Distributed work to inspire

Later. Saw “Naked Day”? — it’s been moved to April 9.

If someone asked to borrow your computer to conduct malaria research when you weren’t using it, would you? I think most people would, and you know I’m not speaking hypothetically. Indeed, if you say BBC World News tonight, you saw a feature story about it. (Malariacontrol.net)

Years ago, there was a distributed computing program to find signs of life in the rest of the universe. This is the same idea, using the same software. Download it here, or if you use Debian or Ubuntu Linux, install boinc-client and boinc-manager as usual. (Had them downloaded before the segment was over. Ticking away even as I type. Doesn’t seem to make my computer slower while I use it.)

Distributed computing is not a new concept, and can make efficient use of resources. But that’s not why I mention it. In social networking settings, you get the same idea in human terms. Take wikis for instance. While most of Wikipedia’s content and editing comes from relatively few hands — which some people believe is proof that it isn’t democratic — a significant amount comes it drips and drabs from many, many people. And that’s important because the barrier to participation is very low and the collective contribution is vital.

Can churches say that? In some ways, perhaps. But institutional control, hierarchy, and professionalism mitigate against low-commitment, low-barrier participation. Indeed, the message is soaked with commitment (and money) and I have to wonder how much of a turn-off that is.

A thought. Comments welcome.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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