BBC’s website published a news item this afternoon on a report by CISCO predicting an ‘internet device boom’. Here’s an excerpt from BBC’s report:

The number of internet connected devices is set to explode in the next four years to over 15 billion – twice the world’s population by 2015.

Technology giant Cisco predicts the proliferation of tablets, mobile phones, connected appliances and other smart machines will drive this growth.

The company said consumer video will continue to dominate internet traffic.

It predicts that by 2015, one million minutes of video will be watched online every second.

The predictions come from Cisco’s fifth annual forecast of upcoming trends.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index also estimated that at the same time more than 40% of the world’s projected population will be online, a total of nearly three billion people.

What do these staggering statistics mean for the ways in which participate in God’s mission and engage people with the Bible? A few initial suggestions:

1. We need to take technology seriously and on its own terms. This isn’t just a sideline for a few interested people.

2. We need to work hard at ‘digital contextualisation’. Just as recording a text doesn’t automatically make it ‘oral’, so we must develop ways of engaging people with the Bible in the digital sphere that are not just ‘digitial’ versions of analogue engagement.

3. In particular, how might we harness video and the social networking that goes with it to greater effect?

4. Connected with issues of technology are issues of wealth and power. Technology will not lead us to a new utopia; what will be the particular ways that humanity finds to sin in the digital sphere? How will abuses of digital power be worked out in this context and how will the church respond biblically?

5. 40% of the world’s population being online is a huge number, though I’d like to know how ‘being online’ is defined. But that still leaves 60% who won’t be online. It would be interesting to see how oral cultures engage with  the digital boom. Is it the preocupation of literate cultures? Ironically, you could argue that technology is actually creating new oral cultures within literary ones as people’s preferred means of experiencing and sharing information changes. Also, let’s not get so preoccupied with the 40% that we forget the 60%.

Just a few thoughts to get the ball rolling. What would you add? Do you have any good examples of digital contextualisation or Bible Engagement. What you think the implications are?

Finally, given my context of preparing people for cross-cultural mission, I’d like to note a few ways in which we at Redcliffe College are seeking to ensure that our students are equipped to engage in this stuff. Here are some examples:

Students on the first year of our degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts they can take a module on contemporary communication skills, which takes a practical look at using technology;

second years doing Luke/Acts and/or Genesis 1-11/Psalms can opt to do a creative piece for their assignment that might involved writing a blog, making a video, or something similar;

third years have the option of doing our brand new module, ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’;

finally, students taking the MA in Bible and Mission have to do a module in ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’, and can use this as an opportunity to explore Bible Engagement in a digital context.

3 thoughts on “The internet device boom and the future of Bible Engagement

  1. Thanks Tim lots of thing to think through there. I agree with all your points but I heard a someone say recently that the gospel is not soundbites and in one sense we can’t tweet the gospel. We can obviously write a Bible verse in there but – if we’re going to engage with people then its got to be personal and engaging and grappling with the issues in community – our evangelism has got to be more than the facebook status bar. I wonder if one of the key uses of social networking is an extension of the church community, somewhere where we share experiences and communicate along with the rest of our church activities – it’s not going to replace them!
    I find I’m always using the net as a resource – downloading sermons, easy to find bible verse at biblegateway.com, bethinking.org to name some positives, though there is a lots of trash too.
    I think my pet hate on social network are when unwise Christians try to answer question which often ends up in war of words on the screen.

  2. Have you looked at “Glo” (www.globible.com) which makes great you of the internet through youtube videos updates etc. Also there is “YouVersion” and online bible resource which is stealing the thunder from the more old fashioned “BibleGateway” (and it’s NRSV cousin “Oremus”).

    Overall I feel its not the way that you produce/replicate the content that matters – more how you choose to deliver it. In the digital age dressing is becoming more and more important. With the internet the primary aim is to correctly [meta]tag your material then – and only – if it is good enough/meet their needs will people return. Plus you always have to remember that people read differently online compared with paper based mediums, even newspapers which are probably their closest cousins.

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