Archive | October, 2012

Christian Ethics and Social Media – a Time to Speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

25 Oct

This is (the only) post that appeared on my original Blogspot blog on Friday November 19, 2010

The blog was created with the subtitle ‘Musings and meanderings of a Christian technologist learning how the Bible applies to social media and the Web’. It’s intent was to provide a forum to communicate to my work colleagues how Christian Theology can be applied to social media and the workplace. As God has subsequently directed me into full-time theological training and ordination – I wanted to resurrect the blog (but on a much improved platform) and to make renewed efforts to engage with the world of work in understanding how God must be an active part of work.

Evolutionary progression toward Web 2.0 heralded the introduction of the “social web” and the opportunity for people to submit their thinking to the world stage and to invite public critique. Significant numbers of pages have subsequently been written about social networksacademic studies have considered the social media phenomenon whilst the media and publishing industries wrestle with their response to the introduction of new value chains and activities that threaten well-worn traditions and business approaches.

Like many people of my generation who have been involved in the ‘IT industry‘, the rise of social networks and the ‘new order’ of social media was recognised as a natural progression of the changes enabled by the Information Revolution (i.e. not just Information Technology which is considered a secondary wave of change resulting from the Industrial Revolution). Back in 1985 I joined the ranks of the bulletin board aficionados helping spread the ‘gospel of computing’ and the ‘role of the geek’. In 1990 I spruiked the cause of email over bulletin boards and drove a mini-revolution in the business organisation I worked at. Though Bill Gates had yet to bring Microsoft on board (which didn’t come to much later in 1995), in 1993 I was taken by the simplicity and power of Tim Berners-Lee invention of HTML and earnestly began developing for the web. By the mid-nineties rapid growth in technology invention and new business models almost saw me join a dot-com start-up. The year 2000 not only saw the great disappointment that was the Millennium Bug but also the ending of the dot-com bubble and a sudden realisation that the web was much more than an adolescent playground for new technology.

Over the last 10 years we have seen further development in the evolutionary life-cycle of the web and a level of personal global connection and interaction never seen before. As a professional technologist I have watched this happen, studied how it has progressed, provided advice to clients about how to think about it and what to do to respond; I have even participated in and advocated for the growth of social networking. Over the years I have also attempted to write for various blogs and internal community sites within the organisations I have worked at, but always fell away from consistent authorship in response to the daily struggles of life and work. Certainly in the early half of the first decade of the 21st century micro-blogging and mobile communications were too immature to integrate easily into life activities; however the rapid improvements in technologymobility and accessibility now makes this eminently possible.

I have excused myself from more active participation in the rise of social networking under the pretence of not having enough available time. Whilst I find myself agreeing with Nicholas Carr that the web can make us dumb, I believe it is also true that failing to participate in the global wave of social change caused by the rise of Web 2.0 is tantamount to an ostrich putting its head in the sand. Increasing secularism, higher levels of participation in post-modern living and syncretism in the developed nations and the ready availability of a connected social platform presents a real threat to the fabric and nature of the society in which we all live.

Activists, advocates for social change and organised groups seeking to increase membership and awareness of their mission are using the web as a very effective platform to achieve their goals. Whilst mainstream  communities that have embraced the social web are seeing growth in awareness, education and interest in what they have to offer, so too the ‘fringe’ communities of our society are persuading people to listen to their cause.

As we all wrestle with the messages published by communities and groups participating in the social web, it is extremely important to understand their source and validity against the backdrop of social upheaval if we are to make informed decisions. It is my personal experience and conviction that Jesus Christ and the Word of God (the Bible) provide the only right ethical framework with which to assess the validity of the claims these groups and individuals make. It is for this reason I have determined to more actively participate ‘in’ the web; to grow in my own understanding of social change driven by the rise of social networks and to formulate my own thinking and response based on the Bible. Given my active interest in the pragmatic and appropriate use of technology and information in society my focus will predominantly fall within this context. However I am also striving to broaden my focus and wrestle with ethical dilemma outside of technology that increases my understanding, knowledge and ready application of Christian theology. I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and hope this blog is useful for this purpose.

I pray my writing and thinking brings praise to God as his Word continues to give me understanding and wisdom (Psalm 49:3).

Soli Deo gloria