The minds of the emerging generation are being shaped by the computer screen more than the television screen. We see things in layers and loops and links and labyrinths. We do not see new things replace old things (like video clips in a linear movie) but we see them find their place in nested layers. We expect motion and navigability. We distrust anything static. Emerging churches reflect this.
“The church was worried about the age of post-literacy, when young people stopped reading books and stared mindlessly into the TV screen. It is probable that we have moved on from that stage to the age of post-post-literacy - where TV watching is replaced by reading, writing, blogging, messaging, phone-texting, sms'ing, journalling, selfpublishing, etc. . . The current renaissance in writing is turning readers into writers. We are also surrounded by technology that makes it easy to ”publish glad tidings daily“. Welcome to Generation Text.” (Andrew Jones, Generation Text)
“Connection to each other and Christ will be enabled by an emphasis upon communication rather than gathering”. (Pete Ward, Liquid Church)
The values of new media provide a reflection of deeper values:
Code – over construct, invisible over visible
Continuity– over cut, preserving the past, linking to history
Constraint – filter over funnel, saying no to a million possibilities
Community – over individuality, where thoughts get tested,
Collaboration – over competition, allows interdependence, prevents ego/selfishness.
Connection – where everything comes together, the knot in the web, portal
“New Media is anything digital and plays on a screen”
(Hillman Curtis, MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer).
- Lev Manovich lists 5 elements of new media in his excellent book “The Language of New Media” They are numerical representation, automation, modularity, variability, transcoding
- Although new media is a window into the value system of the emerging church, it is not a mandate that all emerging churches excel in the use of new media. There are plenty of emerging churches that focus on simplicity and base their meetings around a meal in a house, rather than a technologically savvy performance.
- It is usually the integration of old and new media that allow emerging churches to form and grow. Convergence is better than negligence or overemphasis on one particular technology.
- The new technologies are not replacing our traditional forms of church but they are allowing our concept and experience of church to take on a radically different shape. Many forms of emerging church are native to the new culture, rather than reworked models of traditional church. There are exceptions,of course, especially as we transition for a world of old media to new media and our forms of communication and organization begin to stabilize.
- Our world is more like the early Renaissance with its interest in historical memory, and humble experimentation of media than the late Ren/Mannerist period (exaggeration and extremism, rejection of continuity).
- Internet churches seem to have grabbed people’s attention. In 2004, England started a few interesting models including Church of Fools and i-Church, both of which have no physical meeting locations. I attended the virtual opening service at Church of Fools. We used a similar technology to start Suddenly Seminary. Douglas Rushkoff notes two ways to use the new technology – representation and recapitulation. The churches I mentioned have are representing the old model church in a new media environment. The other alternative, recapitulating or totally rebuilding and transcoding the idea in a way that is native to new media, is probably the more common approach to Internet based churches, and is most likely the way of the future. Many bloggers, for example, have carved out their new church communities through a number of new media relationships and websites. The new technologies are not replacing church but they are allowing our concept and experience of church to take on a radically different form. See Tim Bednar's well researched paper with the unfortunate title “We Know More Than Our Pastors”. PDF
This was part 4 of the series: EmergAnt - The Skinny on the Emerging Church:
1. Emergent Vocabulary
2. Countercultural History
3. Postmodern Sensibility