How Do You Build Community With Technology?
February 14, 2011 | posted by Joe Day
How do you utilize technology without taking away from relationship? We???ve found this question intriguing because of the range of responses it creates. While some see opportunity to connect, others get very nervous. Some cite the increase in email, sms, and social networks as the cause of relational disconnection, and they have some good points.
The question is important because these technologies are not going away. Not only that, they are continuing to innovate and improve. In our churches, we???re put in the position of asking ourselves how we???re going to approach technology.
Certainly, there???s a good social use for technology, right? Regardless of the technology, what we???re mainly talking about here is human adaptation to new technology. In other words, the technology itself isn???t inherently good or bad, it???s the way we interact with and utilize it that matters. That is more a question of change than technology.
We all know the early-adopter who embraces technological change. While there???s a range of reasons for this, whether opportunistic curiosity, educational, or to simply grab the early-adopter ???cool??? badge, Pastor Mark says ???the point of technology is not (to be) cool, it is community. If you don???t have real community then technology actually doesn???t help build it.???
Whether you agree with him or not, how do you utilize technology to help community grow closer, deeper, more vibrant?
A really important question – how can technology help build real life relationships and community, and not get in the way?
One really important point in the video excerpt is appropriate use of email and online discussion when there is a sensitive issue or a problem to discuss. Use the technology to fix a time to get together, but don’t try and have the discussion by email.
The way I see it, we’re made with lots of ways to manage difficult issues face to face. The brain power devoted to processing what’s happening with a face is immense. In person, we can also see a person’s posture, hear nuances in their voice, judge what kind of eye contact we have, look at a range of non verbal gestures, and do all sorts of things which help us establish whether a person’s words and intentions match up. This helps us build rapport and trust in tricky situations. Email can carry virtually none of this rich communication, only words which we might express or interpret badly, not to mention the difficulties involved when we can’t ask clarifying questions without long delays.
“The City” is a community-building online system for churches developed in the highly tech-friendly city of Seattle. Its focus on face to face community, never settling for online-only “friends”, is something I think has helped it become a leader in its class, and I believe it should be influential outside the church too.