I heard a story the other day on NPR about a new theory of social engagement called “gamification.” “Gamification” is defined in the piece as: “the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems.” In other words, it takes the idea of reward/consequence and applies it to everyday situations, it turns things like obeying the law into a sort of game.
To help us understand what “gamification” might look like in everyday life, the following example was given:
Say you’re zooming down the highway, when you spot one of those speed-limit enforcement cameras from the corner of your eye. You hit the brakes, but not before the camera’s flash catches you breaking the law. A speeding ticket is surely on its way to your mailbox.
Now, imagine that same camera also snaps a photo of your car when you are driving at or under the speed limit. For your safe driving, you are entered into a lottery to win a portion of the money from fines paid by speeders.
The piece goes on to say:
Instead of being structured around punishment and negativity, the speed-camera lottery is all about positive reinforcement. If you drive the speed limit, or under it, you may win some money.
And that positive incentive to create better behavior is a core tenet of games.
Another great example is The Biggest Loser, a show where they have taken something usually very private; the admission that I’m over-weight and the journey to rectify that, and turned it into something not only public but competitive. Gabe Zichermann, co-author of the book Game-Based Marketingand chairman of the Gamification Summit says:
What’s interesting about Biggest Loser and other gamified examples of weight loss is they hew to a model for user rewards that I call SAPS.
SAPS stands for status, access, power and stuff. Zichermann says those are things people want in their lives as rewards — in that order. “It turns out,” he says, “that cash isn’t that good of a reward. Status is a fantastic motivator for getting people to do stuff.”
My first thought was that this was ridiculous but the more I thought about it, of course it makes sense. Our popular sayings remind us that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. We are motivated by reward. In fact, the more I thought about this concept, the more it began to remind me of “Christian Hedonism” (which now has it’s own Wikipedia page, so you know it’s legit).
The basic premise of the concept of Christian Hedonism is that, yes, we have been created to pursue joy and fulfillment and even reward. But the problem is that we seek these things in all the wrong places. Instead, we should pursue them whole-heartedly, even zealously, in God. We have been created to pursue joy. In fact, many biblical passages support this idea:
There are other passages we could look at, but the thrust is still the same: we have been created to seek reward. We have been created to seek joy. It’s so interesting to me that the Swedes have now tapped into our natural desires to get people to drive better. What if we adopted this strategy with all of life? The problem (or at least one of the problems) is that not enough Christians are truly filled with joy to suggest to others that there is truly a better reward to be had.
This is part of the irony of someone like Ned Flanders on The Simpsons; on the outside, he always pretends to be so happy, but on the inside, he’s just like everyone else. But, what if we really believed that in God alone there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore”? What if we obeyed out of supreme gratification and joy for what He’s already done for us instead of trying to earn His favor? What if we full-throttle, whole-hearteedly, over-the-top pursued reward, but we pursued it in God?
The idea of “gamification is not wrong in and of itself, it just offers the wrong reward.
Well, hello. How are you? I’m OK, thanks. Why don’t we sit down for a cup of coffee and work out the problems of the world, OK?! Here’s how we’ll start; I’ll collect and then post a bunch of links and then you’ll click on them, read whatever is on the other end of the link, we’ll all think deeply about it and then we’ll come back together and solve everything. Alright? Alright. Let’s go.
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See a visual representation of the Japan earthquake.
The Weekly Rob Bell Roundup:
Read this piece about artists who have dissed their own albums publicly.
Read this piece about five ways the iPad works on the buyer’s subconscience.
Read/Listen as All Things Considered speaks with Trent Reznor about his Grammy win.
Read as the Los Angeles Times speaks with Steve Earle about his debut novel.
Browse Paste’s top ten SXSW moments.
Read as Time says we’ve officially entered the “E-Book Era.”
Customize your own Muppet.
Watch this piece about the evolution of some of our favorite logos.
Read this piece reminding us that Americans are generally ignorant about religion.
Read as Paste profiles The Head And The Heart.
Browse this list of 7 “must-read” books about music, the brain and emotions.
Browse NME’s list of 30 bootleg albums you must hear.
R.I.P. Pinetop Perkins.
(not) R.I.P. Nate Dogg.
R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor.
Browse Time magazine’s favorite acts from SXSW.
Read about the beer industry’s bright spot.
Read this piece wondering if “organized religion” is heading for extinction.
Read about Apple pulling “the anti-homosexuality” app.
Read this Wall Street Journal piece wondering why we let our daughters dress like prostitutes.
Read this history of the mp3 as an audio format.
Read about PETA calling for a more “animal-friendly” translation of the Bible.
Read this piece wondering if “religious people are prone to obesity.”
Read CNN’s profile of The Civil Wars. There goes our chances of getting them for a house show!
Read about the new album from Bon Iver.
See: “movie barcodes” turn entire movies into single images.
Read about the opening of the “Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway.
Two bands I can’t get enough of lately (neither of which is particularly new). First, Old 97‘s. I’ve wanted to see this band live for a very long time and it looks like I’ll finally get the chance when they come through Phoenix in June. Here they are performing “Time Bomb” for KEXP:
Here is their video for “Please Hold On While The Train Is Moving” from the band’s 2010 album The Grand Theatre, Volume One:
Next up is Lucero. First for them, “Nights Like These” with the classic line: “She had a weakness for writers and I, I was never that good with words anyway:”
There is a long Scriptural tradition of God calling His people to love; to love even our enemies. Though we tend to think of love as being more emphasized in the New Testament, Leviticus 19:8 says: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” In Matthew 5:44 and elsewhere, Jesus takes this even farther: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Paul, quoting Proverbs says that by loving and serving our enemies, we heap burning coals on their head.
But all of this prompts a question (at least in my mind). Christians are to be marked by love, of that there is no question (no, we don’t always live that out well). The world will know that we belong to Jesus, not by the “family-friendly” radio we listen to, not by our political affiliations, not by our punny Christian t-shirt and not even by the church sticker on our car. They will know that we belong to Jesus by our love for one another (John 13:35).
But what about that person in your life that just rubs you the wrong way? Yes, we must love those people because God first loved us and if we don’t love others, we don’t love God (1 John 4:8). But must we like that person who rubs us the wrong way? Have you ever heard (or said/thought): Well, I may have to love them, but I don’t have to like them!?
Is “liking” someone necessary in “loving” someone? Of course, you like your spouse whom you also love, but what about that unlikable person? Can you show them love without actually liking them? And if you don’t like them, can you truly love them? Surely we recognize that they are made in God’s image just as we are, but there are naturally people that we connect with more than others and there are people that we may just never fully connect with. But we can still love them.
In fact, isn’t this a more powerful testimony to the power of love? It’s easy to love and serve those people we get along with; those people most like us, but it is difficult to love people we don’t like; people unlike us. In many instances, love is not simply an emotion but an active choice to consider someone else as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2). Surely we will not “like” our enemies (after all, they are an enemy!) but we are commanded to love them. Love transcends liking, because after all, before Jesus saves us, we are not entirely “likable” to God, are we?
I was going to post something that would prompt people to say that I make them run from Christianity (not really, but I’ve just never been accused of that before). But instead, let’s post some music, just because it’s Wednesday. Do you really need any other reason?
I’m a sucker for good pop sensibilities. Now let’s be clear: by “pop,” I don’t mean the stuff they play on the radio and make glossy videos for and those kids now-a-days go “Ga Ga” over. Give me a catchy melody and some boy-girl harmonies (though any harmonies will do); throw in some strings and horns and I’m hooked. Think Ra Ra Riot and Fanfarlo or back to The Housemartins and you’re on the right track. I think you hipsters call this type of music “chamber pop”? Or is that only when there are actually strings and horns involved? I can’t keep up with all you rock stars and your complicated shoes.
Paste magazine recently introduced me to the Kopecky Family Band. I don’t know much about this band except that they’re from Belmont University and they’re not actually all related. But they fit the bill for my pop sensibilities hankerin’. In 2010 they put out a fantastic EP called The Disaster, inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
Here’s the band performing on a balcony:
Here they are playing on a bench outside QDoba in Louisville:
And, here is the official music video for their track “Birds”:
Up next is a band I know nothing about called Milo Greene. Here they are performing a track called “1957″: