FAQ for Signs
and Wonders, a Religious Futures Weblog [main][trends][sources][archive][contact]
 
  1. What is Signs and Wonders? Why are you here?
  2. What is Futures Studies?
  3. What is a religious futurist?
  4. What is environmental scanning? How do you do it?
  5. What is a weblog?
  6. Your items seem to concentrate on Christianity. Don't you cover other religions?
  7. Where do you get your information?
  8. Religion is a big topic. How can you cover all of that?
  9. Is there anything you will not print?
  10. What is the future of this site?
  11. I like Signs and Wonders. Who gets the credit?
  12. I don't like something here. Who do I contact?
  13. How can I get involved?

What is Signs and Wonders? Why are you here?


Signs and Wonders is a weblog for religious futurists sponsored by the World Network of Religious Futurists (WNRF). It is intended to provide environmental scanning on the Internet for the field of religious futures as well as highlight resources and items of interest to religious futurists.


With the explosion of content on the Web, Internet users with particular interests are turning to topic-specific portals and content guides to help them sift through the mountains of data streaming onto the Internet each day. Where will a religious futurist log on each day to get caught up on the latest? Hopefully here at Signs and Wonders on the WNRF web site. Our intent is to update the weblog every three days or so, so we hope you'll keep coming back.

Also, Signs and Wonders is intended to promote the field of futures studies to the whole Internet. There are a good number of futures sites out there, but very few that offer free, professional-level content. This is understandable as many futurists are entrepreneurs and need to pay the bills. But if the futures field wants to gain the wider acceptance it desires, it needs to follow the successful marketing trails others have blazed on the Internet -- namely, to give something good away for free. Through this site, the World Network of Religious Futurists will seek to lead the overall futures community in promoting the field of Futures Studies.


What is a Futurist?

A Futurist is a person who thinks about the future in a systematic way. A Futurist does not predict the future. Noone can predict the future. A Futurist instead anticipates a range of likely futures, helps people envision the futures they prefer, and then helps those people prepare to create those futures they want for themselves.


Ironically, Futures Studies is really about paying attention to the present. What is happening today that will influence our future? What must we do today to prepare for what lies ahead?


Ultimately, a successful Futurist inspires action. Mere anticipation is not enough. We can be skilled forecasters and anticipate every plausible scenario, but will have totally failed if nothing is done about them. Especially for us Religious Futurists, all is lost if nobody takes action on what we know.


What is a religious futurist?

A Religious Futurist studies the future of religion and religious institutions and the future of the world in light of a set of religious beliefs. The Religious Futurist's preferred future is usually associated with the hope and the vision of a particular religious faith.


For a more exhaustive explanation of religious futures, check out the WNRF FAQ.


What is environmental scanning? How do you do it?

Environmental Scanning, put simply, is a method of paying attention to the present to look for signs of the future. It is a fundamental skill a futurist must have. A futurist scans the environment -- magazines, TV, web sites, colleagues, etc. -- for signs of possible futures taking shape. To ensure that we take a 360 degree view of our environment, we use an acronym to help us make sure we're covering everything -- STEEP.

When we consider a novel news item or what looks to be an emerging trend, we use STEEP to ask ourselves the following questions:
  • Social - How will this news affect or be influenced by our culture, beliefs, demographics, and social mores? How will this affect the systems and structures in our families and communities?
  • Technological - How will this development affect or be influenced by scientific discoveries and new technologies?
  • Eonomic - How will this item affect businesses and consumers?
  • Environmental - How will this news affect or be influenced by biological and ecological systems?
  • Political - How will this development affect or be influenced by government and regulatory systems?


We use environmental scanning to keep our eye out for the future that is happening today. For a more in-depth look at how to do environmental scanning, check out these slides I, the editor, made for a presentation on environmental scanning at a futures seminar at the Univeristy of Houston at Clear Lake


What is a weblog?

A weblog, to put it simply, is a web site that records the findings of a person who surfs the web. Many weblogs are as colorful and idiosyncratic as the people who write them. Others are more formal, organized and topic-specific. The weblogging phenomenon is a growing trend on the Internet, mainly because of the explosion of content on the World Wide Web.


Author William Gibson was perhaps the first person to envision the advent of weblogs. In an interview with Salon magazine in 1996, he said that the World Wide Web would get so large that people would eventually be paid to surf it for everyone else. Though few webloggers are getting paid today, increasing numbers of web surfers are turning to content guides like weblogs to help them sift through the jungle of information and bring back the interesting bits.


Your items seem to concentrate on Christianity. Don't you cover other religions?

Yes, quite definitely!

Since this is a weblog, we cover any content on the web we can find that applies to religious futures. We have some pretty good sources on the various world religions, but, whe World Wide Web, for better or worse, is predominantly American and written in English. This means English-language Christian sources abound and it is harder to find sources that bring up-to-date news and commentary on other religions. We have tried to seek out some good sources, but if you know of some links to English-language web pages that might improve our coverage of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and other faiths, please let us know about them.


Where do you get your sources?

Our source list is a dynamic entity. It started with some of the links from the WNRF search and links page as well a number of links acquired in the process of our initial environmental scanning for religious futures items. As scanning progresses, the list of sources will change.


Of course you, the reader, are welcome to recommend your favorite site. If you have a cool and useful web page you use to keep sharp on your religious futures foresight, we could sure use it to improve our coverage. We will also take scan hits as well.


Religion is a big topic. How can you cover all of that?

Our staff is dedicated, capable, but small in number. It's a big web out there, so we can't provide adequate coverage of all aspects of all religions. Since religious futures is a progressive endeavor, Signs and Wonders tends to have a rather progressive bias. We'll own up to that right away. We are interested in the ways religions change and work toward their preferred futures. We are interested in how people of faith come together in spite of their differences to accomplish common goals. We do not intend to simply dismiss the considerable differences between religious traditions and denominations. Rather we prefer, in order to limit our focus, to cover commonality and convergence, ecumenism, and human spiritual progress.


Is there anything you will not print?

We will not shy away from covering controversial topics. We will cover issues involving sexuality, violence, and hatred as they apply to the future of religion. We will cover religious persecution and intolerance, but will not post news or opinion that attacks a particular faith tradition or its followers.


What is the future of this site?

Signs and Wonders will tweak its basic design until it has few months of operation under its belt. During this initial period, we'll also focus on pubilcizing our site and building a regular readership. After that we'll enhance Signs and Wonders, making it more interactive:
  • We'll provide a forms-based way to suggest links and trends to consider;
  • We'll tie Signs and Wonders to the WNRF online forum to discuss weblog entries and emerging trends;
  • We'll explore making the trends page into kind of an on-line survey -- allowing users to rate the importance and prominence of each trend in our list and then tallying the results;
  • We'll also explore adding an automated scanning process onto the front end of the site;
  • We'll likely tie Signs and Wonders to a mailing list, making it into a bi-monthly or weekly "push" medium for our regular readers who'd rather not go onto the web and prefer the convenience of email.


I like Signs and Wonders. Who gets the credit?

Signs and Wonders is the Master's Project of Cody Clark, student at the Univeristy of Houston at Clear Lake in the Studies of the Future Program. Many people have helped make this project possible, most prominently Jay Gary, the project sponsor at the WNRF, and Dr. Peter Bishop, the project's faculty advisor at the UHCL Futures Studies Department. These people do good and important work, so write them and show them your appreciation.


I don't like something here. Who do I contact?

Each item posted to Signs and Wonders is accompanied by the identity of the poster. Feel free to contact the author if you have concerns or questions. For general comments or to report problems with the site, contact the editor, Cody Clark.


How can I get involved?

Glad you asked! You can:
  • Recommend the site to a friend.
  • Link to Signs and Wonders from your web page.
  • Write in to suggest a link for the sources list.
  • Write in to suggest a trend for the trends page.
  • Write in to submit a religious news or commentary item for the weblog.


 
The editor's first try with a webcam.
The
Editor
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Thanks to the WNRF 
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