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Sorry, this post isn’t about attractive women preachers or hellfire and damnation sermons.

I’ve been thinking today about different kinds of communication and the degree to which they invite/involve participation from the user.  I’m interested in this subject because it affects the way we think about communicating truth to the various generations.  In particular, the Mosaic/Millennial generations (those born from 1984 onward) place a high value on participating with their media rather than simply consuming it.

Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan pioneered this discussion with the labels “hot” and “cool”.  “Hot” media, according to McLuhan, allows for less participation while “cool” media invite more participation.  In McLuhan’s opinion, movies are “hot” media because they dictate the user’s experience completely; the visual, audio and even room environment are completely beyond the users control.  TV, however, is “cool-er” media because users can change channels, turn the volume up or down, etc.  While I think McLuhan did us all a great service by putting this conversation on the table, I’m not convinced his categories are ultimately the most helpful…but it’s not a bad place to start.

Another way to think about this is static vs. dynamic.  I’m talking here about the degree to which a user’s decisions affect the communication experience itself.  A book is fairly static, because the text doesn’t change, but it is not as static as, say a stone tablet.  Users can carry the book somewhere else, turn the pages faster, back up, etc.  In that sense, a book is more dynamic than a stone tablet.  But a book is not as dynamic as an iPad, obviously, where user decisions not only affect the size and rate of the content is displayed but also the content itself.  iPad users can call up whatever info they want to interact with.

Thinking of media as static or dynamic isn’t quite the same thing as thinking of it as participatory/non-participatory, but they’re closely linked.  As the way we consume media/content becomes increasingly dynamic, it naturally follows that we also want to be able to participate more with the content.  Today’s media consumers want to be able to respond to content, challenge it, agree with it, ask questions related to it, etc.

So, does our communication of truth about God allow for this?  Does our preaching take this desire/need seriously?

Interestingly, the sermon is a more dynamic/participatory medium than many others.  In a sermon, the speaker can read his/her audience and change delivery speed if it is perceived that the audience is not connecting.  Hulu can’t do that.  A preacher can change content by adding an illustration or dropping a complex explanation if he/she feels that the audience isn’t understanding.  Youtube can’t pull that off.   In many ways, a sermon can be a very hot/dynamic/participatory medium.

But are we taking advantage of that?

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this morning.  Any insights?

 

OK, that might be an overstatement (especially if the above-pictured text is admitted as evidence), but a recent study at the University of Michigan discovered that people are more likely to be honest when texting.  Basically, the study found that people asked to respond to questions via text were less likely to engage in a practice called “satisficing” which happens when we give a rounded answer that we think is “good enough.”

When asked embarrassing questions like “how many times have you gotten drunk this month”, people were significantly less likely to round down if they were answering via text than if they were answering someone face to face.

Why would this be?  The people who conducted the study in Michigan think it’s because there’s less time pressure to answer, which, in turn, makes people more likely to give precise answers.  That’s fascinating to me.  It appears that the researchers think we lie because we don’t have time to be accurate and in our rush to give an answer, we just tend to round in a direction thats favorable to us.

I don’t buy it.

I think the truth is that texting leaves a trail.  There’s something very ephemeral about speech…it vanishes as soon as it comes into existence, so our answers to embarrassing questions don’t hang around to haunt us…or come back to indict us later on.  And I bet that little sinister/sinful part of all us, when asked an embarrassing question, is always thinking to itself “if I lie here, how likely am I to get caught?”

Texting creates a…well, a “paper” trail of sorts, I guess…that solidifies and permantisizes (new word!) our answers.  I don’t think texting makes us more honest because it gives us more time to think…it makes us more honest because it ups the chances we’ll get caught in a lie.