Information Revolution 3.0

General Convention / Web/Tech

This video is making the rounds today:

It’s from the same Anthropology professor who pointed out what was making Web 2.0 different than Web 1.0.

I serve on the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communications – and part of our brief as a commission is to think through how this sort of technological innovation will change things for the Church.

Wanna help me out? What do think the implications will be?

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. It might help to provide a list of specific contexts in which people need/want specific information, then repeat the question.
    Here’s one thing, which doesn’t quite fit into Web X.0: The BCP as a physical book may start to go by the wayside. That’s because, in the name of just-in-time information for the congregation, some parishes are printing the relevant BCP excerpts in their throw-away service leaflets, and/or showing the text on big screens. We may start to see new parishes investing their money in something other than physical books. Established parishes might elect not to spend the money to replace worn-out physical books.
    (Law firms have been experiencing the same thing inasmuch as just about everything’s available on line, there’s less and less need to maintain an expensive collection of law books, and some newer firms have dispensed with them entirely.)
    Editorial comment: I’m not especially fond of the BCP-less approach to worship. It’s not that I use the physical book myself; like many, I know by heart those parts of the service(s) that are said by the congregation. And I recognize that the book-less approach is quite a bit more visitor-friendly. But our corporate worship largely defines us as a church; I like knowing that when the congregation addresses God together, we’re using a liturgy that we’ve all implicitly agreed to, not some random thing that a priest or a parish committee has caused to be printed in the service leaflet.

  2. I don’t really think this video says anything very new. We all know already that hyperlinks make searching for facts a bit different.
    But it doesn’t mean that people really learn in a totally new way. We still categorize; we have to, because our brains work that way. Hyperlinks only give us different ways to do it. Categories aren’t imposed on the mind; the mind imposes categories on the world. Some interesting new connections may be made, but it won’t change anything in a large way.
    I don’t think the church really has much that CAN change, anyway. As I said somewhere else, we will all still need to meet in stone-and-mortar locations for Eucharist; we can’t sit home and have it. Anyway, the church is tied to the past in a way most other institutions aren’t, which I think sometimes is a good thing even while I can’t stand it.

  3. Thanks DC and bls. I should probably have done a better job explaining what I was suggesting. I do not believe that the internet is ever going to replace meat-space worship for Anglicans/Episcopalians.
    I’m thinking about ways we need to help folks in the denomination deal with the onslaught of information. Would something simple like tagging info on the national website help? Since they have no money to do such a thing, is that something we can invite volunteers to do ala Google?
    Things along that line…

  4. Yes, we could do that. I can think of several other things I’d like to see as well.
    1. We should have a place to interact with other members of the church via the national website. AND this same sort of thing should be done for the Anglican Communion as a whole. It would be very good to be able to maintain contact with each other in this way; as it is, all we ever hear from is Bishops.
    2. Along with the above, we could offer a Craig’s List sort of thing online; a clearinghouse where people could buy stuff and sell it (subject to rules, etc.), or offer services, or check for jobs, or whatever. This one’s a bit fuzzy, but I’m just thinking of a big swap-meet or something like that, where parishes and individuals could find things they need.
    3. We should offer EFM or something similar via the national website in the same way. More information about history and theology could be offered in some special area, and online discussions could be held.
    4. We should offer high-quality videos of Choral Matins and Evensong online, the way Trinity Wall Street offers videos of worship services and concerts. We should highlight the spectacular Anglican musical tradition.
    There are lots of other things we could do, too. I guess all that takes money or else dedicated volunteers. The first thing is what I’m most interested in.

  5. Paul Martin says

    A number of things come to mind:
    In the pre-internet days, we relied on editors and other gatekeepers to filter the information for us. That has advantages as well as disadvantages. Web 2.0 opens up the world to any fool with a blog, and as more people discover those blogs, they discover a wide variety in quality and scholarship. Not everyone is prepared for that. Church sites can help by providing lots of links to the best of the web. The weakest section of most parish web sites is the link section.
    I see a large digital divide between the parishes which have lots of resources for their web sites and those which struggle to provide any web presence at all. We are trying to address that at, but it’s a small volunteer effort with no funding and I know we are ignoring some of the biggest issues for lack of resources. I would love to provide a CMS with an expanding choice of attractive templates which would make a simple church web site as easy to set up and maintain as a blog. We can’t find the time to update our own web site, much less take on a major effort like that.
    I wonder about an emerging (voluntary) digital divide between young church members who live on MySpace, and older church leaders who don’t understand why anyone would venture beyond dialup and AOL. I am also concerned that we don’t move too quickly toward electronic communication and shut out those who choose not to have email or web access. Parishes will need to maintain duplicate communication channels for some time to include their older members.
    I have seen an enormous amount of progress in the church’s web presence in the past couple of years. I hope that continues, and that we can drive the progress down to the level of the smallest parishes. That’s my personal soapbox, anyway.

  6. I have so many ideas about this I kinda wish the church would hire me.
    Of course I have a commitment to do exactly this for the organization that did hire me for a while, but….
    my cup (brain) overfloweth.

  7. But I really think we should concentrate on religion for awhile, anyway, rather than getting distracted by a million other tangents.
    People don’t even know the basics of the faith anymore; “conservatives,” who claim to be the Defenders of the Faith, are now ridiculing St. Francis of Assisi’s writings as “pagan.” There isn’t any Morning or Evening Prayer in the parishes, whether “conservative” or “liberal”; people aren’t taught to pray or meditate or anything else; everybody’s wrapped up in political and/or church politics issues.
    And the rest of the world is leaving the church in droves; in the U.S. 120 million people have no church home today, by choice. I think this is what we really ought to be considering and worrying about, if people are thinking about what the web is for. We need, rather than trying to figure out how to have access to other information, to sit for awhile and think about our OWN information and how to talk about it. We need better theology and teaching and more prayer and we need to learn better how to communicate these things to others. We have something valuable that isn’t available anywhere else; we are tasked to put people in touch with God. That comes first, before anything else.

  8. Thanks all for the suggestions.
    bls, I don’t really have any argument with what you suggest. It’s just that my particular role as Chair of the national Standing Commission is to think about communications. (I pay attention to the issues you raise in the congregation I serve. We started daily MP when I arrived a year ago. We’re collecting a team of spiritual directors.)
    Is there a best way for the Episcopal Church to communicate what you’re trying to say? (For what its worth, we have a number of ways to do that including radio, tv, newspaper, bulletin inserts *and* online tools.)

  9. I’ve had something floating around in my head for a while but still don’t have a terribly clear picture of it; it’s a hyperlink catechism that focuses on the very basics of doctrine and an introduction to the discipline of prayer. Something short, simple, beautiful, and true… Ideally integrated with a wiki and a robust Daily Office engine customizable to the preferred degree of catholicity.

  10. I understand, Fr. Nick, and I’m not criticizing you. I realize everybody has things they have to do.
    But we are all getting caught up in too many outside issues – way, way too busy with all sorts of things, all of us. Personally, I think we need to sit and be quiet for awhile; how about one of those “You have reached the end of the Web” pages?
    (I’m kind of serious about that, but I realize it doesn’t help you at all. Derek’s always thinking, though, so rely on him. I do like anything that will get people praying and working together, outside of any particular agendas. Ora et Labora; that’s the ticket. Perhaps the “tagging” idea will work, or some other kind of collective task.)

  11. Thanks Derek.
    If you wanna play, I own and I’ve got a rudimentary wiki running on the server here at the Cathedral… I was hoping that the diocesan communicators would use it to share tips about web pages and newsletters but alas no.
    Perhaps a catechism?

  12. Paul Martin says

    I think it would be useful to highlight all of the excellent work being done around the country on diocesean and parish web sites and Episcopal blogs. I am sure I have only scratched the surface. How about a contest along the lines of the best blogger awards, but just for TEC? We could separate parish sites into groups based on budgets or ASA so that we could see what smaller parishes are doing with limited resources. I have a feeling there are a lot of innovative ideas out there that the rest of us are not aware of.

  13. That’s a great idea, Paul. One of the fundamental issues with the web is quality control. A page says something–who decides if it’s any good? Who knows if it’s “mainstream” or “off on the fringe”? People who already know the topic can make these judgments, but not someone just looking for the first time. I’d like to see some kind of certifying body–perhaps with a few different levels to identify different kinds of content–that could help people and the sites who participate get a sense of what is what. I’ve discussed something like this before (–maybe the time for such a thing is approaching.

  14. Oops–since the comments don’t allow links the “–maybe” on the end of that link will cause it to not function… (Delete that from your browser address bar and you’ll get there…)

  15. Paul Martin says

    Derek, could you provide a concrete example of the kind of certification you are talking about? There are obvious difficulties here with “certifying” an essay or a sermon which represents one of many theological strands of Anglican theology. Or perhaps I misunderstand where you are headed with this.

  16. Paul, I’m thinking a “recommended reading” kind of thing for bloggish type sites with perhaps a “trusted content” kind of thing for static reference works.
    The mechanism for deciding these would need some clarification. Of course, we neither have nor want a magisterium to judge things and issue decrees. On the other hand, I’d want a set of clearly defined criteria that could be used to identify a site’s content as somewhere under the “broad tent” or not.

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