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Pam Smith
Virtual vicar at
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I think the way the original post is being discussed all over the place is a really good example of how topics 'splurge' across networks. For that reason I'd question whether any definitive discussion can be had - it may prompt a topic or session at cnmac11 or any number of other acronymous venues, but each discussion would represent only one node of the discussion and could not in itself deliver any definitive answers, just more questions. To me it seems the networking aspect of social media is the one that we understand least looking through our 'church goggles'. One of the strangest suggestions I've seen in an article about how to 'use' the internet for evangelism was to set up one FB account that people you're trying to evangelise can see, where you set a good example, and another your friends can see where you can be yourself. I think this sort of behaviour rapidly gets found out. IMO it's being networked that keeps us authentic - we can't have different personas in different places because the same people crop up in different settings. In fact I can see the point of a 'rule' in the sense of a personally adopted pattern of life, online and offline, but that is really about our own development. In terms of rules of engagement for Christians online, I don't see why we need separate rules to those which are already widely accepted and disseminated as 'netiquette'. Rule 2 in the example I'm looking at is summarised as: Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life
In Andrew's defence and as someone who was in the room as he was speaking through these principles. These were not pronouncements made from on high, but launching points for conversation and reflection to happen. I'm taking that as a given, Anna, but also assuming that if Andrew has put this stuff 'out there' he knows it will take on a life of its own. On the other hand, if something is presented in an academic or study context then we have to deal with it on that basis and engage with the ideas that have been presented with some rigour, especially if they have are meant to be a started for dialogue. I've been working in online Christian context for about 7 years now, and unfortunately I can see a neat list like this which appears to offer a solution to a 'problem' of regulating Christians who work online being enthusiastically taken up by people who want to find a way of controlling the activities of others in an environment which they view with suspicion. I know that this isn't the actual intention of offering this list, hence I think it is actually quite important to engage with it. I think Andrew would have been fully aware that in order to engage with the material he has offered and develop it, some people will have to disagree with him!
Is Vidz Ah the one who cries all the time? You can delete him, he's annoying. :-) I remember someone at Methodist Towers issued guidance for Methodist ministers in their online interactions a while back which was met with general annoyance. I think part of this may have been that anyone who thinks you can legislate for people's behaviour online is already working from a set of assumptions that don't really hold, one of which being that there is a coherent online environment (whatever we call it) where you CAN legislate. The recent case of the juror who was jailed for using Facebook to breach the confidentiality of the jury room demonstrates that existing laws apply to our behaviour online as well. Successful defamation cases in the US have shown that pseudonymity doesn't let us off our legal responsibilities. Why do we need a special set of rules for Christians online? Of course some Christians may use the comparative freedom of the online environment to do things they wouldn't like to own up to in church. But plenty of Christians do things offline that they wouldn't like to own up to in church either!
Erm.... Andrew rejects the idea of pseudonimity online. In his online church he uses a pseudonym but easily trackable back to the real person. Doesn't this just about sum up the impossibility of making up a set of immutable principles to guide people's behaviour in any and every circumstance? Everyone is pretty easily traceable online if you can be bothered but different people in different circumstances and stages of their development of an online presence need to relate to their online interaction in different ways. Some environments (such as Second Life) actually force a pseudonym on you, and taking on different personas and identities is part of the environment. If we go into online contexts with a set of principles which we then seek to impose on the environment then aren't we adopting the same methodology as the old style missionaries who sought to Christianize their environments by imposing their own view of what a Christian society should look like rather than attempting to deliver the Gospel in context (and recognise what God may already be doing?)
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Jun 25, 2011