Tag Archives: Relevant Magazine

My Predictions for 2020

In Relevant magazine this month, there is a fascinating 14 page article (“Bringing 2020 Into Focus”) in which experts weigh in on what to expect in the coming decade, in areas like the environment, social justice, politics, culture, faith and science. As the “expert” in the cultural arena, I was commissioned to forecast the trends and changes I think will be most significant in the next 10 years. To read the whole spread, click here. But below I’ve excerpted a few sentences from the 4 trends I highlight.

One With the News:

Ten years ago we didn’t have YouTube and blogs were barely in their infancy. “Have it your way” was just a Burger King slogan. But now, “have it your way” is manifest destiny. It’s an inalienable right–a mantra that permeates everyone’s digital media existence–and by 2020, it will conquer more than just music libraries. It will define the fourth estate.

All signs point to a 2020 in which the news is no longer uniform, no longer top-down and no longer the same for any two people. The news will no longer be an externality, but a personal thing—for individuals, by individuals, about individuals.

It won’t just be about the ability to personalize the news people consume (through RSS feeds, Digg and personalized homepages), it will become more about people placing themselves in the thick of generating the news and being the news. CNN’s “iReporter” is the current industry standard for this “citizen journalism,” and sites like Newsvine–which attempt to involve average consumers in the generation of news–are perhaps a good indicator of what is to come. ()

The New Cultural Power Brokers:

Whether it’s the 17-year-old film critic blogger who talks up the unknown indie films or a music webzine like Pitchfork that rises to atmospheric importance because of a track record of reliably good taste, these everyday tastemakers will rule the roost of cultural capital in 2020. They will be the arbiters of worth-my-attention commodities for the niche audiences they twitter to. They will pan for gold in the muddy waters of DIY culture-making and elevate only that which deserves it. They will carry the carrots toward which the deep pocket conglomerates race to monetize, and though merely “intermediaries,” they will be the most indispensable link in the chain. ()

There Will Be No Place Like Home:

Home is making a comeback; “local” is the new “global.” And in 2020, people wonder why, back in the day, they were ever so antsy to leave.

Rising gas prices and struggling airlines will lead to continued escalation in transportation costs and the desire to “get out” will simply be crowded out by the realities of affordability. The “main street” local economy will thrive again and shipping costs will make homegrown business more viable. ()

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I Joined Twitter… Sigh.

September 19 was a dark day for me… but one that I feared would come soon enough.

I joined Twitter.

This is after years and years of publicly campaigning against it in articles such as “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter” and “Short Attention Span Faith.” 

And now I am a part of the monster, feeding it like everyone else…

Here’s why I did it:

1)  September 19th is my annual “sell out to technology” day. Last year I joined Facebook on Sept. 19.
2)  I might as well try it before I knock it even more.
3)  I have a book to promote.

I still think it’s silly and quite possibly a sign of the apocalypse, but hey, so are a lot of things.

If you want to “follow me” (is that the phrase?) on Twitter, here’s my url: http://twitter.com/brettmccracken

Things I will tweet include book updates, article links, random thoughts, and other worthwhile things that are under 140 characters. I promise I won’t inundate you with what I’m having for dinner or when I’m feeling sleepy or bored.

If I do, feel free to un-follow me (or whatever you call that). I’ll completely understand.

Our Addiction to Public Communication

I wrote a new technology piece in Relevant magazine’s September/October issue, entitled “Short Attention Span Faith.” You can read the whole thing by clicking here, but here’s a short little excerpt:

Unsurprisingly, this frenzied, obsessive-compulsive proclivity toward being digital busybodies has deleterious effects on Christian disciplines like Bible study and prayer. How do we justify sitting down and praying for an hour when there are Hulu videos to browse, “What Ninja Turtle are you?” quizzes to take, and online “community” to cultivate? If we’re not wired, plugged-in, and communicating with the world at all times, it seems like such a waste of time…

…This is one of the biggest problems that must be reckoned with in the Twitter age: our ever diminishing inclination and/or ability to slow down and think thoroughly, deeply, and profoundly about anything. We speed through an article or web page in 60 seconds and pronounce it “read.” We see a blurb about our friend from high school’s weekend at the lake and pronounce the friendship “maintained.” But in this flurry of bite-sized narrative and dollar menu mediation, are we able to truly be self-aware? Can we consider things and know God and ourselves?

At the end of the day, it’s just hard for us to have interior thought lives anymore. It’s hard to keep anything to ourselves and be reflective just for ourselves. With Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the quick-and-easy communication efficiency of cell phones, we’ve gotten used to the notion that anything worth saying can and should be shared with the digital community in real time. Any idea or thought worth having should be public. Everything is cooperative, collective, and wiki-oriented. When we sit alone and contemplate something that isn’t meant to be shared with the whole wide world, we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves.

I know this temptation all to well, as a writer/blogger who sometimes doesn’t value the “keep it to yourself” type of thinking. It’s so easy to say anything and everything to any and every one these days. It’s hard to keep thoughts, ideas, and rants to oneself when a huge audience is just a “publish” click away (I realize the irony that I’m blogging about this). Our culture has conditioned us to glory in attention and publicity and recognition; It’s only natural that we are increasingly finding it difficult to not live public lives. More and more, the defacto barometer of a well-lived life is not necessarily the quality or depth of our contribution to society but the breadth of it—the extent to which it is widely disseminated and known. It’s like the more Facebook friends or Twitter followers one has, the more actualized they are as a person.

What we communicate via these media platforms is not nearly as important as the fact that we have an audience, somewhere out there, listening or glimpsing into our lives. It affirms our existence, pats us on the existential back and sends us on our way, no better or worse off but for the few meaningless minutes or hours that we’ll never get back.

The New Christian Irony

If you are a Christian of a certain age (let’s say 21-50), and you grew up in the Christian church (especially in the 80s or early 90s), you probably love making fun of the evangelical subculture. I know I do. I love nothing more than laughing about and ironically consuming vintage Christian kitsch items. Whether it’s McGee and Me, DC Talk, Left Behind or any number of other bits of Jesus junk, I always enjoy reminiscing about it. In the same way that the rest of our generation ironically talks about Zach Morris or Labyrinth or those years when it was cool to roll up your jean shorts, Christians are finding great amusement in recalling the nonsensical oddities of the evangelical world.

One of the things Christian hipsters love to point out is just how sickeningly derivative evangelical culture is—that we always have to copy what the secular world is doing, usually a few months or years later (case in point: the new Christian version of Guitar Hero). These are also the Christian hipsters who take joy in looking ironically upon the maudlin kitsch that birthed them. It is the ultimate bit of irony, then, that Christians have coopted the irony industry to make out of it an evangelical alternative. For your consideration: larknews and stuffchristianslike:

Lark News: This is the Christian version of The Onion. It’s a fake news rag with infrequent but hilarious updates, with headlines like “Denominations reach non-compete agreement” and “Missionaries maintain obesity against long odds.” It’s a great source of laughs at the expense of our evangelical ridiculousness. The website also features a shop where you can buy snarky, make-fun-of-ourselves t-shirts.

Stuff Christians Like: This is the Christian version of Stuff White People Like—the runaway blog success that revels in smarmy self-loathing and the purging of white bourgeois guilt. The Christian version, which began on Jan 1, 2008 and features the same “countdown” format as its mainstream predecessor, includes such entries as “#31: Occasionally swearing,” “#393: Family Fish Bumper Stickers,” “#382: Perfectly Timing Your Communion Walk,” and “#93: Riding on the Cool Van in the Youth Group.”

Of course, there are many other examples of this sort of thing that I could mention. The Wittenberg Door, Relevant, and countless evangelical college humor magazines have been doing this stuff for years. But it seems that Christian irony is increasingly prevalent these days, maybe because all of us naïve children are grown up now and stunned by the crazy things we grew up in. Sometimes all we can do is laugh.