My Thoughts on Thursday Morning at TAG10
It seems to me that a good chunk of this conference is about the Google, but not the theology. Web 2.0 is changing the way things are done, but so what? We have a pretty strong thesis statement, but where is the explication or the support? Yeah, yeah. Google is making the “ivory tower(s) go viral.” But what does that really mean? Why aren’t we having those kinds of conversations? I’m not sure that we’ve done much work on the theology in the wake of Google.
So, what makes me nervous about what I’m hearing here? Well, let me tell you.
1) Why are we doing this? What is this really all about? Is the point to offer a counter to the “Right’s” seemingly successful use of media so that a progressive theology might actually be the popular theology? I’m not opposed to subverting what has been done, but if we are hoping to “kick the Right’s ass” as a way of returning some favor, we’re not accomplishing anything other than re-acting. I hope that the rest of this conference will be more about answering the elusive questions concerning what exactly is happening to people of faith and to the art of theology as the result of the recent technological innovations. I’m not sure that we’re dealing with much beyond the practical issues, which may be something that I am predisposed to find dull, being young and fairly well-connected to all things social media. I can’t shake the feeling that this emphasis on using social media in the service of a progressive congregation is the other side of the same coin. Particularly in the light of the emergent conversation, which critiqued the attractional methods of evangelicalism. why does it seem that we are so quick to use these same methods? Doesn’t this imply that we think the evangelical methods were actually onto something?
Or is this about expressing who we are in the languages that we are naturally inclined to speak? Is this about forcing our theology through a particular medium? Or is it about expressing our deeply rooted theologies through medium that reflect our lives?
2) Doesn’t all of this technological stuff bear some certain dangerous potentials? What about the heavy roots in individualized consumerism? Does this technology reinforce narcissistic self-indulgence? What does it do to community and accountability? And though we’ve heard over and over again that most social media is free, I can’t help but wonder if it really is so affordable. What are the costs of investing so much time and personality in social media?
3) What about the Self in a post-Google era? Are we actually who we hope to present ourselves online? What does that mean for ability to actually connect online? I’m not suggesting that it is impossible to build relationships over the internet. This week, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Callid Keefe-Perry, who vlogs over at the Image of Fish. I feel like I’ve come to know Callid through his work, and it’s been phenomenal. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s always so successful. The internet allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves, to market ourselves, and to omit all that embarrassing stuff. What does this positive spin do to our existential understandings of our Selves? Does it cause us to lose sight of who we really are? Does it teach us to overlook our own shortcomings? What about accountability? Aren’t we still human even though we are so digitally-minded?
4) What does this convenience do to our experience of the Divine? Or what about our ever-increasing demand to multitask and to skim the overwhelming amount of information thrust upon us every day? Can we focus anymore? What does it mean to meditate in a time when so much is on our mind and time is such a precious commodity? I also wonder about what such practices do for our intelligence. I know there are various arguments about the effects of the internet on the way we think, but whatever side of that debate one comes down on, everyone agrees that it is affecting us. With so much information, what is happening to our ability to evaluate ideas? The next idea comes so quickly that I’m not sure we have time to think things through before the next blogpost or tweet comes through. On one hand, we might accept things much too easily. On the other hand, I also fear that it might make us perpetually critical, rejecting every idea before it is considered.
Overall, I’m intrigued by this conversation, but I seriously hope that it moves away from utilizing technology to accomplish some theological agenda—which I fear will undermine itself and forget its theology in exchange for its agenda—and towards figuring out, as Callid suggested to me earlier today, “what is going on” in theological discourse after the leveling of the playing field through social media.