instead, Tony Fadell, co-creator of the iPhone; and Chamath Palihapitiya and Roger McNamee, a former Facebook executive and investor, respectively. Even Mark Zuckerberg confesses concern with his creation, although in a round-about way: “Facebook has a lot of work to do”, … and his “personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues.”

We have here a test of whether corporate capitalism is capable of self-reform, or whether politicians around the world will seize this opportunity to expand the regulatory state, here and abroad. So far, self-correction, driven by the profit motive, seems to be the answer to a set of problems that threaten to convert a host of proudly self-styled “disrupters” from heroes to zeroes.

Eleven years ago almost to the day Apple ended decades in which we were tethered to the wires of telephone company monopolies; Facebook has provided two billion people with a news source and a platform on which to display pictures of their cats and for Vladimir Putin to interfere in nations’ elections. Such radical change inevitably creates problems, just as, for example, Detroit’s creation, the mass-produced automobile, brought enormous benefits but also created environmental problems. So it created a demand for regulations galore, from seat belts to regulations on the content and use of gasoline. Now it’s the turn of the creations of Silicon Valley, which might have spawned social problems only now being understood.

Start with Apple, which has already bruised its reputation in some circles by refusing to help the FBI unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, bowing to Chinese censorship in order to retain access to its market, and turning tax avoidance into a (perfectly legal) fine art, becoming the corporate equivalent of David Goodhart’s rootless man from “anywhere,” described in his much-read “The Road to Somewhere.” It is now charged with harming children and producing an iGen (born in 1995 or later) that is “on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades” according to Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. Studies purport to show that opioids are not the only addictive substances available to teens. They also suffer from cell phone addiction that produces “depressive symptoms” (University of Basle), increased risk of suicide (University of San Diego), and poor scholastic performance after sleep-deprived nights on their cell phones.

Then there is Facebook….

Read it all.

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

(Barna) The Trends Shaping a Post-Truth Era

The term “post-truth” is now often used to describe the current political climate in the United States, in which reality is relative and even the facts are open to interpretation. In the feature story of the new, 2018 edition of Barna Trends—an annual collection summarizing a year’s worth of Barna’s major research studies and including analysis, interviews and infographics—the Barna team and other trusted experts identify cultural and spiritual reasons the world is no longer in agreement about anything….

Barna Trends 2018 begins with an overview of the dwindling public confidence in institutions—especially, and very notably in 2017, the media. However, three in 10 U.S. adults (31%) say the primary source of the “fake news” problem most often lies in reader error—“misinterpretation or exaggeration of actual news on social media”—not factual mistakes in reporting itself. And it would seem there are plenty of chances for these social media mistakes: When asked what kind of news media people are most likely to share, social media posts tie with traditional reporter-written articles as the top response (25% each). Though a plurality (36%) says they verify reports by comparing to multiple sources, the tendency to share social media posts as news points to a preference for more salacious, opinion-forward headlines and reporting. At the least, it allows opportunity to perpetuate it; a plurality (38%) never corrects misinformation they see on social media.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sociology, Theology

A Nation Answers a Sobbing Boy’s Plea: ‘Why Do They Bully?’

When Kimberly Jones picked up her son, Keaton, from school in the Knoxville, Tenn., area last week, he asked her to record a video of him in the car.

Keaton was going home early — not for the first time, Ms. Jones said — because he was afraid to have lunch at school. Classmates, he told his mother, had poured milk on him and stuffed ham in his clothes.

“They make fun of my nose,” he said in the video, which Ms. Jones posted on Facebook on Friday with a plea for parents to talk to their children about bullying. “They call me ugly. They say I have no friends.”

“Why do they bully? What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them?” he asked, sobbing. He added: “People that are different don’t need to be criticized about it. It’s not their fault.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Children, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Teens / Youth

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes in Anglo-American diplomatic Twitter row

In a rare political intervention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has explicitly criticised the US President Donald Trump for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right extremist group. Archbishop Justin said “it is deeply disturbing that the President of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists.” The UK Prime Minister Theresa May also criticised the US President, but was slapped down by Mr Trump, who told her to “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

The original tweets were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a minority political party with virtually no support in Britain outside its estimated 1,000 followers. In a 2014 parliamentary by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency, Fransen received just 56 of the 40,065 votes cast. She is currently awaiting trial in Belfast on charges of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” and in Kent for inciting racial hatred.

She and her followers have stormed mosques and carried out what they call “Christian Patrols” – marching in paramilitary-stule uniforms carrying a large cross in areas of the UK populated by people who – either themselves or through their ancestors – have roots in south-Asian countries. She claims to be Christian but it is not known if she attends any church. Her actions and those of Britain First have been condemned by Christian leaders from across the denominational spread.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --Social Networking, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture