From time to time, someone who is unfamiliar with the internet in all its applications will ask me to explain it to them. They want to know what is a blog, a forum, a social networking site.
I usually spend a few minutes explaining how these three mediums work and then I look for an illustration of how they function from the “old world.” Of course by “old world,” I mean the world that existed several years back before all of these mediums became so big and powerful.
So here are three analogies for three key types of websites.
1) The blog
The blog (or web log) is analogous to a devotional or lecture. The speaker stands up and gives his thoughts. After the session is over, he may interact with a number of people regarding what he just said, but the primary focus is on what he said from the front. Everyone will have their opinions. Some will disagree. Some will make it known. Some will be blessed or helped. Some will not understand. Some won’t care.
The blog is very much like that. The poster makes his point in his post. He generally presents it as a complete thought. Then people respond. Some of that response may occur in the comments section. Some through other blog posts.
2) The forum
The forum is analogous to a university residence hall where theology students sit around debating the issues. There’s lots of give and take. No one person in the room has the final word unless of course he is able to command the respect of the others by his evident knowledge or wisdom. In the dorm room, no one’s ideas go unchallenged.
The forum is similar because the members come together as peers. The very medium tends to elevate ideas over personalities. There is no authoritative voice but rather the give and take of peer debate.
3) The social networking site
If I had to draw an analogy for a social networking site, it might be the fellowship time following a public service where everyone stands around chatting and drinking coffee. There is no referee and the setting is only as formal as the relationship demands.
In such a gathering you may meet some people for the first time and have a polite but surface conversation. You might also speak with several close friends on a very personal level regarding various things that are happening in your life. You wouldn’t consider it a forum for extremely serious discussion, but any number of meaningful and significant interactions might take place.
I suspect that much of the criticism that comes toward internet ministry is due to a poor understanding of how each medium is best suited to function.
A devotional/lecture is an appropriate method of communicating ideas, but it was never intended to exist outside of accountability. It’s important that those who listen in give a speaker feedback and challenge him in areas where he may be missing the mark.
Dorm room discussions serve an important purpose in the development of young theologians as they develop personal convictions and sharpen each other in the things of the Word. But there are certainly dangers in the setting that need to be kept in mind.
The fellowship after a service is helpful and appropriate, but it is not intended to be anyone’s primary source of relationship and interaction. It’s just a starting point.
The problem with these analogies is that these mediums are fulfilling these roles in a very literal sense. There are two extremes:
- We can use these mediums to the exclusion of the traditional mediums for accomplishing these ends.
- We can reject these mediums altogether as means to accomplishing these ends.
How much better to find a balance where we use technology as a tool to help us do more effectively the things we were already doing, but without falling into the traps these mediums present.
Our generation must learn to be very wise and very discerning because the changes are coming fast and there isn’t time to consider a new medium for ten years before deciding how best to utilise it. By that time, it’s obsolete. We’ve got to be wise and courageous if we’re going to take the opportunities the Lord has dumped in our laps.
I recognise that these analogies could open up significant discussion on how best to use these mediums. The meta is there to be used.
- Want to see just how deluded a man can be? Check out Blagojevich’s defense.
- “I am heartily sick of reading ethical arguments based on statistics.” A good point over at The Sola Panel.
- A thirteen year old dad. You can’t sustain a society on this kind of rubbish… *sigh*
- BJU dorm windows + mattresses = too tempting.