Does God use Facebook?

Speaking, Writing, and Consulting on Social Media and The Church

My Experience with Web 2.0, Contemporary Culture and Ways of Knowing

Before researching and writing on Web 2.0 and western culture, I worked for eleven years with Jr./Sr. High students and college/university students at the CCO. During that time, Facebook became the ubiquitous connection point for a huge population of these students, and use has spread to even to our 70+ year old grandparents. How today’s generations understand connections, relationships, finding information, and interactions is vastly different than even some in my generation (Gen X). There’s an epistemological shift, even a cultural one, between those born after the 1970’s and those before.

If you find that it would be fruitful to investigate Web 2.0 for your community or organization; or would like someone to speak at your conference about contemporary western culture and/or digital culture, I’d be honored to dialogue over my research and findings to your community. Likewise, if you are thinking about engagement in social media as a faith community, author, non-profit,  and would like to consult with someone who pursues the narratives of Jesus, I would most enjoy facilitating this conversation with you.

The Church Online: “What was the question again?”

As part of my MA InterCultural Studies degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, I had a final writing project to complete. My thesis was researched and written about the nature of Web 2.0, and its increasingly dramatic effect on cultural formation in the west (and the global community). The abstract is below.

Shope, Brian

2010        “‘What’s Happening?:’ An Introduction of Participatory Cutlure, Web 2.0 and the Missio Dei.”  Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Intercultural Studies. MA Intercultural Studies. 91 pp.

The western church is in the midst of a cultural shift that has not seen a similar precedent in history. Web 2.0 has been both reflecting and propelling cultural formation in the west to be a great deal more dialogical and relational. People get their information from each other, and are gathering around common issues or meme’s due to a technological capacity for connection that is now available. This digital medium has both begun to form and reflect the characteristics of contemporary western culture, and increasingly global culture. The churches questions of “how to use” the internet/Web 2.0 for “outreach”, “training”, “community”, etc. are good, but miss the larger cultural shift  where YHWH is both expressed and at work in the missio Dei. As far back as eleven years ago the internet had reached 50 million domestic viewers, outpacing radio (40 years) and television (14 years) in only four years. (Sweet 1999: 32) This is indicative of the character of western culture, and the church has not yet begun reflecting on it. That is, relationship, conversation, and dialogue are becoming the norm of culture: dominant media, branding, and authority are much flatter than ever before. Using Cultural- and Media Studies and Missiology, the growing phenomenon of participatory culture will be analysed. Specific attention will be given to Facebook and YouTube, two social networking sites that are both reflective and contributory to the US cultural milieu. Missiological reflection will follow, offering an introduction of church participation in the missio Dei.

Mentor:  Dr. Ryan Bolger

Contact me at brian.shope@gmail.com for further information.

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