This is not primarily about technology or hobbyism. It’s about people communicating It’s big, and it affects everyone. Even the Church?
Back in the 1950’s we would have set up a “C of E Social Media Council” so that a party selection of senior bishops, retired colonels and ladies in funny hats could mull over the creative possibilities and then tell everyone else what to do.
These days we have to be a bit more experimental and post-modern. We have to work out for ourselves what to do. I’ve been trying to brainstorm some needs and possibilities, including, as an hoary old adult educator, learning requirements.
So here goes: five possible areas of work for the Church arising from the New Media revolution:
- Basic Training.
Best learnt for self rather than trained in, but there are skills and dimensions to be acquired. For some this will involve gaining the confidence in empathetic surroundings, to have a go for themselves.
But, of course, there’s far more to it than that. My Lord Bishop of Barchester may, indeed, abominate the Internet and all its works and stick to the Olympian heights, but when he pops down to Barchester Cathedral to sock it to them like Cosmo Gordon Lang on heat, there’s a danger that at least half the people in the congregation, their culture formed in the new media space, will think the poor old goat is mad... So even if he’s not interested in any of this stuff for himself, the Bishop of Barchester needs to acquire some working concept, at the very least, about how the majority of his fellow human beings receive and give information. You’d think.
- Masterclasses for practitioners of the Dark Arts.
There is what some would find a surprising number of great communicators in Church, but not all of them know it yet, and all of them could reflect and improve. Skills can be acquired and honed, among other things, by sharing experience and learning with other practitioners of the Dark Arts. Why not facilitate (residential?) masterclasses, to help us raise our games, of the people, by the people, and for the people?
- Flying Circus
There’s an amazing amount of expertise and breadth and thought in Church. Some remember fondly the General Synod Nuclear debate for the unusual experience it offered of well informed people actually listening to each other in the round, and so contributing to public debate. As the conventional newsprint media are going down the tubes, public debate is disintermediating. Some will think this terrible, and some a great liberation. But could a network of people at the sharp end of various issues and interfaces be persuaded to blog together on an occasional basis to bring their disintermediated perceptions and experiences into the new public square?
- Strategic Mapping
New media are emerging all the time. For example, Facebook became massive in about two years. Just on the back of an envelope, I can think of about 15 different types of new and social media, each with their own challenges and possibilities. New communications space needs to be mapped in terms we can all understand, sufficiently well for people to decide whether to have a go and share the experience. On a similar theme, media change is inducing a whole raft of changes in the ways everybody understands themselves. Without some kind of map of what’s going on, we’re all morons.
The fact is every media innovation, like the advent of printed books or cheap newprint, has fundamentally affected theology — both the content and the way it’s done. Some people may find the whole notion pretentious (“pretentious? Moi?”) but whoever’s mapping this stuff, however, surely the Church has to be among them...
What/ Who have I missed? How badly have I misunderstood the situation? What else could and should we be doing? How?