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microphone.jpgAs we go more deeply into what it means to make the events of our district virtually accessible many of you have come to us with questions.  Last month I wrote an answer to one such question “what about those of us who do not yet have highspeed internet?” This was a good question. This month I thought I would answer another good question. This one is not so much a question as a statement:  “Video and audio recording as fine but they are not the same as seeing you face-to-face.

This is true. I agree. We do not intend them to be the same. The breakthrough moment in my thinking about this came a few years ago. Our family had gotten our first digital camera. I was feeling—quite strongly—that it was definitely not the same as my old 35 mm. The picture quality was poor. The prints were washed out. Then I had an experience which caused me to see this differently. We were at the time members of the Cedar Lane UU Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

My wife, Leah, was on the religious education council and had volunteered to chair the holiday fair. This was a big deal that took over the entire church for Saturday. One of the points of tension in previous years had been that rooms had not been returned to their prior condition in advance of the religious education classes the next morning and chaos had resulted. Leah got the bright idea of taking a couple of digital pictures of each classroom before the event and posting these next to the door of the room. The clean-up crew then was told to set up each room the way it was in the picture. It worked great.

These pictures were not the same as I might have taken with my 35 mm. It did not matter because we were not trying to do the same thing with it. The new technology suggested a new use and one that would not have been impossible with my beloved single lens reflex.

The awkwardness of our current situation lies in the fact that our first tendency is to judge a new technology by how well it serves for the old use. Much of the interest of this time lies in the fact that we have many new technologies that have been invented before any clear and complete understanding of what they may be good for. When new gizmos come out these days they are in truth only half invented. The second half of the invention comes as people work past the fact that the new gizmo is not the same and begin to play with the question “what, then, is it good for or how might we improvise and adapt this to a new purpose?” The most creative technology companies have discovered this. They watch very carefully the uses to which their inventions are put and the way users adapt them to do unexpected things in unexpected ways.

Truth is that we don’t quite know what some of these new things we are trying in the district will be good for. We do know—and feel powerfully at times--that they are just not the same. Starting there, we invite you to play—and let us know what you discover.

And remember, we all like and value highly getting together. There is a reason you give us an absolutely huge travel budget. There is a reason why, even in this time of stress, we have not proposed to cut travel and spend the money instead on technology. The two are not the same.