shane hipps "don't call it community" | a theology of facebook part 2
Shane Hipps is a Mennonite pastor who I noticed wrote a book a couple years ago entitled The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. I borrowed it and skimmed but never really read it, and now I'm realizing I'm gonna have to catch up, since Shane is starting to get some voice on these issues in the evangelical Christian leadership world. I'd love to meet him and chat it up some time, since this is one my primary areas of interest.
Because so much of media ecology is simply unawareness, I had hoped another a fellow watcher of communications as culture would cultivate an imaginative view on ideas like "virtual community." But here Shane makes it clear that he views online interaction as entertainment ("enjoy it, but don't call it community, because it isn't"). This was somewhat disappointing to me (and not unusual, see my first post on this )
Scot McKnight posted a response at both Our of Ur and at Jesus Creed that asked Shane to consider the Jesus Creed community, a blog that does have a remarkable level a participation (both in volume and quality) compared to (most?) other blogs that often function as more soapbox than dialogue.
Over 40 commentors have contributed some amazing thoughts to this thread: Dan (4) points out that he doesn't know Scot McKnight, and comes because the community is useful. Makes sense to me. I think utility is clearly a reason we both approach and stay in offline communities as well. Eric (9) calls Jesus Creed a better community than any church he's been part of in 20 years. He cites questions and disagreement as key draws. And these are clearly crucial in offline community as well! Show me a community without conflict and I'll show you "shallow." Chris E. notes that Scot's experience is remarkably different than others because of his central role. As a campus pastor at the center of a vibrant church for a number of years, I eventually realized myself that my experience was also remarkably different to those who knew only a few people in our church, or hung "near the edges." There really are positions and vantage points in communities that vary the experience. Matt S. (14) sets up a thought experiment that makes me hopeful for deeper thinking on this, and Pat B (38) is wise to the net when (s?)he notes that blogs don't have a natural format for extended conversation.
All this to say: with not too much thought, we find a great deal of similarity between "virtual" community and "physical" community.
Next post (hopefully coming soon): more on why I think Marshall McLuhan would argue with Shane Hipps four point analysis on virtual community.