Today at NPC, I only had time to make it to the morning seminar with Shane Hipps, pastor and author of the excellent book The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (which I highly recommend) and the recently released Flickering Pixels.

In his seminar, Our Nomadic Life: Undoing the Incarnation Using Nothing but Your Cell Phone, Shane gave a great overview of the shift from oral tradition (in which we needed the tribe to maintain our sense of narrative and identity) to the literate age (in which our words could be separated from ourselves) and, finally, to our current electronic age — a complex convergence of the two.

In our current electronic culture, we live in the following paradoxes:

  • A tribe of individuals — “Electronic nomads wandering the world”
  • Empathy at a distance — All the world’s suffering invades our televisions, but “your soul is not designed to withstand the weight of planetary suffering” so we care for as long as we can, and then move on.
  • Intimate anonymity — Genuine intimacy comes from exclusivity of information, and yet we share intimate things with faceless “friends” who we might not have ever met — the opposite of intimacy, in many ways.

Shane urged the pastors in attendance to have compassion on those who are growing up in this electronic culture, as much compassion and understanding they would extend to those who might speak a different language or look differently from themselves.  There is the unfortunate tendency for older folks to wait for next generation people to “grow up” or “grow out” of their culture.  Shane was very helpful in describing electronic culture in a way that wasn’t inherently positive or negative — simply that this is the cultural air they’re breathing.  So, the question becomes, how do we help them navigate their world as faithful followers of Christ, rather than desperately trying to convert them to an older culture that no longer exists.

Shane’s latest book, Flickering Pixels, was released at the conference and was sold out by week’s end.  This he attributed to his Wednesday night interview with none other than Rob Bell during the general session — perhaps being part of Rob’s gravitational pull launched him into his own orbit :)   I am definitely looking forward to reading Flickering Pixels.

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Overall, I had a great conference experience.  I heard many wonderful stories, met some great people and went home (which, since we’re in town, isn’t too far away) with some great resources.  Doing the whole, “squeeze a conference into your routine while juggling family, work, writing and design” thing is getting harder as I get older, though.