Friday, February 17, 2012

Internet Savvy Public

The Catholic Times Desk Columnist, returning from three and half years of study in the United States, recounts his difficulty in becoming comfortable with the smart phone culture of Korea. He experienced how the non-established media  plays a big part  in conveying  the news by way of the internet. The established media continues, of course, but the internet media is a serious threat to its dominant role in society. One motivation of the internet news programs is a distrust of the established news media, but its attempts to provide accurate reporting, although often immediate, is also often incomplete.  

News delivered by internet requires little equipment. It's revolutionizing the delivery of news and breaking down the boundaries between the  makers of news and the receivers.  Now everybody can be a maker of news. The receiver of the news can also become the purveyor of the news. Anyone can now set up a 'newspaper' and  'broadcasting station,' the established media no longer being the sole gatekeeper of the news.

This online communication  has also changed the discussion within the church concerning the news makers and the recipients of news. The content of the traditional teachings  was controlled by the  leaders and clergy  of the Church. This was to be expected since the content of the faith is something  received, but the new media has changed the way this  teaching is communicated.

In the modern age, the invention of printing had a great deal to do with the advancement of learning of  the general public. This  threatened the monopoly that the clergy had in the past. This is now happening again by the new flow of information.  Something to be noticed is that the automatic authority and  trust that accompanied what was reported in traditional media are not transferred to online reporting. Online authority is more dependent on the nature of what is being reported. 

The content of what the authorities of the Church present online is reinterpreted and evaluated by Christians online, who are not only the receptors of the news but also by their interpretations of what they have received become, when sending out their views of what has been received,  producers of news themselves.

This new way of communicating, the columnist says, presents the Church with a dilemma.The horizontal means of communication that the Second Vatican Council recommended is a good thing. But, at the same time, how can the Church teach what it has been given to a society that has accepted relativism as an important value?

Adding more applications to the smart phone, the columnist says, is not going to solve the problem. What is necessary is a fundamental reevaluation of this new media, discerning what has taken place in the thinking of an internet-savvy public, and finding ways to deal creatively with this new reality in order to keep our traditional values intact.