• Quakerism and Computers

    From James P. Ascher@21:1/5 to All on Fri Jan 8 11:12:46 2016

    I've been lurking in this newsgroup for awhile and it strikes me that
    those of you still here may have some insight into something my Meeting
    has been wrestling with: what is the role of computers within Quakerism?
    Or, more generally, internet communication within a spiritual journey?

    I ask because our meeting is struggling with a service provided by FGC
    call the "Quaker Cloud." Previously, we had used a local internet
    provider for non-profits and churches, who didn't change us, but
    expected us to do our own web development. Our site was very
    simple, but contained crucial information like the calendar, the
    address, and the dates for Meeting for Business. Several Friends got
    excited about FGC's service and participating in a larger Quaker
    community online, so we have switched over. Their service is a modern
    Drupal installation where we have no access to any development tools,
    but the developers supposedly do all the work for us.

    However, several times the site has crashed, or gone down for various
    reasons, and it has always taken a bit longer for them to restore
    service than we expected. Having done a little web development in my
    time, I was shocked and began to wonder.

    Our Meeting likes the Quaker Cloud because we imagine that we're somehow participating in a larger community of Friends and sharing our spiritual journey online; yet, I recognize that those are the terms the service
    has been promoted to us by a commercial development firm and that we
    might just be buying into traditional internet-hype. Our old site always
    worked in glorious isolation. The new site occasionally crashes in a
    bright new Web 2.0 world.

    I think about the environmental footprint of large data centers, of the politics of supporting commercial or free software, of trying to meet
    community where they are, and it feels like the sort of complicated
    spiritual problems that Quakers wrestle with.

    I note that those of you here are on a very stable, yet somewhat old,
    internet protocol. Something about Usenet appeals to me too, especially
    given the instability of bloated, content-marketed, recent web
    development, but I wonder what you think.

    Why are you here? Is there a Quaker-ly way to think about internet communication and spirituality? How do you weigh the genuine social and environmental impact of computing against speaking to people the way
    they want to speak?

    Any thoughts would be welcome,

    James P. Ascher

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