I can’t believe you, Shane Hipps! You think only 18 people are upset about your recent comments?! Make it 19, Shane. I can’t BELIEVE you don’t believe virtual community is community. And you think Twitter is narcissistic? I’d be offended if I thought what YOU thought was half as important as what I think…wow Shane. I thought we had a good thing going. But then you had to go and get all fundie on me and start talking about the “shadows” of the technology we use. You had to go and call us to think responsibly about the technology that uses us we use. You had to go and make us remember the importance and uniqueness of actual face-to-face encounters with the Others in our lives…? Seriously. What a buzz-kill.
So, I’m a little late to the party, but a few weeks ago, Shane Hipps did a quick off-the-cuff interview with Out of Ur (watch here) that caused a bit of an uproar among…well, folks who get a lot out of virtual community (even Scot McKnight joined the party and responded to Shane). There were many who took issue with Shane’s comments about what constitutes “true” community, and many felt that he was taking jabs at virtual community. Everyone’s favorite drummer-rockstar Zach Lind had a video conversation with Shane that might help clarify some of Shane’s comments, and it’s worth watching.
Shane believes community needs to have the following:
- A kind of shared history: This helps establish a sense of identity & belonging
- Permanence: This is how you get the shared history
- Proximity: You have to BE with each other to create meaningful connections
- A shared imagination of the future: This is especially important within Christian community
So, for Shane, virtual community lacks all of these except for a shared imagination of the future (which he thinks is the easiest to get in online, virtual community). Before this past week, I was planning on writing a post pushing back pretty hard on Shane’s definition of community. But when I met with my COM this past week – confusions, misunderstandings and accusations were cleared up, and it was only because it was a face-to-face encounter. I shared all of the same information I’ve been writing in documents and emails since last November. Yet, it was having the chance to actually, physically interact with the committee that really changed everything.
So I get the proximity part. I understand the whole thing about being able to look into each others eyes (and not just through our webcams). I think that changes a lot and adds entirely different dimensions to conversations.
But I guess I would still want to say that virtual community IS a form of community. I’m not one to say that it should ever replace physical encounters and personal face-to-face community. I don’t think you’ll ever find me joining an e-Church where I’d go to worship in front of my computer screen. But do I think there exists some type of community here at pomomusings? Yes, I do. And if you’ve been reading since I started blogging, close to 6 years ago, then yes, there is some shared history and a sense of permanence. Proximity is up for grabs I think, as we live in a global, flattened world. Distance doesn’t necessarily prevent communication.
And as far as Twitter, sure, it’d be silly to think that it’s not a little bit narcissistic. Does it make me feel kind of special that I have 503 followers who are interested in what I’m doing? Sure. But I also think there is some sense of community there, or else I don’t think I would do it. In fact, I tried Twitter a couple years ago and quit after a week because it was boring and I didn’t know why anyone would care what I was doing. It wasn’t until I really gathered a “Twitter community” that it was a tool that was fun, helpful and engaging.
I get where Shane is coming from. I think it’s important to think about the potential issues/dangers with technology, and to become aware of those. But I don’t want to not call it community.