Digital Discipleship

Digital Discipleship

Here are the notes from my digital discipleship lecture. Let me know what you think.

The audio is available free now from Regent College Audio.

You might also like the post “10 questions for exploring social media.”

Recommended reading:

1. Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirkey
2. Cognitive Surplus – Clay Shirkey
3. Flickering Pixels -Shane Hipps
4. The Next Story – Tim Challies

Digital Discipleship

11 thoughts on “Digital Discipleship”

  1. Hello Krish!

    I sent you an email with some comments/questions about a week ago. Wondering if you received it, or if you changed emails?

    Thanks!

  2. Dear Krish,

    I’m writing after attending your lecture on social media some weeks ago at Regent. Amidst many positive things, I embrace your call not to fear change, but, instead, to expand our tool box and allow social media (SM) to facilitate a truly ‘real’ community. Also, I’m thankful for the emphasis on not falling either into imperialism or into syncretism as we engage the virtual space. If I recall it properly, you suggested the church to be dynamic by having a sense of fluidity in the Spirit as we navigate and adapt to this new context.

    So in light of this I was also left with a sense of wanting more of a prophetic address on the issue—both a prophetic critique, as well as a proposal for embodying a prophetic alternative to what society sees as normal. I know it is impossible to properly cover any topic in such a condensed amount of time, so I will hold back from my initial response which was one of puzzlement regarding the enthusiasm with which you seem to welcome and embrace SM. If one could draw a scale from 0 (luddite-like withdrawal) to 10 (syncretism/triumphalistic embrace), the impression the lecture left on me was that we should settle for an 8.0 or 8.5, or even a 9.0.

    Thus besides the perils mentioned (eg. slacktivism, changes in neurochemistry, etc.) I wonder if you could comment on other of the not-so-positive aspects of SM. Very broadly, in light of personal discussions and a few good reads, I can think of at least four.
    1. It is hard for me to see the way in which SM fosters and nourishes truly embodied relationships. I have been a SM participant for years and I’ve never felt so alone as I have over the last 5 or 6 years.
    2. SM spreads us too thin by giving us a (false) sense of omnipresence. A hyper-connected lifestyle distorts, not only our view, but also out approach to reality in that it can slowly (and unrelentingly) demand much by pressing upon us the burden to be everything to everyone, at every moment. It thus affects the biblical call to ‘place’ and to geographical proximity. And, besides, I don’t know about you, but hyper connectivity makes me anxious.
    3. SM tends to feed the sense of shallow egocentricity that marks our post-everything culture: “you”tube, “i”phone, “my”space.
    4. SM is a ‘mind-to-mind’ phenomenon which seems to fulfill the ideal of freeing the soul from the body. In many ways, this is, of course, a recycled heresy: a ‘tech-Gnosticism’ in which to be is to be perceived; to be is to be digitalized. Or put differently, a phenomenon that could be summed up in a remixed Cartesian axiom: “I facebook, therefore I am.”

    So, Krish, in light these and other issues I wonder if the idea of SM being a compliment to ‘true’ relationships needs to be replaced if favor of SM being—not annulled—but subordinated and subjected to encourage and facilitate face-to-face, real-time, real-touch, real-place relationships. I guess I’m skeptic that the church embraces uncritically this kind of technology in its quest of trying to be relevant. The risk is always latent that relevance is achieved at the expense of faithfulness, and of losing the biblical call to have a recognizable measure of distinctiveness. Just as two seemingly parallel but very slightly angled lines seem extremely close in their point of origin but grow miles apart with the distance, it seems to me that an enthusiastic and uncritical embrace of SM may lead us astray from the calling of embodied discipleship, relationships and community. As someone once, said, ‘few of us have lost our minds, but most of us have long ago lost our bodies’.

    I would very much like to hear your perspective, as I’m sure you’ve thought through this.

    All God’s best,

    Eduardo

    1. Hey Eduardo,
      Nice to hear from you, sorry I didn’t see you at the lecture it would have been good to chat to you face to face about this as I was in Vancouver.
      Its interesting that social media is making this conversation possible. I was in town a long time, its interesting that you chose digital media as the way to have this conversation rather than meet face to face.

      I guess I was contextualizing my message on social media to the regent audience, ours was the first live stream event at Regent, there is very little twitter usage and the students I met had a mostly negative view of social media so I was being deliberately positive to reset the balance in another context I might have been more cautionary. Hence my 8.0 on your scale.

      In answer to your questions:
      1. It is hard for me to see the way in which SM fosters and nourishes truly embodied relationships. I have been a SM participant for years and I’ve never felt so alone as I have over the last 5 or 6 years.
      I don’t think SM is a substitute for embodied relationship but it can be a complement and an aid to it. In the same way the telephone and the letter are no substitute but a helpful complement to embodied relationships. As with the metaphor of the “tool” we discussed in the lecture – you can use a phone or even a pen in a way that devalues face to face relationships similarly SM can be used badly. But I use SM to organise meetings, remember events, share experiences with people I can’t meet face to face (like we are doing right now). The spring of social change in the middle east this year was assisted by social media.

      2. SM spreads us too thin by giving us a (false) sense of omnipresence. A hyper-connected lifestyle distorts, not only our view, but also out approach to reality in that it can slowly (and unrelentingly) demand much by pressing upon us the burden to be everything to everyone, at every moment. It thus affects the biblical call to ‘place’ and to geographical proximity. And, besides, I don’t know about you, but hyper connectivity makes me anxious.
      This is the same critique that Thoreau made of the Telegraph, again a tool can be used well or badly. Do you think the Roman Road system spread the early church too thin by making travel and communication easier? Did it encourage omnipresence? Kind of. Were the early church wrong to redeem the roman technology for good purposes? No. I think SM gives us the same opportunities and challenges. Anxiety is normal during times of cultural and technological change. But one man’s anxiety is another man’s adrenaline.
      3. SM tends to feed the sense of shallow egocentricity that marks our post-everything culture: “you”tube, “i”phone, “my”space.
      I have met egocentric users of every media – books can be egocentric encouraging people to write their feelings and ideas down – there are so many autobiographies that read like ego trips – but you wouldn’t argue that books are inherently shallow as a result?

      4. SM is a ‘mind-to-mind’ phenomenon which seems to fulfill the ideal of freeing the soul from the body. In many ways, this is, of course, a recycled heresy: a ‘tech-Gnosticism’ in which to be is to be perceived; to be is to be digitalized. Or put differently, a phenomenon that could be summed up in a remixed Cartesian axiom: “I facebook, therefore I am.”
      Books are a mind to mind phenomenon- are you seriously arguing that they are a means to encourage Gnosticism? Just as God saw fit to encourage the writing of the scriptures and encourage real face to face ecclesia there must be a way that both writing and embodiment can be combined well.

      Thanks for posting – every blessing mate

  3. Two links to share:

    One is to my disseration on virtual church:
    http://davegroberts.podbean.com/about/dissertation/

    and the other to a suggested list of guidelines for any digital community:
    http://davegroberts.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/dsg/

    As regards digital gnosticism, there are also plenty of churches only engaging in looking after people’s spiritual needs while ignoring their physical needs… I talk about this more in the DigiSem I am hoping to take to churches… I can let you have a read if you like…

  4. Good to see more Christian discussion of SM – thanks for tweeting this, Krish.

    A few thoughts from a non-theologian:

    1.) I’m always a little curious when someone cites the Bible as a call to geographical proximity. In biblical times, audiences had three choices: meet, write a letter, or be a hermit. That’s totally different from our communications culture, and anyone trying to cut-and-paste some Bible teachings should be very careful.

    2.) I’m also a little curious when someone seems to dismiss concerns about SM, on the grounds that similar concerns were raised with earlier technologies. Would you refuse to criticise an atom bomb, just because people used to criticise swords? New technologies raise new problems and deserve new and considered critique. For example, Facebook is a corporate space that is designed to foster specific kinds of communication, and many people use it constantly. Christians must find a well-informed response to Facebook’s version of identity and friendship. “It’s just a tool” is a dreadful cop-out.

    Personally, I think there’s good grounds for optimism and good grounds for concern. It makes perfect sense to focus on the positive when talking to sceptics – so long as we also have the ability to get some distance and start talking critically to the starry-eyed optimists.

    1. Helpful comments… The lecture and slides explain the other metaphors for social media beyond tool.

  5. I was invited this morning to present again to the whole church, my online mission of Partake and did just as Tim suggested: accentuate the positives…

  6. There is a terrible spammed link when I try to download the powerpoint – pls correct this.

    Thanks for this helpful talk

    1. HI terry thanks for the message – I couldnt see the powerpoint problem – but I redid the code just in case – let me know if it works
      krish

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