MA Thesis Ideas: Social Networking, Participatory Culture, and the missio Dei

Below are some of my thoughts for thesis Ideas. I’m working with Ryan Bolger as my mentor on participatory culture, with a focus on web 2.0/social media and where we can identify and participate in the missio Dei.  In that vein, I wanted to invite others into the process of working out my thesis. It only makes sense to ask for y’all to participate in a cultural study of a participatory culture! I’m posting this to invite feedback, critique, and conversation about part of our western culture: are we coming from a place of “how” to understand social media and it’s use before having asked the question of “where” God is at work?

Any feedback about the topics themselves and their worth, or a sharpening of my thesis for ease of actual research, research questions, clarity and brevity, etc. would be so appreciated. I’ve got around 50 pages to write over the summer as I research, and any clarity that can be gained from the community of folks who live into this space or have interest in the broader question would go far. It’s a bit raw, some of my thoughts are rambly or repetitive and unedited for public reviewing. Sorry, too, for the formatting, it took a great deal of effort to get it this readable as an outline. I’m still learning!

  • Have we identified the missio Dei of web 2.0?
    • What does it mean to engage as the people of God in social media?
    • What does a holistic participation in this culture look like?
      • Are we asking questions of how to use/participate before where God is and what are they doing?
  • What about a thesis that addresses insular nature of web 2.0 (via Danah Boyd) and it’s clique-ishness via the Missio Dei?
    • How do we as followers of Jesus break out of this tendency, just as it is necessary to do so in “real” church?
    • Is there someone doing it differently?
      • Someone I follow on Twitter/blogger know of that is doing something across cliques?
  • Assuming that we are participating in the missio Dei, how can web 2.0 shape the churches organizing activity?
    • That is, given Zuniga’s text (Taking a Stand or Crashing the Gate), how can the church use web 2.0 to organize around the missio Dei?
  • How can/does participatory culture shape ecclesiological structure?
    • Leadership?
    • Laity and paid staff interaction?
  • Third place
    • Presence of church in web 2.0
  • Second life
    • What is the nature of mission/missio Dei given this phenomenon?
    • How do we understand Baptism, church participation, theology, staff/laity breakdown’s in this format?
  • What about the nature of relationships of upcoming generations as it pertains to real-life and virtual friendships?
    • What is the perceived and actual quality of relationship between folks?
    • How is that different than older generations?
      • Is the difference significant?
      • How is relationship valued, and what is it measured against?
        • That is, who’s to say what’s real/better/worthwhile over the other?
    • Does meaningful interaction happen online?
    • Is it between real friends, online-only friends, or both?
  • What of the nature of access?
    • Stats on whites/western peoples having access vs. those who don’t
    • How does web 2.0 affect global culture in light of accessibility stats?
    • Justice of web 2.0 and access
  • How would life in web 2.0 and social networking look if approached as though we were a part of God’s economy?
    • That is, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation?
    • Is life online, to be lived in a sub cultural bubble?
    • What does holistic life – i.e. non-secularized – look like in web 2.0?

Narrowing the focus

  • Is it necessary to choose just one social medium?
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
      • seems to be less likely the candidate, given research
        • could be, depending on focus
    • Blogs
    • Other

~ by Brian Shope on June 3, 2010.

4 Responses to “MA Thesis Ideas: Social Networking, Participatory Culture, and the missio Dei”

  1. […] the article here: MA Thesis Ideas: Social Networking, Participatory Culture, and the … missio, social-media, […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brian Shope, Brian Shope. Brian Shope said: Need ur help! Poss. MA thesis topics: Web 2.0/socialnetworking/missioDei. #tag10 #outlawpreachers #transform #emergent […]

  3. Brian,

    Today was my final day attending a two-day conference at IARPA on real-world effects of virtual worlds with respect to social cognition and analytical reasoning; some of your questions related to Second Life really resonate with recent findings.

    In particular, you asked,

    1) How do we understand Baptism, church participation, theology, staff/laity breakdown’s in this format?

    2) What about the nature of relationships of upcoming generations as it pertains to real-life and virtual friendships?


    3) Does meaningful interaction happen online?

    The striking series of recent findings is that prosocial behavior and behaviors that require a theory of mind (e.g., establishing trust) play out much the same in Second Life as in real life. This is despite the culture of anonymity and an experience that is distinct from real life in terms of the sensory experience. There are exceptions that are anecdotally obvious and much of this work is yet to be done, but the notable thing is that virtual and online environments seem to allow for many of the human characteristics critical to individual and group faith/religious expression. That would suggest that attending a religious service in a virtual world would have much the same effect as it would in the real world, at least on a neural level. Of course, there are many factors that would be expected to affect that.

    I will leave it to the more theologically minded to determine the sacramental validity of a Second Life baptism or Eucharist.


  4. […] the Business World That push Against Faith In making progress towards the research end of my writing project with Ryan Bolger, I’ve been reading the the Cluetrain Manifesto, by Rick Levine, et. al. […]

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