Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Message & Media (part 5) – Postmodern Trends

The current trend in our postmodern culture is toward image based communication.

Just think about any major company or product. Most of them don’t show the whole name of the company, they either have a few letters or just a logo – an image, see the image below as an example. Most major brands we can identify by their logo or first letter due to the font / style.


However, in this prevailing image culture, this changes our thinking, images aren’t good at articulating arguments, categories or abstract ideas. They present concrete realities (regardless of how much they have been airbrushed!)

Images can speak louder than words

The Words ‘Poverty’s Child’ are Propositional & Sequential, Rational and linear (L brain), It is Abstraction without Experience.
The picture below is Presentational & Holistic, It is Intuitive & Non-linear (R brain), It shows us a Concrete representation of experience.


Another example would be the new (imported) concept in UK of the televised political debate. – The local government candidates are voted upon not on their merits or policy pledges, but more on how well the leader of their party – broadly not voted for directly by the voter – comes across as a public debater & arguer! It’s becoming a subjective, intuitive evaluation of the image we see of the person as opposed to careful, left-brain analysis and evaluation of what they are putting across.

I believe in the future, this will be remembered the age of electronic culture, the age of the image and of technology. The overwhealming likelihood is that the display screen will become the ultimate relic of the electronic age. We can’t get away from them, they invade our homes, cars, pockets. We are addicted to the flickering pixels of the backlit or projected computer display screen.

So, what are the lasting effects of electronic culture?

Lets examine it with the McLuhan analysis tool.

What does electronic culture enhance?

Intensifies ‘right brain’ encounter with God, encourages a corporate approach to faith, increases reliance on intuition and experience in ‘knowing God’

What does electronic culture reverse into?

Relativism, reverses capacity for abstract thought and critical reasoning.

What does electronic culture retrieve?

Eastern orthodox & Catholic spirituality – contemplative icons & the ‘story’ aspect of the Gospel. Jesus’ centrality to faith.

What does electronic culture obsolesce?

Belief in metanarrative, belief in conversion being a one-time event, the role of abstract propositional faith and the full impact of Paul’s letters.

Clearly here we are not saying that electronic culture removes completely the impact of Paul’s letters, more that it changes our perception of the meaning / use / importance of the letters.

I believe that culture and the way people receive messages is changing, the trend from the onset of modernity – the age of the printing press – was from an experiential, visual, communal, holistic model to an individualistic, highly rational concept of the gospel. With the continual march into and through post-modernity, we are seeing the trend reverse towards a much more communal, experiential concept again.

How do we feel about the possibility of our methods and thus our message changing due to this paradime shift in thinking as a result of the postmodern, image-based, electronic, technological culture in which we are living and our children are growing up accustomed to?

Comments on the above question please!

Message & Media (part 4) – Modern Relics

We live in the ‘post-modern’ age, yet we remain profoundly influenced by the modern age.

As an example, a huge amount of our education system is based on books, reading and writing.

The printed page is possibly the most long-lived relic of the modern age, with the invention of the printing press being perhaps the most profound turning point in post-resurrection history because of the effect it had on the world at the time and the effect is still has.

The onset of printed page immediately gave much greater access to not only dissemination of ideas, thoughts and concepts, but also to the effective ‘privacy of knowledge’. By this I mean the possibility to take a book or printed document away from everyone else and learn it privately, individually, away from community.
Print, the large-scale reproduction of information based on the phonetic alphabet intensified an ability to explore abstract concepts and linear and ‘logical’ thinking. When reading print, the media itself gives you the impression that what is written is rational, it encourages linear thinking as the words follow a linear pattern on the page. The gravity and longevity of an idea are emphasised in a printed document, more so in the early years due to the significant cost of getting anything printed.

This had an impact on faith and Christianity. It led to the introduction of the ‘Faith Train’ model.
Faith train model: Fact-Faith-Feeling
The train can run without the third carriage but it would not run if you tried to pull it by the third carriage!
It leads to people saying things like

“We Christians don’t depend on feelings or emotions but we place our faith in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of his word.”

This model of faith relies on knowledge being used as building blocks –
“All truth is derived from a single foundation
Knowledge is added on top of this foundation
Knowledge builds in one direction from the foundation upwards
It becomes a one-way, sequential metaphor where the foundation determines everything above it.
It also directly mirrors the one-way, line-by-line letter-by-letter printed page.
It is directly derived from the print age or modern age.

The problem in this model emerges when you take one bottom or low down brick out, the whole lot falls down. Rob Bell, in his book ‘Velvet Elvis‘ described this model of faith as ‘Brickianity’.

In 1970, Willard Quine, an American philosopher, introduced a new model of understanding knowledge in a book called ‘The web of belief’.
In the book, Quine described knowledge to be conditioned by truth claims and experience.
Truth claims have multiple interconnections.
The web is bound by but not rooted in experience.
There is no specific foundation but the web is legitimised by its coherence, i.e. the more interconnections there are, the more the coherence of belief and therefore the more rational it is to believe.
Belief shapes experience and belief is shaped by experience.

This mode of thinking was derived from the post-modern electronic age, the age of the telegraph and other information technologies.
Willard Quine's 'Web of belief"

This model is more like the trampoline concept explored also by Bell in ‘Velvet Elvis’: Interconnections between truth claims should be tested, if they fail, there are others to support faith and be strengthened or others can be created that are coherent and cohesive.

I think it is a more robust model of faith, one that can be much more flexible, yet remain much more true and faithful to and serious about the bible overall.

Naturally, there is also a danger in the model:

In the age of post-modern electronica, context is removed, history & context is seen to be largely irrelevant, there is generally no percieved rational basis for valuing one thing over another as, for example, news is presented as equal articles on a news website.
Knowledge can become a purely experiential and relative web and at same time, the sense of metanarrative (organising story that unifies other truths) can be eroded along with the concept of ‘absolute truth’.

Your task for today: Explore the effects of Printing on Christianity. Using the McLuhan analysis method

What does the medium of the printed page extend / enhance?
What does the medium of the printed page reverse into?
What does the medium of the printed page retrieve?
What does the medium of the printed page obsolesce?

Please get stuck in!

Message & Media (part 3) – McLuhan

The Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan

Technology is not simply a conduit or pipeline – a neutral purveyor of information, but a dynamic force with the power to shape and change us regardless of content.

To avoid being consumed by it or left behind by it, we need to study the action of the technological whirlpool and navigate and harness it to our own ends by cooperating with it.
To shun it completely or embrace it openly without understanding it could have disastrous and unexpected effects.

So, we need to ask ourselves some questions when we start to make choices about what media we want to use.

What does it extend / enhance?
What does it reverse into?
What does it retrieve?
What does it obsolesce?

What does it extend / enhance?
Every new form of technology enhances something of our humanity or extends an older form of technology. To understand media properly, we must understand that all media is an extension of humanity.

The wheel extends function of the foot.
The telephone extends function of the voice and the ear.
The telescope / Binoculars extend function of the eye.

What does it obsolesce?
Any new medium makes an older medium obsolete, maybe not necessarily disappearing but function changing. For example, the car makes the horse & cart obsolete, but that merely transforms the horse & cart into a recreational, romantic or entertainment vehicle.

What does it reverse into?
When pushed to its extreme, every medium will reverse into its opposite intention, a good example being the car: originally intended to increase transportation speed, when pushed to its extreme, reverses into traffic jams and fatal accidents. This is the most difficult law to predict or anticipate

What does it retrieve?
Each new form of technology retrieves an experience or an older form of technology from the past. For example, email retrieves the technology of the telegraph so to understand a little more about the future effects of email, we would do well to study the cultural effects of the telegraph in the 1800s.

Lets use the wheel as an easy example

The Wheel

ENHANCES: Speed of transportation, personal energy saving.
OBSOLESCES: Need to use travel as a form of exercise – leads to obesity? Coach / work horses. Various manual labour with the introduction of the wheel into machinery.
REVERSES INTO: Danger to individuals – Road traffic accidents, societies built round the car like in the USA, reliance on speed of transportation over environmental factors – leading to global warming (debatable).
RETRIEVES: Ability to use something else to do the work for us. (Previous horse)

This is all very well and gives a fairly simple expansion of the effects of the technology of the wheel.

Why not try it on something a little newer – the Mobile Phone.

Here’s where you join in with your comments.

What does the mobile phone extend / enhance?
What does the mobile phone reverse into?
What does the mobile phone retrieve?
What does the mobile phone obsolesce?


Message & Media (part 2) – Questions

It’s probably a good place to start by asking if there is anything pressing you want to look at in the workshop?

My plan is to cover the following, some to a greater degree than others:

  • Print media (books, leaflets, posters etc.)
  • Display Screen Projection
  • Mobile phones
  • Social Networking media (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc.)
  • Video media (YouTube / Vimeo etc.)
  • Web media (Blogs, websites etc.)

If you have a burning desire to go into some of these at greater depth, or if you have a particular media that you want to cover that isn’t listed or a part of one of the above that you want to expand, please put it in the comments below.

I’ll try to tailor the workshop to cover the stuff you are most interested in in greatest depth but also try to open our eyes to other media types and their effects on us.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you can get the posts automatically delivered to your email / newsreader if you forget to check manually.

Grace & Peace


Message & Media (Part 1) – Introduction

This year at the Old Trafford Fellowship Weekend, I’m leading a workshop called “Message and Media”.

Here’s the workshop description.

We are constantly surrounded and influenced by various types of media yet too often in our churches we can live as if some of these media forms don’t exist.
What would happen if we began to utilise them and harness their inherent power for the glory of God?
This workshop will explore and expose how different types of media (including data projection / display screen media, mobile phones, social networking, emerging technology and non-electronic media) affect us and our interactions with other people, and how we might use them in our worship and our outreach.
Please come willing to do plenty of work yourself!

With the web and ‘blogging’ being forms of media themselves, I thought it would be a good idea to embrace this ‘new technology’ in getting the ball rolling before anyone even turns up for the workshop session.

This next series of posts is aimed at providing some pre-workshop reading for everyone that is booked on to the workshop, a kind of catchup to cover ground that we can’t cover in 1.5 hours on the day, to get you as close as possible up-to-speed on what I have studied and the ideas I’ve come across or come up with over the last two years.

There is a lot of stuff to look at and I think if we can establish some basic understanding, the tools to analyse media and some general ideas and observations before the actual day of the workshop, it will make the hour and a half we have on the day more fruitful, more enjoyable and we should be able to have a much more diverse and sharing time rather than me trying to put a vast a mount of material in your direction for you absorb in a very short time.

I’m not sure just yet how it is going to pan out, exactly what topics I am going to cover and in what order within this series, but this week I’ll be putting a plan together and getting some structure in place to make it a bit more organised and logical / methodical.

It is now only four weeks until the fellowship weekend and I would really strongly encourage anyone that is planning to be at the workshop to read this series, to stick with it and to get involved by commenting below. It’s going to work a lot better if we all dialogue and share ideas than just me outputting to a ‘silent void’.

If you aren’t going to be at the workshop, or the weekend and have no real interest in this topic, then feel free to tag along too if you like and throw in any observations or ideas of your own. All input is welcome, indeed as much input as possible from the rest of you all is encouraged.

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