Monday, October 17, 2011

The Next Story - #4

Mediation (Chapter 5: Life in the real world)

We live mediated lives. Something is in the middle or between much of our relating, usually a screen. Yet the best relationships are face-to-face. No one longs to Skype a loved one when they could have seen them in person. A text does not communicate like a conversation does.

Challies makes an interesting theological observation that at the beginning of time, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was unmediated, yet sin stopped that. Since then we needed mediators to speak to God, first priests, and now through Jesus’ death on the cross. At the end of time, our relationships with God will once again be unmediated. We will speak with God and worship him ‘face-to-face’.

Some of the results of a mediated existence include:

1. As our relationships become more mediated, we lose the skills to interpret meaning. When we email or text, there is no tone or body language to read. Interestingly, emails are misunderstood ½ the time.

2. We can break out of our bodies and their limitations, and have a “full life” online. We can have a fluidity of identity, our virtual world identity is just another expression of us, another type of mediated communication.
“In the cyberworld I can be popular. I can be powerful. I can be a somebody. Yet I do it all at the expense of who I really am” (44:08)

3. It has redefined community. We used have relational closeness with people near to us. Now geographic boundaries no longer define us, for digital communities bring people together apart from their bodies. The internet has enabled us to connect over shared interests rather than shared space. We now consider a community what is actually only communication.

4. We are more individualistic. We are more concerned with our interests than those of others. We have less reasons to care for our online communities (without genetics or location tying us together).

5. What about cyber-church? “The virtual church is not the real church” (~54:35). In Acts 2:42-47, the new community of believers lived together, worshipped together, shared together and took care of one another. They were a community built on a shared love for God and one another.
The diversity (of the local church) “gives just a glimpse of what God is doing in the world. He is building a community of people from every nation, tribe and tongue and bringing them together in a family that spans the globe and the ages. Each local church is to be a localised manifestation of what he is doing. The diversity of this mysterious body is a reflection of God’s own love of diversity and his commitment to save men and women from among every people group in the world. In theory and in our hearts we know that Christ is doing all of this, but in practice, many of us prefer to be individual and to surround ourselves with others who are as much like as possible. (1:00:47ff)
Technology encourages us to customise our churches to our individual preferences. We don’t choose our brothers and sisters in Christ, God does. God is choosing a community that is involuntary. In this community we need to learn to love one another, on the basis of our shared kinship in the family of God, rather than perceived compatibility. No mediated church can provide this type of community.

Mediated relationships

What is it about mediation that gives it such strong appeal?
“We’ve lost the big picture. Even Christians have become pragmatic when it comes to communication. We allow what is convenient what may be better or best. We have not thought carefully and deliberately about issues related to mediation.” (~1:09:30)
  • “Mediated communication is easy and safe. As our communication with one another becomes increasingly mediated, communication that involves more of us feels too intimate, too intimidating, too difficult.” (1:10:30ff)
  • Mediated communication requires less focus and time.
  • Mediated communication gives us greater control. We want to keep the control.

So, how do we live?
“We need to see the superiority of face to face communication, and prioritise it above what is mediated. We can not afford to become lazy, to allow pragmatism and convenience and ignorance to define the ways we communicate with one another.” (1:14:45ff)

As Challies says “Let’s not forget our responsibility to be real people in a real world.”

Things to think about (based on Challies’ questions):
  • In what situations do you find you are prone to rely on mediated communication rather than immediate?
  • Do you agree the best relationships we can have are those that are face-to-face? Which face-to-face relationships are you migrating away from? Why?
  • In what ways do you prefer your online self to your offline self?

On Wednesday: Distraction (Chapter 6)

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