Gideon Burton is a member of the English Department at BYU and has written extensively on rhetoric, digital media, film and Mormon literature.
I have a theory that Latter-day Saints are better prepared for the massive cultural changes that are underway in our digital age because our history, our very identity, is tied into the concept of an evolving civilization. The early pioneers set a pattern of rapid social prototyping as they gathered light, knowledge, and people in successive stages across the map and the decades. To borrow the parlance of Web 2.0, Nauvoo was something like Kirtland 2.0. The Great Basin Kingdom of Brigham Young was sort of like Nauvoo 2.0 (or Kirtland 3.0?). My metaphor is running away with me. But in any case, many have commented upon the consanguinity between Mormons and technology. I think it isn’t about the tech; it’s about consistently envisioning a future that we embrace because we are wired for rapid changes and conditioned to adapt to those changes in social ways. Heck, wards and stakes and even Gleaner Girls have been social media long before Facebook arrived.
So, in the spirit of Mormons’ interest in and adaptating to a rapidly changing world, I’d like to invite By Common Consent readers to attend a virtual event happening on Thursday, December 9th from 7-9pm (MST): “Digital Revolution: Upgrading Education for Digital Civilization.” This is a culminating event for an Honors history of civilization course that Daniel Zappala and I have been teaching this semester. Of great interest to BCC readers will be two of the presentations — one about the pilot group of full time online missionaries and how they are using Facebook and members’ social networks to find and convert people. Another group is screening their entry for the church’s current Mormon Messages Video contest. But I think the nine other brief presentations (each five minutes long) will also be of interest, as they showcase some of the key features and tools for education and communication in our digital age. For a complete preview of the event, click here. Here’s our facebook event page. You can watch / interact live via our Justin.tv channel. Or, if you are reading this after the event is over, check out the archived event there at Justin.tv. For the live version, we are going to be asking our virtual visitors to participate in the in-person event by voting / submitting feedback via cell phones (this backchannel will show up on a separate screen during the event). We care about you being “there.”
These are exciting times. I’ve seen my students suddenly realize that they have the ability to participate in and affect the world more directly and substantially as they master these various media and communications tools. This would be a nice chance to get acquainted with many of those tools, seen in action as applied to authentic issues and communities. Hope you join us!