Resources For Your Ministry: Information & Comm. Tech.

By Vance Thomas
Director of the Library



In 2008, Nicholas Carr instigated a lively debate about the impact of contemporary technologies on our cognitive abilities. In his essay “Is Google Making Us Stoopid? What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” (The Atlantic, July/August 2008), Carr maintains that the Internet is slowly sapping our ability to engage in extended periods of concentration and contemplation.

Regardless of your assessment of Carr’s argument and evidence, the simple fact is that information and communication technologies are an unavoidable reality in today’s ministry context. Whether you are preparing a video for use in worship, blogging about mission and service opportunities in your community, surfing the Web for your daily news update in order to stay current on world events, or simply checking your mobile device for the score on the big game, these technologies are part of our everyday lives. More importantly, these technologies are changing the way we interact with one another and the world around us, even changing the very way in which we think. In other words, while the ease and efficiency of communicating with one another is revolutionary, the very relationships between communication medium and communicated message are also being recast. Whether your interest is in crafting a sermon in light of new forms of media or in investigating new forms of church polity in light of the Internet, the advances in information and communication technology bear directly on congregational ministry.

Here are a some accessible resources that can provide context and clarity about the discussion:

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. 1964. Although published almost five decades ago, this book continues to provide insights for our contemporary media context. With his celebrated phrase, “The medium is the message,” McLuhan offers the reader a rich supply of conceptual tools for exploring and interpreting contemporary media productions.

Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. 1982. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, this classic text explores some fundamental differences between oral and textual cultures. In addition to predicting the advent of a second era of primary orality, Ong addresses the implications of his work for biblical studies and preaching near the end the book.

Floridi, Luciano. Information: A Very Short Introduction. 2010. While this slim volume is written from a more technical perspective, it still remains an approachable introduction to information science. Using an extended illustration of a car that will not start, Floridi explores not only a definition of information but also its various manifestations such as physical, biological, and economic.

Gleick, James. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. 2011. Far-ranging in the breadth of material covered, this is an historical examination of milestones in information theory. In his substantial presentation, Gleick takes up the Shannon-Weaver model of communication as well such other information innovations as the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary, the “bit” as a measure of information, and development of Wikipedia.