Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Prayer Companion - Twitter for nuns?

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News reaches us of a fascinating invention developed by the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London – the Prayer Companion. It's a "tabletop appliance with a small screen on the top" (pictured), which serves the following purpose:
"Short sentences about the news or peoples' feelings move continuously across the screen depicting live and up-to-date events. The sentences are taken from a wide range of global news sites as well as websites where people can write about their experiences and emotions."
So who would have a use for such a device? Why, Nuns of course! The Prayer Companion is being used by the Poor Clares nuns from St Joseph's in York – nuns who "otherwise abide by medieval traditions" – to keep up to date with current events and ensure their prayers remain topical and relevant to the modern world. And it seems they're finding it useful – they've even given it a nickname, "Goldie", which we can only assume stems from their admiration for the jungle and drum and bass DJ of the same name.

Joking aside, though, the story behind the invention is rather fascinating – as this article explains, the Prayer Companion is an interesting example of the use of modern web technology, such as RSS and social networking, to solve an age-old problem, in this instance how to keep the nuns up to date with events without intruding excessively upon their ascetic lifestyle. Simply giving them a laptop and letting them loose on Twitter would hardly have achieved those aims, so it seems the researchers have found the perfect compromise. And judging by the photo above, the nuns seem happy with the results.


Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the nuns but here is some Church related humour about whether the nuns should be bothering at all :-

Andy said...

Those Priests are always trying to make a better boytrap.

Ooops, I meant mousetrap.

PaulJ said...

I think the nuns may be wasting their efforts. The illustration of "Goldie" gives the impression that the text display faces upwards. So God can read it himself.

The religion/technology interface inevitably reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke's short story, "The Nine Billion Names of God" (mentioned in my Humanist Heroes piece).