New Media Communications 2.0: A Great Good Place for the Theological Community 

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How does/might Computer use and technology make it easier to "fall into sin". (I place "fall into sin" in quotations in order to signal that the following points explore what that means to me. To fall into sin is to allow any forces, personal or communal, to lead us to:

Use people

Viewing the audience as consumers rather than as participants

To the degree that CMC is used to entice further enslavement to unnecessary consumerism

The lack of "healthy" interactive sites ( or ones given to "unhealthy interactions")

"Position" papers/ opinions that "sell" putting up sites that invite a "retreat" into a world which does not encourage or build on diversity

Trivialize people

Lame debate forums; political partisanship; "one dimensional position papers" that do not take advantage of the structure /characteristics of hypertext.

Competitive, flaming atmosphere of Usenet groups and other online discussion forums

Competitive forums where people loose their "civility" and strike out in "Limbaugh type fashion" ; the "flame wars" attract crowds. I don't see the attraction.

Sickly exploitative sites like "OJ Online" or "alt.binaries.tasteless" kind of fare

To the degree that dialogue and interaction are co-opted in favor of "predefined" content

Marginalize people

The creation of the "information haves" vs the "have nots"

  • Issue of technology
  • Issue of economic sharing
  • Issue of power (political/economic)
  • Where the "good life" is promoted, cyber-style, just as we have had emerge from the once "promising" beginnings of television. It too was going to enhance democracy and revolutionize education.

Clouding reality

The extent to which we will use the medium as entertainment has: to further a view of life which glorifies materialism, violence, and competition

The new "literacy" is software and electronic ……it needs to be taught just as it was in the early days of public education

What is covered on the major media

Opportunities exist in CMC to "open the doors/windows to the real world"
Opportunities to "link" to related subjects, groups, and efforts from within areas to which we have "surfed"
Getting a different slant from diverse groups

How it is covered

The continuation of current media patterns to "omit" certain views and lifestyles and focus on those which sell and those which promote a certain lifestyle

The commercial forces skew the story to show themselves in a good light. How will this happen in cyber-advertising?

Will the Net help us to "see more"? Will we get more of "life" and its people through the online world than over the broadcast airwaves or print media?

Gaining power over people

Advertising in the Digital world ( a WIRED article in which Internet advertising may take shape)

It is difficult to see at this juncture how the medium of CMC will be "captured" by advertising and the other powers. Presently it seems that public debate and exposure to more political issues and the platforms and positions upon which they run can be enhanced by the availability of a more complete forum.

It also seems that the opening of the "Web publishing" spaces to more people will diversify what is being offered and provide alternatives to the fare of the mainstream media.

One might ask how God fits in to my view of sin. The answer, for me, is rather simple: and one which I am aware that DL expressed similar recognition in Theology in a Digital World on p.33 ("In what respect is our computer technology a form of rebellion against God? How does computer technology distort and destroy our relationship with other human beings?") DL asks those two questions in the context of considering computer technology as the ultimate expression of human pride, "of the hubris that many theologians have identified as the kernel of original sin" (also, p.33). I would add "If you do not do this to the least of these, you do not do it to me", equating treatment of fellow humans as expressive of one's relation to God".

Of course, relationships with other humans, with nature, and the overall balance of things is central. I believe that in personal relationships, we express and experience some form of balance and imbalance with God; with life; with "design" if you will.

I tend to look at life's relationships as relationships with images of God. Interpersonal relationships are instances of our encounter with God, as persons meet and intersect. Our social realities are also encounters with God in the realities of group dynamics. As we are called into community, there is implied in that call that there is an experience of God to be found in seeking, experiencing, and working out of community.

I guess I should say that I tend to write and speak about things which I naturally place inside the realm of God without the use of overt theological language. I suppose I tend toward use of psychological/sociological terms as opposed to traditional theological ones. I say "traditional", because I feel that psychological and sociological terms are, in my descriptions, also theological.

If I am defining "sin" (which already brings in what is a "traditional theological term"), I implicitly imply that I refer to confrontations with God's ultimate purposes which are being thwarted. In this context, that of computer technology, I am focusing on largely socio/psychological issues of how we wield this technology, how we affect others and ourselves by using it, both positively and negatively.

My use of the above definitions of sin stems from my view that if we are able to use, trivialize, marginalize, and deceive people, then this is symptomatic of the disease of sin which has at its root separation from God at some level of our being.

The piece about the media is also symptomatic: the powers that be (driven by economics and desire to promote values that prop up the system) attempt to communicate to us a view of reality that places the majority of people outside the realm of "the good life", and therefore outside the "chosen" in the view of the "American Dream" (in the US) or some other characeture of "the good life".

I also see the need to watch carefully what becomes of the capacity the Web and the Internet gives to express ourselves. Commercial interests have all but shut out the use of prior media to promote any non-standard type of view, but they are also, by and large, expensive media in terms of production/publishing costs.

The Web and the Internet, on the other hand, seem more accessible in terms of cost (still, it is not so for many, and yet it is to a much larger extent than the previous media). So I see the need for us to work with that and seek to extend the boundaries as opposed to letting commercial interests make this more difficult. As of yet, the commercial interests seem to be opening up a bigger market and thus cheaper pricing for access and Web space. I will be watching developments and be on the lookout for tendencies to take this in less desirable directions.

Mail me comments, suggestions, warnings, flames, whatever  This site maintained and researched by Dale Lature, Lavergne, TN