**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 2, No. 6 June 2000
Greetings to community builders! This month’s issue focuses on the use of technology in the midst of our larger efforts to develop community life. Does technology simplify our lives or make them more complex? Before we answer that question, a word from our sponsor…(!)
Perhaps that “timeout” symbolizes the issue that I have most grappled with in the last number of weeks. It is the issue of money. It is the issue of good management of resources. It is the issue of simplicity in community in the midst of a complex and fractured world. How do we find the appropriate balance?
After living most of my life in the city, I now live with a view onto a rural county road on which nearly as many horse-drawn vehicles as gasoline-powered vehicles drive. I am fascinated and drawn to my spiritual cousins, the Amish. I affirm many of their choices for the simple lifestyle that makes community possible in a far different way than I experience. Yet I have chosen to live in a way that is more in tune with the larger society and allows me to make a larger impact on that society.
I have encountered a number of challenges over the last few weeks that have driven me to ask some deeper questions. Can I live a simple life and use modern technology? Does the technology I use actually simplify my life or make it more complex? How do I make decisions on purchasing and using the latest technology? How do my decisions affect the community life I want to build?
I am in charge of helping the organization I serve think through the issues of technology and information systems and come up with solutions that help us pay the bills so we can continue building community. There are many ways to make our lives simpler or enhance our efforts through technology, but we have to be very selective simply because we can’t afford most of them.
Do we need new Pentium III computers? Or can we make do with someone else’s original Pentium castoffs? For the most part, we choose the used computers.
Are three computers in a new location enough to warrant a network? Are we all going to need to be on the Internet? Can we find ways to link back to the network in the home office? Always there are trade-offs between the easiest solution and the cheapest.
And how about ways to enhance our image in the visual age of the 21st century? How much time and energy do we devote to a web site? Do we need a digital camera and/or a camcorder? Does it make a difference whether the goal is public relations or training new and ongoing staff? How much should we spend? Will it simplify our lives or make them more complex?
Of course, the issue is always most difficult when something goes wrong. That’s where I have been making more personal decisions on technology as well. My trusty laptop on which I previously relied for almost all of my work is in the shop for repairs. So the questions surface again: Do I as a computer professional need the latest system? Or can I get by with less memory, less hard drive space, and a smaller screen? Do I put money into renting to get by or taking the opportunity to upgrade?
Pretty soon, the very thought of making all of these decisions makes life pretty complex. I am far from having all of the answers, but I have found that I can go back to a few basic questions to guide me:
1. What is it that I as a person or we as an organization are called to do? What is our mission?
2. What are the tools that we need to carry out that mission? Do we need high tech tools or are there other solutions just as efficient?
3. How are we going to communicate with each other in order to truly work together to accomplish what we have been called to?
4. How will having or not having a particular tool of technology affect our everyday life?
The answers are not easy, but we must continue to do two very difficult and seemingly contradictory things:
1. We must communicate on behalf of and build community around those who are most marginalized by our with our society.
2. We must maintain as simple a life as possible, swimming against the community-busting tide of materialism and consumerism.
Living in this tension between building community and the all-too-common community-eroding effects of technology is what Companion Resources is all about. As always, I invite your comments on these issues so that we can learn from each other.
Back issues of this newsletter are also available by following the links on the Companion Resources Newsletter page.
The questions about community and the use of technology are never easy. However, it is an exciting tension-point in which to place ourselves as we discover how to build community in the information age. Until next time, I wish each of you the blessings of the journey!
Paul D. Leichty
The Goldenrod Community
“People Using Technology Building Community”