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5 Technologies that Are Shaping the Church

4. Personal Electronic Publishing

Media ecologists like to say that there has been a movement in communication from oral to literate to print to digital. The (vastly simplified) story goes that information access increases in each age, and one of the results of this change in access is the disruption of authority structures. In an oral culture, the leader is naturally the oldest person who has accumulated the most information and wisdom. In a literate culture, the leaders are those with money for books and education. In the shift from written texts to printed texts, single leaders like popes and kings lost their power to Protestants and democracies.

In the shift from print to digital, there has been a kind of inversion. In the early days of the Internet, its primary significance was increased access to information. But today, I think the “big deal” about the Internet is that it gives everyone the ability to publish. We have blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more that we can use to share our unfiltered opinions about everything and everyone.

There are wonderful things like my friend Rick Smith who, in the short span of a year, has become a major advocate for Down Syndrome and his son Noah. At the same time, people like Rob Bell and Mike Licona were to varying degrees affected by not just what big name writers said in print, but what we collectively as Christians on the Internet said and did through our personal online publishing outlets.

There was a day when publishing something meant it was important, permanent, and had been through a level of editorial scrutiny. But increasingly, we don’t see a great deal of difference between sharing our opinions on Facebook and sharing them with friends at a coffee shop. These are fluid “places” to us. Yet the shift to publicly sharing those thoughts has profound implications for how we value our opinions and those of others.

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John Dyer (http://j.hn/) has been a web developer for more than 10 years and now has a ridiculously long title (Executive Director of Communications and Educational Technology at Dallas Theological Seminary). He also writes about the intersection of technology, theology, and culture for http://donteatthefruit.com/ and several Christian magazines and is the author of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology.