Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Virtual Community" Again

This was originally written for in response to Scott McKnight's critique of the video interview I did at the National Pastor's Convention. Anne Jackson also offered her insights on the issue here.

Scott et. al, thanks for all your comments and push back. Always appreciated.

Clearly we’re playing with semantics here. I don’t say that dismissively. Semantics matter—some times more than other times. I’ll let others judge whether it matters here. It may be that we agree after all.

First, my language in the video was less nuanced than it might have been in written form. That is my tendency in a spontaneous oral interview. I will try to be more precise here.

When I say that “virtual community” is not “community,” that does not mean it has no value. As I indicated in the interview, I know that all kinds of deeply meaningful connections and interactions happen online all the time. I have experienced them myself. Some may want to call this “community.” Fair enough. I just don’t call it “community.” That is not intended to dismiss or demean any one’s experience online.

I play with semantics in an effort to help us see that “virtual community” and “unmediated community” are not interchangeable things. In my opinion, one is actually better than the other. The reason is that "virtual community" occurs primarily on one frequency of the human experience. It is mostly a disembodied, and largely cognitive, connection. This is not a bad thing, it’s just not as valuable as unmediated community, which involves the entire range of the human experience—physical, non-verbal, intuitive sense, subtle energies, visual cues, acoustic tones, etc. These are extremely powerful things that should not be quickly dismissed as "nice but not necessary."

Most of us see these ingredients as essential for healthy marriage and parenting. It’s the reason no one extols the virtues of online parenting or the value of sex with your spouse in a chat room rather than a bedroom. The same is true of community. For me, community is a sacred and powerful institution, and I prefer to treat it in the same spirit as marriage or parenting.

Another way of saying this is that virtual community is like playing the guitar with one string. You can make music; it’s just not as interesting or as good as music on a guitar with six strings.

To observe that “real” community is worth more than “virtual” community may seem rather obvious to some and thus not worth stating. However, there is a growing legion of young people who can scarcely tell the difference. A subsequent rift is emerging between parents and teens because of this very issue. It will only become more complex in the years to come. We gloss over this distinction at our own risk. I hope that putting words to these things is actually freeing for us.

Finally, I’m not against virtual community anymore than I'm against the wind and the tides; I’m just concerned that too many of us grant it virtues it does not possess. This undo esteem can undermine the profound and lasting impact of an incarnated and embodied Gospel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Virtual Community"

Shane Hipps and Zach Lind Discuss Virtual Community. from Zach Lind on Vimeo.

Last week at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego Shane Hipps sat down for a brief conversation with Christianity Today to discuss the concept of "virtual community." You can view the video here. As a result of this clip there have been several folks who've pushed back on Shane's point that virtual community is not authentic community but provides only a fraction of what face to face community provides. You can read discussions on the clip here, here, here, and here. So the video above is Shane's response and clarification of his original point expressed on the Christianity Today clip.

If you haven't checked out Shane's new book, Flickering PIxels, to uncover more on this subject, check it out here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Launch

Last Sunday we did a launch for my new book, Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith at Trinity. Zondervan, my publisher, was kind enough to give me a couple hundred extra author copies which we're donating to the church. We still have some left, so if you're an attender/member/visitor, please come by and pick up a free copy this Sunday. There is a suggested donation of $10, all proceeds go to support the ministry of the church. But don't let money be an issue. I'll be available for signing.

I'm also speaking at the National Pastor's Convention this week, February 10-13 in San Diego. This will be the official launch for the book. Among other things, I'll be doing a couple of seminars. More on those here. I'll also be doing a book signing. If you're going to be there stop by and say hello.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Archive Episode #11: Missing the Power Point part 1

Zach and I talk about how PowerPoint is a misunderstood medium. You can get the episode here for free.

The links as promised in the episode:
1) The Gettysburg Address in original form.
2) The Gettysburg Address done as a PowerPoint. Hilarious.

Great moments in PowerPoint.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Flickering Pixels

My new book is out this month.  It is the story of how our technologies shape us in unexpected ways without our permission or knowledge.  Available now at Amazon and other retailers.

For those who read my first book, the Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, some of the themes will be familiar.  However in my speaking and travels, I heard a chorus of voices hungry to know how the connections made there applied to the rest of us, not just church leaders.  About a third of Flickering Pixels draws material from the Hidden Power but is significantly rewritten for a general reading audience.  The remaining two thirds of Flickering Pixels is new material focussed on broader issues of life and faith.  Hope you enjoy.