Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Internet Evangelism in the 21st Century Conference: The Emergent Track

Just got back tonight from this conference where I was presenting in breakouts with

(There actually wasn't an emerging church track at the conference, but for us ec-type folks who were there, it sure felt like it).

The Conference organizers are allowing folks to continue to virtually register for the conference to view the sessions, which are all soon to be available online. For some it would be worth the $20 bucks just to view Ciske's podcasting session or aaron's session on vlogging.

We also got to hang out with two documentarians at the conference. Will Samson's delightful daughter, Ty, was filming proceedings and doing interviews with a view toward the finalization of her Growing Up Christian. And we also spent a good bit of time with Jim Gilliam, known primarily as a co-producer of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and his work with MoveOn. Jim's working on a documentary called Church 2.0.

Aaron Flores in private conversations and in his sessions stressed the importance of new vloggers honoring the emerging vlogging culture. We encouraged him, in fact, to vlog on the salient elements of that culture for the uninitiatied. Aaron also did a great job of lucidly breaking down the technical components of vlogging so that those who wish to begin can more easily do so.

Most of the aforementioned also had the chance to present in three sessions on blogging. A number of interesting discussion threads emerged:
  • how do I get started technically?
  • how much does it cost?
  • how do you create community online?
  • what's the relationship between online community and f2f community?
  • doesn't online Christian community detract from the church?
  • can't online interaction be addictive?
Nick was kind enough to create a blogpost specifically with the urls that we mentioned during our sessions.

I mentioned a couple of cautions and opportunities of blogging.

  • We need to take care that we avoid an unwarranted technological triumphalism when it comes to blogging specifically and the internet generally when it comes to spiritual formation and evangelism.

    While online relationship can be highly significant, when possible it should be accentuated with realtime, face-to-face interaction. There is something transpropositional conveyed in such circumstances as when DJ, Will, Ty and I travelled the 4 .5 hours or so from the Baltimore-Washington Corridor down to Lynchburg. If all of that interaction were duplicated in an email exchange, something would be lost.

    Spiritual formation has occurred in similar fashion irrespective of such technological developments as the printing press, the radio, the tv, the car, the telephone or the internet. We need to be thoughtful about to what extent we rely on emerging technologies as a modality of spiritual transformation.

  • Online interaction can be merely a further expression of evangelicalism's addiction to information transfer as the omnicompetent modality of spiritual transformation.

    Art, video, and podcasting excepted, the online medium is primarily one of text. This can lead us to live comfortably in the two-dimensional, truncated, artificial world of words. Love of God and others requires words but it also requires more.

  • Blogging, specifically, is still broadcast and is less interactive than chat rooms or online discussion groups. The words of the blogger are privleged. It's certainly not an invalid medium (!), but it's also not always the best online medium.
  • Blogging and the internet reflect the lowering cost of information.

    When I went to seminary, I spent thousands of dollars and travelled across several states to go to where the books where so that the people who understood the books could explain them to me. Today that simply is no longer necessary (I do not mean to invalidate seminaries wholesale; that discussion is for another post!) . While we are strongly stating that information is not all that is necessary, at the same time we are not saying that information is unnecessary. In fact, it's non-negotiable. The Internet, including blogging, lowers the cost of information and empowers easier information transfer.

  • Online relationships are characterized by a high degree of optionality. We can easily make folks go away in online contexts. Counterintuitively, because individuals can easily opt out, some tend to be more intimate earlier than they would in the usual relational lifecycle. We have seen this early intimacy segue to significant online relationship as folks increase in trust. Along with this is the fact that the internet simply provides users with more opportunities for relational resonance.
It was fantastic to spend more time with DJ, Will and Steve and to meet Aaron, Nick, Ty, and Jim for the first time. Different configurations of us were able to eat together at various times and attend and present in sessions. It was a rich, rich experience that I'm still processing. It was also fun to spend so much time being able to talk with DJ, Will and Ty on the trips down and back up.

Be sure to watch the blogs of the aforementioned for other comments on the Conference.


Aaron said...

stephen, i'm recording a podcast tonight on technology and the (emerging) church with dj chuang, jen lemen, and alan creech. great notes from the conference, i'm going to use (if you don't mind) your list of questions as starting point in our conversation. once its done it will be on, if you want to check it out.

Stephen said...

absolutely! thanks

Anonymous said...

I wonder how comfortable Aaron Flores is with being called "the first Christian VLOGGER" let alone "the first Christian VLOOGER" ;-) You might want to fix that typo. Just a suggestion. (Yes, I'm an anal-retentive editor! Sheesh.)

Steve K.