Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Internet: An engine for schism?

I have just finished reading Alex Wright's fascinating history of information management called Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Joseph Henry Press, 2007). In it, he examines human attempts to organize information from prehistoric beads, ancient libraries, monastic proto-bloggers, Thomas Jefferson's Library, and the Dewey Decimal System, all leading up to a history and critique of the World Wide Web.

It is no surprise that he has some thoughts on how the web affects human consciousness.

Before the age of television, many historians believed that the spread of literacy signaled the forward marc of technological progress, in which human civilization was moving inexorably forward toward higher degrees of social complexity....Recent history, however, seems to support an alternative view that in our modern technological era human culture may not be moving unidirectionally at all, but rather multidirectionally. The notion of inevitable progress towards hierarchical complexity began to fracture in the 1960's, with the rise of the great modern liberation movements:civil rights, the antiwar movement,feminism, sexual liberation, gay rights. All of these social movements also happen to coincide with the spread of electronic media. p. 236.

In short, the web is a corrosive force for any centralized authority. I don't think is much of a jump to apply his conclusions to our Church today. It has often been pointed out that before e-mail, no one cared about the World Wide Anglican Communion.
What the American Church was up to was unknown to the African Churches. Now, with every action of every bishop instantly analyzed and criticized by millions, and self-appointed bloggers emerging as the semi-official spokesperson for any given theological view, the ecclesiastical world has changed.

Where Wright takes this idea deeper is in assertion that web cultural represents, in spite of its written form, a new "oral" culture which tends towards tribal self interest.

Fueled by the growth of personal computing and network technology, many organizations have since had to come to terms with the ongoing transfer of power, away from the old central planning hierarchies and towards increasingly self-organized groups of individuals. p. 238

I suspect we have seen these forces at work with the dissident movements within our own church--witness the continued fracturing of those groups leaving TEC--as well as the more positive "emergent" movements both within and without our existing organizational structures.

For a culture which is essentially a 19th century informational book culture, I believe we ignore the impact of the digital age to our own peril.


Kaye said...

Since the internet does play such a crucial role in the lives of our youths, I am glad to see that we are posting comments that help to give a positive story for them (and for me). And in the time of 30 second spots, I wonder whatelse we could be doing. Kaze

Anonymous said...

Hi There I'd love to thank you for such a great quality site!
Was thinking this is a nice way to introduce myself!

Laurence Todd
if you're ever bored check out my site!
[url=]disney cars Party Supplies[/url].

Anonymous said...

You have got to see this. Obama playing on XBox. Funniest video ever.

Anonymous said...

This is my first post I'd love to thank you for such a terrific quality site!
Was thinking this would be a perfect way to introduce myself!
We believe the only way increase wealth it is usually a sharp scheme to start a savings or investing game plan as soon in life as possible. But don't despair if you have not thought of saving your assets until later on in life. As a consequence of honest work, that is researching the best investment vehicles for your cash you can slowly but surely increase your riches so that it measures to a huge amount by the time you want to retire. Scout out all of the achievable asset classes from stocks to real estate as investments for your money. A researched and diversified portfolio of investments in different asset classes can make your money grow through the years.

-Kelly Siemers
[url=]currency conversion [/url]

Anonymous said...

geqnnrjsa Free Mass Traffic

Anonymous said...

Hey, This is a message to the website owner. Please check out my friends website, he is offering a very good service that you may be intrested in. Does your website gain hardly any visitors or not rank for keywords you want it to rank for with Google? Well he can help! He can provide you with tens of thousands of backlinks to your site! Take a quick look as im sure you will be intrested.

Anonymous said...

top [url=]online casinos[/url] check the latest [url=]casino online[/url] free no deposit hand-out at the foremost [url=]casino bonus

Anonymous said...

top free no deposit [url=]casino[/url] offers here !