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NextScribe is a non-profit organization that conducts research and development in the field of Computer Supported Spiritual Development (CSSD). The founder of NextScribe pioneered CSSD at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in 1994, and NextScribe continues to conduct research in the field in partnership with both Catholic and Protestant organizations.
Computer Supported Spiritual Development (CSSD)
CSSD is a multidisciplinary study that can span research in multiuser gaming environments, sociology, psychology, spiritual life, AI and other topics, but current research is most closely related to Computer-supported collaboration as it applies to spiritual life and spiritual community.
CSSD includes spiritual formation, but it is not limited to formation. Digital networks will increasingly enable communication in richly human forms, including complex, high bandwidth forms of presence information, and these networks will enable not only wise practices of spiritual formation but also the direct activity of the Holy Spirit among persons. The field of CSSD therefore encompasses both formation of souls and support of the direct action of the Holy Spirit among people.
Some feel that "Spiritual Computing" is a term so fraught with philosophical and theological error (typically Christians who believe the Holy Spirit by its nature is not treated by mathematics, numerical methods or computation) that usage of the term "Spiritual Computing" impedes acceptance of the field in the religious world. For many who believe Spirit infuses all matter and energy, this doesn't pose as much of a roadblock. However, a majority will agree that in a role of communication and spiritual formation, computers can support persons and communities of persons in whom Spirit dwells and acts. Therefore "Computer Supported Spiritual Development" (CSSD) is more generally accepted both in the worlds of traditional religion and non-traditional spiritual paths.
NextScribe has its roots at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico, which established a web design studio in 1995 and produced one of the first web sites on the topic of spirituality. The site was beautifully illustrated with fine art produced in watercolor by one of the monks. As a result of extensive international publicity over the period 1995–1997, the web site was one of the most heavily visited on the Internet. In terms of the percentage of worldwide Internet traffic garnered during those years, christdesert.org remains the most successful religious web site in history.
In 1996 the founder and director of the monastery's web project was called to Vatican City, where he served as a consultant to the Holy See. While there he clarified his mission to pursue the development of advanced technologies of CSSD that would enable the Church to reform its structure according to classical spiritual practices in the tradition of St. Benedict (see Benedict of Nursia). NextScribe was founded in Vatican City in 1997 to pursue this objective.
Since its founding in 1997, NextScribe has conducted seminal research in CSSD in association with both Catholic and Protestant organizations.
Some of NextScribe's most important research was conducted in 2002–2003 in partnership with the multi-denominational Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project (YMSP), funded by the Lily Endowment.
NextScribe's current research includes Prayerbuddy, an implementation of CSSD applied to the formation of self-organizing lay spiritual community. The technology used is primarily related to the field of Computer-supported collaboration and includes an emphasis on wireless Presence information. The spiritual practices supported are adapted from the Christian Monastic tradition. The Divine Office is being developed in cooperation with the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Theology of Work
Within the Benedictine tradition of ora et labora (prayer and work), NextScribe's mission was established upon a Theology of Work that was composed for the project in 1997. Accordingly, NextScribe conceives creative technological development as a process of union with God as Creator. As an integral companion to Prayerbuddy, therefore, NextScribe established the Industrial Theology project in order to explore the theological basis for work and creativity, the right disposition of organizations that support work, and spiritual practices that might complete the union of a worker with God as Creator.
- NextScribe The project's web site.
- Monastery of Christ in the Desert The birthplace of NextScribe.
- Prayerbuddy A current NextScribe CSSD research project.
- Industrial Theology A project to explore work as an integral, sanctifying companion of prayer.