If technology and communication are two areas that interest you, I can highly recommend reading or listening to Jeff Jarvis. Author of What Would Google Do?, Jeff blogs about media and news at buzzmachine.com, and is a regular contributor on the This Week in Google podcast. He is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program and the new business models for news project at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. He also writes a new media column for The Guardian.
I find his thinking critical, fair, and very helpful. Whilst I am not certain of his perspective on faith, his insights do also help me think about technology and communication from a Christian perspective; reviewing the impact of technology on journalism, communication and society, leads me to think further about the impact on faith and church.
In a recent post, Jeff refers to a “group of Danish academics [who] say we are passing through the other side of what they wonderfully call the Gutenberg Parenthesis, leaving the structured, serial, permanent, authored, controlled era of text and returning, perhaps, to what came before the press: a time when communication and content cross, when process dominates product, when knowledge is distributed by people passing it around, when we remix it along the way, when we are more oral and aural.”
Being involved in a communications team that happily embraces new media, this sort of thinking excites me, but I’m also aware of some of the fear it propagates within the Christian community. I think some of this is caused by confusing the timeless and unchanging truth of the Gospel, with the means and media used to communicate it. Christians, particularly in the West, are often ‘booky’ people, and feel a little threatened by new media and its malleable nature. More on this in another post…
Jarvis goes on to recognise that “technology brings change; change brings fear and retrenchment. Gutenberg scholar Elizabeth Eisenstein reminds us that for 50 years after the invention of the press, we continued to put old wine in this new cask, replicating scribal fonts, content, and models. That’s what’s happening now: We are trying to fit our old world into the new one that is emerging. We’re assuming the old way is the right way.” I’m pleased to know many forward-thinking and tech-savvy Christians for whom this isn’t true, but as well as those who fear technology, there are also some who embrace technology to do the same old things in a slightly different way; something Christians have been notoriously bad at in recent decades, with questionable ‘Christian’ fiction, film and music.
(There are however, some success stories to be celebrated; not least Mars Hill Church in Seattle for the creative way they use design and new media to make their sermon content available online, embracing a wide variety of creative gifts to further the reach and impact of their resources.)
There is an argument that new media is shallow and distracting, with twitter being used as a case for ‘short attention span’ syndrome. Jarvis continues, quoting an earlier post: “Maybe the issue isn’t that we’re too distracted to read but that reading can finally catch up with how our brains really work.”
I’ll leave you with some of Jarvis’ questions that I will be considering as I prepare for the IFES Bible Study Consultation.
So is this new generation distracted or advanced? How can they best learn? How can they teach? What tools can we use today besides books? What new opportunities do all their tools present? That’s what educators should be asking. That’s the discussion I’d like to see start.
How are you using technology to improve what you do? Do you know of others that are making good use of technology in new and creative ways?