Digital Media at the Service of the Word
Internet-mediated communication is undoubtedly shaping our culture, especially the way we access, gain, produce, share and understand information. The Internet, a vast resource of content is also taking form as a social communication network, where online content mediates the presence of people animating this network, who are accessing, contributing to, sharing and connecting over information. This movement toward the social web has significant implications for the way we go about communicating, sharing knowledge and making meaning as a whole, giving way to an overall more participatory culture, both on and offline. Commissioned to go and proclaim the Good News to the world, the Church continues to hold the communication of the faith as one of its essential tasks. This cultural shift in communication thus demands the attention the Church, presenting new opportunities and challenges for its evangelizing mission, while inviting a greater dialogue between evangelizing faith and digital culture. This dissertation engages the Church in this dialogue, focusing especially on what the present cultural shift wrought by Internet-mediated communication may mean for the theological foundations of communication in divine revelation, and the practice of the transmission of revelation in the context of the catechetical ministry. The dissertation offers a theological and ministerial foundation for exploring Internet-mediated communication, and the ways it may continue to evolve and shape our culture. To narrow in scope my investigation of the Church's dialogue with Internet-mediated communication, the dissertation approaches the Church's evangelizing mission as an expression of the theology of revelation concretely exemplified in catechesis, the religious education process concerned with facilitating conversion to Jesus Christ. This process of catechesis fueled by the theology of revelation encounters the socio-cultural phenomenon of Internet-mediated communication as its context. For the greater dialogue between the evangelizing faith and digital culture, all three of these elements, the theology, the ministerial process and the socio-cultural context receive careful analysis. After exploring each of these three constitutive elements, the dissertation suggests new directions and possibilities for revelation and catechesis in light of this dialogue. Chapter I introduces Internet-mediated communication and describes its relevance both from an ecclesial and socio-cultural perspective, focusing especially on the Church's clear intention to take social communications media seriously, as articulated through a series of ecclesial documents. Chapter II investigates the theology of revelation and Chapter III examines catechesis, and both of these chapters highlight the particular dynamic of communication operative in both revelation and catechesis as one that emphasizes both relational presence and informational content. Chapter IV on Internet-mediated communication also continues to address this dynamic of communication, offering both revelation and catechesis a new model for integrating the relational and the informational in one process of communication. Chapter V concludes the dissertation by exploring the theological and ministerial implications of this integrated model of communication that the Internet as social network offers, while suggesting new directions especially for the practice of catechesis.