Archives For Book Review

As you know, I am now on a “half-sabbatical” for the next two semesters here at Biola, with one of the outcomes being a book on using the Internet and social media for ministry. As part of this process, I am spending some time reviewing some different materials for possible inclusion in the book and/or my online course this summer.  As I complete my review of these materials, I will post a summary to this blog. To see all my reviews, click here.

Last month I posted a review of Persuasive Technology by BJ Fogg. This book, which I highly recommend for those who are interested in understanding how to make their web presence more credible, details just how technology can be used to persuade people to your point of view.   While I was on my trip to Turkey earlier this month, I finished the follow-up book: Mobile Persuasion.

Unlike its predecessor, Mobile Persuasion is a compilation of essays written by leaders in the field of mobile technologies and captology (the study of computers as persuasive technology). Each essay focuses on a different aspect of how mobile devices can be used to persuade. While I did not find this book as compelling overall as the first, there are several nuggets of insight that are valuable to ministries and churches looking to understand and utilize the power of mobile devices.

I firmly believe (as does Google, by the way), that we are now moving quickly to the point where mobile devices will be the primary way people interact with the Internet and with each other.  With this in mind, here are some of my key takeaways from this book:

  • the mobile-human relationship is one of the most personal, intensive, and lasting of all relationships. Just think of how you feel about your iPhone…
  • because mobile devices are always with us and always on, they are positioned perfectly to provide persuasive prompts at the right place and the right time.
  • a mobile service must be integrated into a user’s behavior pattern in order to succeed. I can see a church mobile “app” which reminds users of upcoming services, study suggestions, and registers their attendance each Sunday morning.
  • developing a mobile “experience” is fundamentally different from a web experience. The experience is not only “smaller”, but  should also be “smarter”.
  • users who know their activities are being monitored (voluntarily) are more likely to repeat the behaviors that we want them to.
  • mobile devices can be treated as extensions of the way the user sees the world.
  • mobile applications should be dependable, consistently solve user’s problems, and do so effortlessly.
  • mobile devices are personal, so the programs run on them should be able to be personalized.
  • if the mobile app is social, it can better persuade – we use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves.
  • being mobile is much less about technology, and much more about culture, connectedness, and fundamental human needs.

The book ends with a look at the future of persuasion through mobile devices. One interesting conclusion from this chapter (written by Dean Eckles, who is part of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford) is that individual messages will become less useful as a way to persuade. Instead, “it will be replaced by contextual information that comes to people based on their goals, their location, their activity, and – possibly- their state of mind.” This is then summed up by Dr. BJ Fogg, director of the lab, as follows:

By knowing a user’s goals, routine, current location, and current task, mobile systems of the future will be able to determine when the user would be most open to persuasion in the form of a reminder, suggestion, or simulated experience.

I have said before, the future is mobile and social, and we need to understand how to become a part of it.

Overall, I recommend Mobile Persuasion, though I would highly recommend reading Persuasive Technology first. The only real criticism I have about this book is that it was written too early. Specifically, it was written before the advent of the iPhone, which changed the mobile game completely. I would love to see an update to this book, taking all the latest technologies into account. However, the principles still apply and are worth reviewing.

A I prepare to write my book and update my curriculum for my summer course in online ministry, I have been catching up on some recommended reading (many of which I pulled from John Dyer’s excellent list of books). One of the books that has come highly recommended is The Millennium Matrix by M. Rex Miller.

The goal of this book is to provide a lens through which we can look to better understand how the changes in communications technologies have affected our culture in general and the Church specifically. Published in 2005, this book gives clear insights into why we do things a certain way and why those things are beginning to fail. In many ways, this book discusses the same issues that books like UnChristian and, even more so, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture do. And, like those books, it offers a plan for moving forward to address those issues. But I would have to say that, of the three, this book is the most comprehensive and detailed. Continue Reading…

As part of my preparation for my book on strategic online ministry, I am working my way through some of the latest books and other materials on the topic. As I review these for myself, I will also share my thoughts about them on this blog.

When I first started reading The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice, I was a bit cynical. The title seemed a bit corny and so many people have said so many things about Facebook already that there couldn’t be anything new to say. Besides, any book written about a specific technology is going to be outdated a year after it was published, and since this was published in 2009, I figured it was already going to be out of date. But, as I began working my way through the book, I was pleasantly surprised in many ways by this book and would recommended for reasons having nothing to do with finding out about Facebook or online ministry.

The book begins with a quick history on the rise of Facebook, in which the author compares the impact that Facebook has had to other technological breakthroughs in modern history. I did find it a bit hard to buy the comparison of Facebook’s impact to that of air conditioning or London’s Millennium Bridge. The discussions of how quickly Facebook’s popularity rose and the founder’s plans for the future can be found in many places. But for the uninitiated, it provides a good background on the popular social networking tool.

Continue Reading…