What did we learn from the first meeting of the Vincentian Family in cyberspace? It seems like quite a bit. Before we fast forward to the future  lets look at the statistics. In its short life VirtualVins.net was viewed from 290 different cities in 27 countries with the greater part of those visits on April 24.  So there were many more visitors than just the viewers from the 20 “official” sites. As we read the comments that have come in during the past 72 hours two things have become apparent.

One set of comments clustered around  content. Sr. CJ Willie’s presentation got high marks for clarity in presenting the concepts of systemic change and the eye-opening tour of what is already being done across all branches of the Family. (We are not only working at providing copies via DVD, etc. but also the text and main bullet points as many requested.)

Despite the length of panel and some of the technical glitches both in the recording and live transmission many were taken by the panelists insights. Apparently at most local sites the discussion was very animated and thoughtful. Some felt the program  at the loca sites was too tightly packed and should have allowed for more face to face interaction.

Another set of comments focused on the technology. Most began to realize the power of technology to bring us together in ways we have not dreamed.   Some were struck by both the opportunities and the limitations in that  a) they did not have to travel out of their homes and yet b) missed the opportunity to exchange ideas.

For the more technologically practiced there were some fascinating live exchanges via Twitter and Facebook. And some visitors from Cook Islands, Bolivia, Colombia, Poland were able to make use of last minutes low-bandwidth or even mobile phone versions of the presentations.

Fast forward to the future…

This event was just opening the door to using various forms of “social media”. No one can predict the future but there are some ways of keeping pace with it as it unfolds.

The famvin team has some things planned that might help.

VinFormation plans a series of mini web-conferencing events that will show those interested how they can gather up to six people in a secure video chat room provided by famvin. Visit the Vincentian Water Cooler. Imagine the possibilities for use as a

  • mentoring tool – a kind of living room into which to invite people to share the Vincentian vision
  • vehicle for meetings – surely a time-saver and kind to budgets
  • place to swap ideas with like minded people – people in other branches working in similar ministries, etc.

Is there a group to people you would like to brainstorm with?

We are also planning to use VirtualVins.net in a new way by focusing this section of famvin on understanding and facilitating what is called “social networking” tools . How can they be used in our collaboration, spiritual and material, with those who are marginalized.

For some Twitter and Facebook lead to eyes glazing over. Yet the Popes have asked us time and again even as recently as this week to use these tools in the service of the “good news”. We plan to provide simple explanations of the “widgets” or tools that will make it easier for us “digital immigrants” to better understand and connect with the “digital natives” who have grown up as citizens of cyberspace. This may not be the “final frontier” but we  are challenged as missionaries  to learn the language and customs in order to bring the “good news” to all.

And, oh yes, you can rewind the experience yourselves by clicking on the links to the presentations since they are still available on VirtualVins. You might even gather different groups to share them with.

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