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Posts Tagged ‘churches’

Churches and the Collaborative Web

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Much of my day today has been spent thinking about my blog and blogging in general and churches and their place in the collaborative web – also known as Web2.0. Some may hold the view that publicly blogging about my concerns about certain things is under-handed and cowardly, etc. My personal belief is that in the 2 year-old paradigm of the ‘new’ information age (the old one didn’t even last a generation!), the opposite is true.

I believe that it is time we took all of our concerns and debates (and joys!) into the bright lights of public view. If we have something to say, we should be willing to say it out loud and in public. (my editor – wink- has questioned whether this blog, for example, counts as ‘public’ since it is written under a psuedonym. I would argue first that it is a weak psuedonym that is not intended to completely mask my identity and second that the dialogue itself, the content, is more important the the contributors.)

The caveat, of course, that this kind of public discourse must be a two-way street. The paradigm-shifting contribution of modern blogging software was not that it allowed bloggers (like me) to post their thoughts and opinions in public. It was the ability for the readers of those opinions to comment, counter and debate the bloggers in near-real-time that allowed, finally, the ability for us to be completely transparent about our thoughts, beliefs and opinions and to share them with the world knowing, of course, that those thoughts are subject to the scrutiny of the masses – as they should be.

The collaborative web has changed, and is changing, how we, as society, understand old-world concepts such as journalism, copyright & privacy. The best illustration of this can be found in this video by Cultural Anthropologist Michael Wesch. Every conversation, debate & disagreement can now be, and should be, open to the public. I am convinced that this will improve dialogue rather than inhibit it. It has been suggested to me recently that one shouldn’t say in public what you wouldn’t say in private. In my experience, the opposite is true.

Churches are not immune to the new information age of the Collaborative Web. Despite the fact that churches, in general, are slow adopters of technologies, the web will change how dialogue takes place both within a congregation and among congregations and across faith groups. To date, the vast majority of church websites are one-way ministries – not much more than a hi-tech brochure. Change is afoot; soon, a church’s own website will soon become the focal point of the dialogue that determines its future.

In Canada, the Presbyterian Church is leading the charge to the collaborative Christian web. A brand-new website is currently in development that will enable collaboration on a scale not seen on any other church website, to my knowledge, in the world. The site will not only syndicate content from other sites within the Presbyterian Church in Canada (congregations, agencies, etc.) but will allow and encourage the participation of its readers in the form of comments – much like the comments feature on this blog.

Similarly, my congregation’s website is powered by the same blogging software that powers this blog. To date, it’s been a tough sell to those within the congregation to participate in creating the content for the site. As a result, comments have not been forthcoming. Dialogue requires an initiator and we haven’t been able to do that – yet.

I think what has been difficult for the offline world to grasp is that within a decade, essentially all communication will take place on the internet – though not necessarily through a browser. Internet telephony is already a reality and internet TV is not far behind. The publisher of the New York Times mused recently that he’s not sure there will be a print version in five years.

My brain kinda ran out of steam as I was writing this last night, so stayed tuned for Part Deux sometime soon…

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