Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Technology and Community

I am intrigued by what is happening in the world as a result of technology. Last night I was sitting in my home in Auckland NZ and simultaneously was talking to the coach of my daughters Johnny B at Kaukapakapa about 60k's NE in the country on the land line; was chatting through Skype to Esther in Bristol, England; was talking to my daughter Gracie on MSN in Remuera across the city; and chatting on Facebook to my young nephews Sean and Tom at Brown's Bay about 10k away! My wife was in the next room talking to Gracie simultaneously!

Interestingly, I am as much up with my daughter Esther's life in Bristol on this trip as I was when she was home. There is no tactile contact, no hugs, no visuals (although we can use video link ups) and much is internet chatting by text.

Yet, there is a real sense of community with all this. What does it mean to be 'we' in this world? So much now is experienced visually through the box and the net, and by text on cell phones and chat options. Then there is the good old phone.

At the same time, facebook sees a continual interaction with people. I am now linking up with students I used to teach back in the mid 80's over 20 years ago. One old student found me and she is linking me up with old students. It is bizzare. I am not connected with 400 people many of whom I have not spoken to for years and have missed. E - community is not the same as real community, but it is better than nothing and in many ways I am now more connected with people than I have been for years.

What are the implications of this? Can we have church like this? Some church's are trying this, with chat rooms, on line services etc. We are in a new age and we have to rethink and critique all this. We need to get on with it because it is here.


Sean said...

While I love the fact that I can interact with students, friends and total random's, I just can't bring myself to think of this as biblical community. It is an aspect of community, and helps in our communications, but nothing will substitute for real/live/physical human interaction, where tone, facial expression, smell and a myriad of other factors come into play. Maybe I'm just old school in this. I fully want to exploit the benefits of technology to help us connect and connect in better ways, but I don't see this as a substitute for flesh and blood interactions, I see it as an aid.

Just my $0.02.

Dr Mark K said...

I agree with you in the main. We are both old school, Jesus is kind of old school, hehehe. The ideal is face to face communion without doubt. But, even Paul used letters when he couldn't connect. He said of his letters that they represented him. Sure, he has a representative present them on his behalf, but still claimed presence among them in spirit.

I think we should continue to pursue the ideal of physical gathered community. But, in this fragmented world, e community is better than no community.

So I say we use e technology as a means to communicate and gather, but that through the medium we promote the ideal in the hope that as believers mature they will move beyond he e community approach.

We cannot go back, it is here, and it will increase without question. So, let's use it, yet critique it.

Christina said...

Hey did you see the article in the latest time magazine about churches using twitter as part of the interaction with the sermon and the preacher? Interesting concepts.

Sean said...

Hey Mark, I fully concur - except! If people only connect through e community, will they ever move beyond this? Of course some will, but how do we transition this? Now the absence of an answer doesn't suggest its wrong, but I'd think through that issue carefully before buying to much into this.

However, as Christina notes, and I've done this lots, txt questions and emails and other communication means can be used to make sermons interactive. After our Sunday evening gathering, we always had Q & A, via txt, email, question box, or in person. I found this a FANTASTIC way to actually engage with our guys and girls on the application of what I'd been teaching. It was excellent. So there, I'm all for technology.

Rob Thomson said...

Hi Mark,

I am a student on campus here at Laidlaw, and was put onto your blog by Ben Halliwell.

Your blog asks questions that I hope to explore for the next two years in Japan (I am applying to study masters there). That is, how does new media (blogging, social networking sites etc) add to the mission of increasing global awareness and understanding, and at the same time helping local people to embrace and celebrate their own local culture.

I am sure that for all the flack that sites such as Facebook get, there is immesurable good that can come out of an ease of connection with others.



Joseph Collins said...

Technology aids the Church in global theology and witness on an unprecedented level.

If we link hands and I.T eyes, surely if we think wisely and come up with great God ideas, we can change this world rapidly.

Dr Mark K said...

I like your mission heart. The weakness of such technological linking is that it is impersonal and non-incarnational at least in a physical sense. But, I agree, there is huge power in modern technology.

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