The Pope and the Internet
I just encountered how much difference thoughtful attention and analysis makes when presenting news. The fact: on January 24, on the occasion of the "45th World Day of Social Communications", Pope Benedict XVI issued a new encyclical titled "Truth, Proclamation and the Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age." You can read the English version here. If you scroll up or down on the same page you can read it in any of the five other languages.
From the many online reflections and reactions l want to mention the first two that reached me. The piece at "Houston Belief," titled "Pope warms against dangers of creating fake online profiles" doesn't specify the apropos for the prost (the above encyclical), picks a few sentences from it without explanation or reflection and adds a few anecdotes. This is a mix of bad journalism (no clear references, no description of what it is about, and minimal context) and good (the anecdotes are providing further insights into the Pope and Vatican's relations to the internet, beyond what's in the new document.) What makes the online piece even worse from a usability perspective is how some words are linked to related topics on the website Houston Belief is part of (chron.com). For example when it mentions the Vatican's YouTube channel it links to articles about YouTube at chron.com as opposed to say the Vatican's YouTube channel.
Enough of that, let me turn my attention to Elizabeth Drescher's analysis at ReligionDispatches: "Pope Invites his Flock to Join Facebook: Is the Digital Reformation Here?" In the opening sections she manages to describe how active and intertwined her digital life is, specify and link to the Pope's message, connect to several other thinkers who reflected on the Pope's message. Then she goes into her own reflections, that are strongly connected with other people's. Here are some of the key ideas mentioned, but you should read the whole article to fully understand them:
- The Pope embraced "digital space as a site for the meaningful expansion and enrichment of social, intellectual, and spiritual relatedness"
- the Pope’s letter errs in assuming that digital media are the particular provenance of the young
- “one-sidedness of… interaction” in digital communications betrayed a lack of practical familiarity with social media
- “the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself” also betrays a certain unfamiliarity with communication practices in daily life generally, digital or otherwise.
- the papal encyclical is to be lauded for framing the overall discussion in cultural, ethical, and spiritual terms rather than narrowly technical or functional one
- ..this does not mean that relationships developed in global, digital spaces are any less “real” than those with the neighbor down the street
The rest of the article mostly talks about the blurring of the virtual/real boundary, particularly how social books (books as apps) can help that.