Media & Culture, Chicken or the Egg

Does media reflect society or does media lead culture? I’d like to look at this age old question in a different light. The question is usually posed in terms of content, but I’d like to explore the question by looking at the WAY we consume and engage with media content.

In years past, media (be it film, radio, TV or print) was a ONE-WAY communication model of ONE to MANY. One person or media company would broadcast to the masses. The masses would, for the most part, sit there in silence and, without the opportunity for participation or feedback, take in whatever was being presented. This model wasn’t merely utilized by the media, but most of our institutions: Education, Business, Sports, even the Church…maybe especially the Church.

Today, due in large part to the Internet, we are a highly interactive audience. Our model now is TWO-WAY interaction between ONE to ONE, ONE to MASSES, or even MASSES to MASSES….but the point is WE CHOOSE. We choose WHAT, HOW and WHEN we want to consume media. And we don’t receive it in silent approval. We can give instead feedback. In many ways we are more discerning and definitely more participatory.

Is media following a cultural phenomenon? Catering to character traits of a young generation? Or are people just adapting to the way media and new technologies are being presented? The interesting thing is that once again our institutions are following (or leading) media’s model. EDUCATION, with on-line learning and testing, is much more interactive. SPORTS, the highly interactive Fantasy Football leagues generate more revenue than the NFL itself. RETAIL, everything from on-line shopping to computer designed kitchens to “build your own” burritos.

Final question: Is the Church following suit? Are we stagnant in the ONE –(preacher) to MANY (congregation) model of no interactivity? Or will we see an increase in churches utilizing Twitter for real time questions and a shift in Bible Studies from a leader monologue to a group discussion format?

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