Heidi Campbell, What’s all the Fuss? #refract

How do we live our missions and ministries online? We live in interactive, multiple-platform world – the Web 2.0 world. A lot has changed technologically – but similarities in questions – identity management, privacy, community, etc.

Technological & sociological shifts. Raises similar issues of what it means to be human. Walter Ong – changes in media culture, moved from oral to written to visual to the experiential/digital age. Originally trained as a journalist, large tapes of interviews – cut & splice. 3 years later found outdated and had to do a crash course in digital technology.

Lev Manovich – the Language of New Media (2002). Information isn’t text etc – it’s all in 1s & 0s so information can be stored very differently. Old Media is a static space – needed training, expensive, linear, so hard to get into. Database means a more navigable space – much faster & a more user focused space, more easily adapted (eg Facebook photo – make own mashup). Social changes – Facebook 3rd largest country. World Internet Project. Jeffrey Coles. World Internet Project. Traditional media will survive but be smaller & internet reliant. Online is becoming integrated into our daily lives, much more embedded. Our screen time is changing our view of the world, but at present it’s not affecting out f2f time. The expectations of constant contact. The ‘media is filling the cracks of our lives’.

New media & youth. A real difference in how the Internet is perceived. We didn’t get onto the Internet until we’d learned written culture so we apply those rules – but younger people have grown up with the online culture. Community is at the centre of their social experience, especially online (mobile phone is like breathing). Trust unknown peers rather than experts – huge challenge for the church. Little interest in the source of the information but mostly taken from aggregated sources. They want 15MBs of fame – their digital thumbprint has a longer impact.

How do we use those tools to be church in a digital age? Early research – between ‘online Christian communities’ and their ‘offline church’. Is a supplement rather than a substitute – most would prefer f2f comments. Builds real communities – relationships build & people meet offline. Offers support & encouragement lacking in offline church. 24/7 experience rather than 1 day at church – and people are looking for that kind of intimacy, care, open about shared faith. Challenges traditional notions of gathering & authority that we have to come to grips with.

Religious communities response to media (Ferre). Early adopters – see media as a conduit (neutral tool, what you put in is what you get out, media seen as a gift of God to do the work of the church. Are embracive & innovative users of technology. Late adopters see media as modes of knowing. Media has its own value system/logic – this is the technological deterministic view, that the media rather than the message is all powerful – are suspicious users – tend to not use or avoid certain aspects. Heidi advocates that media is a social institution – that people are at the centre of media – media can be good & bad, has possibilities & problems. Pay attention to the users & educate then into how to use them.

Heidi now looking at religious communities and their use of new media. Most are active participants and evaluators of technology. See how the choices that are made & how they are constrained by theological beliefs & not just the technology. Social processes & cultural contexts as to how things are used & achieved. Think about where we want to go & what do we use – which tools help us form our identity. How do we develop our own theology of new media for a cohesive new media strategy, that is theologically informed. Specific cultural contexts frame our new media economy – and what are the social implications of using this. How will we need to innovate to fulfil our mission? Not just about being relevant in society – but also to affirm identities and proclaim our faith online.

It’s only the Internet?! What issues do we need to talk about? Technology proliferation & use – the Internet not transforming society but spotlighting changes already happening. Networked individualism – the ego-centred network – what does it mean to be the global networked body of Christ? Deprofessionalisation of traditional structures – we are all prosumers. Who speaks for the Church online? Conusumerism has become an over-arching ideology – we have a pick & mix society. What kind of religion/community is networked religion?


Are religious communities homogenous groups that will do what they are told? How does the social shaping model need to change? Churches can declare a way to use, but individuals can choose to opt-in or opt-out of that system. Needs more top-down use of religious identity and where they want to go & how does the community shape that? Do you want to make a specific cultural impact…. Need to identify choices, rather than fighting to win?!

Centralized church hierarchy? Many people won’t go to church but will go onto Google and see what the top 5 hits. How do we teach people to be salt & light online… What does it mean to be Christlike in this environment? Questions if credibility, reputation, trust online? A lot of work done on political information and eg Ebay! The Catholic strategy – they have thought about a number of theological questions – e.g. Delayed presence through the TV. see Religion by Radio re debates had in the 1930s about what it meant to be online. There is much information on theology & media – but it is scattered. What about McLuhan – looks at social effects of technology rather than looking at the social changes that go alongside!

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