EmergAnt.:4 New Media Fluency


Sams-Tm 2The minds of the emerging generation are being shaped by the computer screen more than the television screen. We see things in layers and loops and links and labyrinths. We do not see new things replace old things (like video clips in a linear movie) but we see them find their place in nested layers. We expect motion and navigability. We distrust anything static. Emerging churches reflect this.

Walkingcity“The church was worried about the age of post-literacy, when young people stopped reading books and stared mindlessly into the TV screen. It is probable that we have moved on from that stage to the age of post-post-literacy – where TV watching is replaced by reading, writing, blogging, messaging, phone-texting, sms’ing, journalling, selfpublishing, etc. . . The current renaissance in writing is turning readers into writers. We are also surrounded by technology that makes it easy to ”publish glad tidings daily“. Welcome to Generation Text.” (Andrew Jones, Generation Text)

“Connection to each other and Christ will be enabled by an emphasis upon communication rather than gathering”. (Pete Ward, Liquid Church)

The values of new media provide a reflection of deeper values:

Code – over construct, invisible over visible

Continuity– over  cut, preserving the past, linking to history

Constraint – filter over funnel, saying no to a million possibilities

Community – over individuality, where thoughts get tested, 

Collaboration – over competition, allows interdependence, prevents ego/selfishness.

Connection – where everything comes together, the knot in the web, portal

“New Media is anything digital and plays on a screen”

(Hillman Curtis, MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer).

– Lev Manovich lists 5 elements of new media in his excellent book “The Language of New Media” They are numerical representation, automation, modularity, variability, transcoding


– Although new media is a window into the value system of the emerging church, it is not a mandate that all emerging churches excel in the use of new media. There are plenty of emerging churches that focus on simplicity and base their meetings around a meal in a house, rather than a technologically savvy performance.

– It is usually the integration of old and new media that allow emerging churches to form and grow. Convergence is better than negligence or overemphasis on one particular technology.

Ss Images– The new technologies are not replacing our traditional forms of church but they are allowing our concept and experience of church to take on a radically different shape. Many forms of emerging church are native to the new culture, rather than reworked models of traditional church. There are exceptions,of course, especially as we transition for a world of old media to new media and our forms of communication and organization begin to stabilize.

– Our world is more like the early Renaissance with its interest in historical memory, and humble experimentation of media than the late Ren/Mannerist period (exaggeration and extremism, rejection of continuity).

Cof2-Thumb– Internet churches seem to have grabbed people’s attention. In 2004, England started a few interesting models including Church of Fools and i-Church, both of which have no physical meeting locations.  I attended the virtual opening service at Church of Fools. We used a similar technology to start Suddenly Seminary. Douglas Rushkoff notes two ways to use the new technology – representation and recapitulation. The churches I mentioned have are representing the old model church in a new media environment. The other alternative, recapitulating or totally rebuilding and transcoding the idea in a way that is native to new media, is probably the more common approach to Internet based churches, and is most likely the way of the future. Many bloggers, for example, have carved out their new church communities through a number of new media relationships and websites. The new technologies are not replacing church but they are allowing our concept and experience of church to take on a radically different form. See Tim Bednar’s well researched paper with the unfortunate title “We Know More Than Our Pastors”. PDF

This was part 4 of the series: EmergAnt – The Skinny on the Emerging Church:


1. Emergent Vocabulary

2. Countercultural History

3. Postmodern Sensibility


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • davidt says:

    amazing stuff. I’ll pass it on to our Artistic Catalyst. Thank you for your words.

  • Tim Bednar says:

    Unfortunate title? FYI: that paper is still being downloaded about a dozen times a day. Thanks for the link. I’m thinking of updating it.

  • Michael Giobbe says:

    A great blog. I appreciate that you make the connection between emerging church and new media theory, when few others do. Think about it: This point is what D.A. Carson really missed. He responded as if emergents were all disciples of Derrida, motivated by protest. Actually we’re watching the culture shift from print to digital dominance (see Marshall McLuhan on this) and trying to work out worship and witness as the “rules” change. Carson’s critique is based on the assumed and unstated rules of print culture, and is thus full of “just-don’t-get-it-ness”. If I had written 45 books over the last thirty-plus years, I’d be pretty heavily invested in print culture myself and unlikely to embrace paradigm shift away from it.
    The key words here are “paradigm shift”. Not “change”, but dramatic and discontinuous rearrangement of one’s operational assumptions, a thing previously called “Copernican shift”. If the shape of the culture follows the shape of the media–not its content, but its form–then McLaren (quoting Easum) is absolutely right: Digital-dominant media is not yet what it is going to become, so the rearranging of life, the (communication) universe and everything will continue to change at the pace of technology. To include how we worship, how we believe, and how we live out that belief. Toss into the POSTmordial soup the fact that for the first time in human history, we’ve tied the dominant media to the leading edge of technology, and it becomes really evident that the culture will continue a pattern of rapid discontinuous change. So the emerging church, or something like it, is about as inevitable as planetary motion.
    The church needs to both improve in its ability to reach the culture AND improve on its ability to invite the people of this accelerated culture into something like a wisdom and love that stands outside of time. We all agree that we need to do this. Most of us agree that we don’t yet know what this really looks like, so church becomes an ongoing workshop experience. There is a great precedent for this in St. Francis’s approach to mission: “We try something. If that doesn’t work, we try something else.”
    Thanks for listening.

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