What’s up with the New Media Project in 2014?

Posted Jan 14, 2014 | New Media Project

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By Verity A. Jones


Verity A. JonesWhere did we go? It’s been three months since we posted on this blog, right? The last post was September 24. It closed out the seven-week series, “Social justice and social media.” While it was a brilliant and successful series (smile), we do seem to have fallen off the radar (nay, tablet) screen here lately. How are we “thinking theologically about technology” these days if we aren’t keeping up with the blog, you might wonder? Even the New Media Research Fellows have been asking me, what’s up?!

Should I cite recent stories about the decline of blogging as a valued way to share ideas? Sorry. I won’t do so because opinions and studies still vary widely about the efficacy of this age-old form of communication (she says with a smirk, what is “age-old” in Internet years, anyway?).

Or should I mention the firestorm that erupted when some chap in England declared that Facebook is dead and buried to young Brits? The New Media Project has continued to be active on Twitter, thank God (really, it’s thanks to my colleague, Kenetha Stanton). But I won’t spread rumors of Facebook’s demise, again because the jury is clearly still out on that. I still like it, at least.

The simple answer to our absence from the blog is that the New Media Project’s transition from Union Theological Seminary in New York to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis where we are now part of the Center for Pastoral Excellence has been more demanding that we first imagined it would be. Was I initially naïve about that transition (say it isn’t so)? Yes, perhaps. But in truth, I prefer to think that we’ve been extra conscientious about working with our new partners in the Center and in the seminary. We’ve been learning a ton about their various missions and media aspirations for community-building and new expressions of Gospel (things we like, too). And at the same time, we have paused to discern with intention and curiosity what the next steps for the New Media Project just might be.

Our purpose hasn’t changed. The New Media Project is still intent on nurturing theological interpretation of today’s changing patterns and tools of communication as they influence and engage religious thought and practice. We have become more and more interested in how social media impacts the forming, shaping, and nurturing of faith communities, and how Christian communities articulate the Gospel in fresh new ways using new media, multi-media, and social media in public discourse and community proclamation.

The big goal is to lean toward building a critical mass of informed practitioners who can think critically and act proactively vis-à-vis these changing patterns and tools of communication, rather than merely acting reactively to new media (that some may feel are forced upon them).

What will that look like in the next phase of the New Media Project? We have some bold and not so bold ideas, but we welcome all of your ideas now and in the future. For today, I just wanted you to know that we haven’t disappeared, nor given up on blogging … or Facebook … or Twitter … or any of the other interesting experiments in social networking out there. Remember that social media may be new (or not so new in Internet years, I suppose), but social relationships are not new at all. Religious people have built community and theology on social relationships for centuries. We consider you friends in our network, in our community, and we’re not going away yet.

Verity A. Jones is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, and project director of the New Media Project which is now part of this new Center.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

2 Comments

  1. 1 Terry Bascom 01 Feb
    Please give some thought to the relative merits of the various forms of electronic communication. However antiquated blogging might be, it allows for more theme development than do twitter or FB posts.

    As someone who reads a lot of theological material professionally, I can say that even blog posts fail to meet the need for sustained argumentation - which is why I have appreciated your thematic series: a good compromise, I have thought. 

    Providing annotations for the Insights into Religion web site, I have seen first hand how the number of good, full length articulations of the findings of research and lessons from scholarship have dropped off over the last year, being replaced by brief blog posts, which are not decent annotation material because they simply don't say enough, and they disappear so quickly. Observations that are ephemeral are not worthy of being taken seriously, and generally are not. They just add to the informational clutter of our culture and promote less than fully formed opinions.

    Your topical series of posts have been the exception that I found reference worthy because in toto they were complex enough to offer valuable perspective for clergy working in the trenches, seminary students, and interested public.

    While pop culture might be moving to other forms of communicating (God knows my son has!), for professional purposes, blogging is as short as one ought to go - and is seldom adequate. Sadly, too many academics are pursuing pop culture trends than thinking about what their purposes require.

    My point: if you want to create a sustained, nuanced, informed conversation about media and theology, you have to present complex thoughts. Tweets won't do.
  2. 2 Verity Jones 03 Feb
    Thank you, Terry, for this thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. I am glad to hear that you find the blog series to be a helpful "compromise" format. What else do you think (what do all readers think) might be a good media format for longer, more in depth explorations? We struggle with this question as well and would really like to know what you think.  

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