Helping students think wisely about journalism, media, and communication in a digital age, this volume examines the impact of technological advances on how we process information and connect with others.
|Series:||Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
Read Mercer Schuchardt (PhD, New York University) is associate professor of communication at Wheaton College. He earned his doctorate under the invitation of the late Neil Postman at NYU’s Media Ecology program. He is also a member of the Media Ecology Association and the International Jacques Ellul Society. Schuchardt is a contributor to several books on communication and media theory, is the editor of You Do Not Talk About Fight Club, and the co-founder and editorial chair of the online journal Second Nature. He and his wife, Rachel, have ten children.
David S. Dockery (PhD, University of Texas) is thechancellor of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, following five years as president. He is a much-sought-after speaker and lecturer, a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and the author or editor of more than thirty books. Dockery and his wife, Lanese, have three sons andseven grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
WHY MEDIA MATTERS MORE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE
In the first place, we should clarify and define the basic terms under discussion. The word media is plural of the word medium, and that word simply means "that which goes between" — which is why the word is used to describe everything from how you like your steak cooked to your t-shirt size to a spiritual guide who contacts the dead. But the irony is that we use the word media in its singular form almost all the time, and almost always unconsciously.
Right now in America there are 1,780 commercial television stations, 15,503 broadcast radio stations, 1,331 newspapers, 2,000,000 billboards, and 5,821 movie theaters. Worldwide there are over 7 billion cell phone subscriptions (comprising 4.77 million mobile phone users, many of whom have more than one phone) and 1,276,011,353 million websites, and this information became obsolete between the time these sentences were written and the time this book went to print because by the time you read this, there will be more of all the above (except for hardcopy print newspapers, which are dying like flies). But why do we say "the media" instead of "the medium" when discussing any or all of it? I think the answer, or at least part of the answer, lies in the facts that: (1) we don't know the source of our information, and (2) we experience media as a singular thing.
It's like the news — which used to be something that you went to, picked up, turned on, read, watched, or listened to actively in order to be informed. Today, however, news has become the thing that happens when someone runs up to you and says, "OMG, did you hear ...?" In its effect, which is to say, in our psychological perception, the media is just something that is and something that happens. And because it happens all the time — continuously, indiscreetly, and without interruption — we experience it as a singular entity. The question, "Says who?" never comes to our mind or our lips, and we simply do the search engine query, find the hit, and click the link. If we see, read, or hear the story on the media, then it must be true. This of course is the opposite of the truth, and it is often a lie, but the ways in which the media lies to us is something we'll discuss in detail later.
The second term we have to define is communication. The official definition usually contains historical information about the message, sender, receiver, channel, feedback, and noise. The signal-to-noise ratio should be just right in order for good communication to occur. And in the days of the telegraph, that was certainly true. Today, under our perpetual high definition conditions, the digital camera can present us with higher resolution than traditional 35mm cameras ever could. Most often we are presented with such high signal strength that it becomes its own form of noise, such as the way the new super high-definition TV shows and movies annoyed you at first (until you got used to them) because they were too "lifelike" and not "cinematic" enough. People said it was like watching a documentary, or worse, a live play, in their living room. But again, we live mythically now, and all our past processes are simply taken for granted, so the best way of defining communication is in its effect, not its cause.
Communication is the art of making many one. It requires the science of the technological tools that make it possible, but it is an art because sometimes it works, like Star Wars, and sometimes it doesn't, like Avatar — a film so successful that you can't name any characters except for "that one blue guy." It is ultimately an etymological definition, as it shares the same root as the words community,communal, and communion. Originally, it meant "to have something in common with someone else."
This desire for an effect of shared experience is why it is especially important for Christians to study communication. Scripture tells us clearly that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the future heaven on earth are all going to have this characteristic of shared common experience and perception. "Every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom. 14:11) is another way of saying "to make many one." The lack of visual descriptors but prevalence of acoustic descriptors about heaven, in which men and women and angels and archangels are all singing before the Lord, is another way of saying "to make many one." Studies show that the quickest and most effective way to unify an otherwise disparate group into a cohesive unit is to get them to sing a song together. The word unify means "to make one." The word unit means "one."
The dream and goal and hope of Scripture is for all mankind to become one in Christ. To get there, we should learn to communicate better. To become one with Christ, we eat his body and drink his blood in the sacrament of communion. The book of Acts is a description of the amazing things that can happen — economic, social, political, psychological, spiritual — when this oneness occurs in a community. The word communication also shares the root meaning of communism, a failed political experiment in which the state takes the place of God as a nonvoluntary organizing and unifying force. The coercive nature of the project has proved its undoing in various countries, but the quixotic goal of unifying society under the barrel of a gun (through fear) continues to be attempted today. Through greed — which is the communist critique of a purely capitalist society — the effort is equally quixotic. But through the voluntary and free-will act of sacrificial love, which is Scripture's method, the project has shown fruitfulness at different times and places through history.
So why does the media matter now more than ever? Well, the blunt reality is that your parents, teachers, and religious leaders have been lying to you all along. They meant well, they intended the best, but they haven't ever told you the truth. And that's not because they didn't mean to, want to, or try to — they are good people, for the most part. But the lie they told you wasn't in the content of anything they said. The lie they told you was that they were your parents, your teachers, and your religious leaders. The truth is, they weren't. The media was, and is, and will be, until you die. Just look at the numbers:
Average hours an American child spends face to face with his parents each week: 14
Average hours an American child spends face to face with his television each week: 35
Average hours an American child spends per week at school: 30
Average hours an American child spends per week with various digital screens: 77
Average hours an American believer spends in religious services per week: 3
Average hours an American believer spends in media time per week: 84
Number of hours in a week: 168
Average hours Americans spend indoors each week: 146
Average hours Americans spend outdoors each week: 12
Average hours Americans spends in a car each week: 10
Average sleeping hours in 1800 (before the industrial revolution): 10
Average sleeping hours in 1850 (after industrial revolution): 9.5
Average sleeping hours in 1910 (after electricity and gas lights): 9
Average sleeping hours in 1972 (after mom went to work): 8
Average sleeping hours in 1997 (after the Internet): 7
Average sleeping hours in 2007 (after smartphones): 6.5
This may come as slightly shocking or be completely obvious to you, but we now receive our parenting, our pedagogical instruction, and our religious wisdom far more from the media than from any other source, including parents, teachers, and religious leaders combined. Obviously the above numbers are averages, and your personal numbers may be higher or lower. It's worth taking the time to do your own personal inventory and then try to quantify just "how much" of your parenting is received from your parents, how much of your teaching comes from your teachers, and how much of your religion comes from religious leaders.
You might also find it instructional to run your own numbers to discover whether or not media plays the role of default idolatry in your life. Without being conscious of it, it's easy to see how the true and the living God could come out in second, third, or hundredth place in your life if you compare the numbers. Quantitatively, what the God of Scripture demands of us is pretty mild compared to what media demands from us. God simply wants one tenth of your money and one seventh of your time. The tithe and the Sabbath are two key ways of quantifying "what God wants" from you. If you consider these in the strictest and most literal sense, you find some pretty shocking results.
The average American tithes 2.5 percent of his income. If the average individual income is $26,000 in 2016 and the average household income is $54,000, then this means the average American is giving between $650 ($12.50 per week) and $1,350 ($25.96 per week) to his church, when what God actually wants is between $2,600 and $5,400. In 2012, just five years after the iPhone was introduced, the total cost of ownership (device, service contract, surcharges, taxes, case, car charger, stereo dock, etc.) for an iPhone 5 was between $1,800 per year (for the 16GB model) and $4,800 per year (for the 64GB model). That's a "media tithe" between $34.61 and $92.30 per week, or roughly three times what American Christians give to their churches, and between 70 and 90 percent of what God actually requires. And that, of course, is just for the smartphone, whose average lifespan is two years.
When you run the same numbers for your computer and for your wall- sized, flat-panel LCD TV, you discover that most Americans that own all three devices are spending quite a bit more. For a member of the cult of Mac, here's a rough breakdown of what it would look like in the first quarter of 2016.
13-inch MacBook Pro laptop computer $1,300
iPhone 6S with 5.5 inch display (128GB) $950
Sony 75-inch LCD flat-panel smart TV $1,600
Hardware costs $3,850
Average cost of combined Internet/cable TV $480 ($40 monthly)
Average cost of cell-phone subscription $480 ($40 monthly)
Netflix standard plan per year $120
Software costs (subscriptions) per year $1,080
Total cost of smartphone ownership for two years (average lifespan) $6,010
Total cost of smartphone ownership/membership per year $3,005
Total cost of smartphone ownership/membership per month $250
Tithe percentage this amount represents for $26K median American salary 11.5 percent Tithe percentage this amount represents for $54K median American salary 5.5 percent
God wants one-seventh of your time. For most American Christians, this actually amounts to 2 hours on a Sunday morning. If you are "really religious," you might also go to a midweek service and a small group or Bible study at some point during the week, which would total roughly 6 hours of your week. But even if you follow the strict Old Testament definition of the Sabbath, the most the Sabbath can take up of your time is one 24-hour period, from sundown to sundown, each week.
When times are compared, our media consumption habits, in terms of hours spent, are far more holy to us than the Sabbath by any stretch.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed that of our leisure activities, Americans spent 2.8 hours per day watching TV in 2014. In 2015, Nielsen reported that Americans spend nearly 5 hours per day watching TV, and these numbers didn't include Netflix viewing. BTIG Research claimed that the average Netflix viewer was watching 2 hours per day in 2015, suggesting that some Americans are actually watching 7 hours of filmed entertainment per day. The data is hard to sort and assess completely accurately under multimedia conditions when someone can watch both TV and Internet programming on a smartphone, tablet, TV, or any number of "third screen" or "fourth screen" technologies, but overall the big picture of time spent in media consumption looked like this as of October 2015:
Daily minutes spent online (laptop and desktop) 132
Daily minutes spent on mobile phones 174
Daily minutes spent on other connected devices 23
Daily minutes spent on TV 251
Daily minutes spent on radio 87
Daily minutes spent on newspapers(nondigital) 17
Daily minutes spent on magazines (nondigital) 13
Daily minutes spent on movies, books, and other media 24
TOTAL 720 (12 hours daily)
These numbers are, of course, "daily averages" and not actual counts of how each of us spends our days. Taken from our weekly and monthly habits though, these numbers show what it would look like if we allotted media time evenly across each day.
As you can see from the chart, 12 hours per day is a full Sabbath's worth of time every two days. Thus, by the time Sunday actually rolls around, we have already spent three full days without sleep on media consumption. Now that's devotion! The word worship simply means "to ascribe worth to." And by paying this much attention to media, we are, by definition, ascribing worth to the experience. So if we take our hours of media consumption seriously, as a valid comparison and equivalency to time spent in worship, then what it means is that we've already gone to the church of our false idols about eighteen times in a week before we ever walk in the door of our real church.
But of course, it's not an entirely fair comparison because the nature of the media we use is not actually letting us decide the nature of the worth we are ascribing. Under digital technology conditions, all the barriers are broken, and everything is mixed up in everything else: there is no such thing as a "media for work" and "media for leisure" separation anymore. The cell phone that lets you be reached anywhere means, among other things, that you are always at work, or at least always "on call" to be responsive to any urgent work situation. And the corollary is also true: you are always "at home" even when you are at work, and able to receive calls to help manage any home crisis.
A recent study showed that 80 percent of college graduates would not take a job if it did not allow them to post social media updates during work hours. In other words, under digital media conditions, your life is your life is your life, and whether you're at work, at home, at play, or at church, you should be able to mediate it as much or as little as you want. So in that sense, it's a bit of a false dichotomy to say, "This media is for man," and "This media is for God." And if you go to a megachurch, it's even harder to know how/when/where to separate the wheat from the chaff. Are you being used by media? Are you using media? The answer is always yes, to both questions. What this little book hopes to do, by the end, is to make you a more conscious user, and a less susceptible usee.
But suffice it to say, media is what we do now. In a world with 7.1 billion cell-phone subscriptions (over 2 billion of whom are smartphone users), we now live on a planet where media is the largest thing we all collectively do. When you look at sociological or demographic or psychographic markers of human behaviors, affinities, and consumption patterns, nothing else comes close:
There are more cell-phone users than any one race or ethnicity has members.
There are more cell-phone users than any one nation has members.
There are more cell-phone users than any one language has members.
There are more cell-phone users than any one religion has members.
There are more cell-phone users than any one gender has members.
There are more cell-phone users than any one sexual orientation has members.
Okay, that last one isn't yet true, but it will be very soon. If 3.5 percent of Americans are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), then it's fairly reasonable to predict that very soon the number of cell-phone users will be larger than the number of heterosexuals on planet earth. If the American number is accurate (a big if ), and if that percentage is globally consistent (a much bigger if ), then it means there are at least 250 million nonheterosexual persons on planet earth. By contrast, the only group (that I know of) that has a cultural prejudice against the use and ownership of cell phones is the Amish. The Amish exist only in America, and they are only 313,000 people, or roughly the equivalent of 12 percent of the above estimated global LGBT population. As a percentage of the total global population, the Amish are a mere 0.004 percent of the human species. When indigenous Amazonian tribes are using cell phones, you know it's time to consider it a truly global phenomenon.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Media, Journalism, And Communication"
Copyright © 2018 Read Mercer Schuchardt.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: On Pedagogical Elegance,
1 Why Media Matters More Now Than Ever Before,
2 Social Media in the Age of Global Information Warfare,
3 Christian Identity as the Antidote to Digital Identity,
4 You Are Being Lied To. What Is the Nature of the Lie?,
Questions for Reflection,
Resources for Further Study,
What People are Saying About This
“Schuchardt admirably integrates the history and philosophy of technology with a rich understanding of Christianity. With McLuhan and Postman in one hand and the Bible and Christian history in the other, he offers a thoughtful and challenging perspective on journalism and media today.”
Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary; author, Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s IllnessA Philosopher’s Lament
“Read Schuchardt has been doing groundbreaking work in the new academic field of media ecology. Like his mentor, Neil Postman, he is asking us to think critically about the impact that new technology is having on everything from human development to political discourse to spiritual formation. This is an important book that is a must-read for serious Christians. I highly recommend it.”
Terry L. Johnson, Senior Minister, Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah; author, The Family Worship Book; Worshipping with Calvin; and Serving with Calvin
“Read Schuchardt’s progenitor is Marshall McLuhan, whose pithy style he so well channels. I once observed Read in the classroom as students both giggled and squirmed in their seats. They giggled because they were overjoyed that someone understood their world. They squirmed because he put his finger on what they had not yet perceived about the digital age. For the student of communication there is gold to be found in this hill of wise counsel.”
Arthur W. Hunt III, Professor of Communications, The University of Tennessee, Martin
“Read Schuchardt shaped the way I think about technology more than anyone else. With technology changing at an ever-increasing pace, Schuchardt is a sure guide to not only keeping your sanity but also your soul, whichever side of the Tiber you’re on.”
Brantly Millegan, Founder and Editor in Chief, ChurchPOP
“Schuchardt’s Media, Journalism, and Communication is a publisher’s nightmare and a reader’s dream. It fits no preestablished publishing category, because it is entirely too insightful to do so; its wine will not fit those wineskins. If Marshall McLuhan had been intelligible, Neil Postman a Christian, and Jacques Ellul an American, this is the book they would have coauthored (with Wendell Berry as their editor), though they would have taken ten times as many pages to have done so.”
T. David Gordon, Professor of Religion and Greek, Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania
“Not only has Schuchardt made the case for why the communication arts are essential to the liberal arts, he convincingly explains how they can make us better humans. This is one of the most superb short books ever written on the role and effect of media, and a must-read for every Christian college student.”
Joe Carter, Editor, The Gospel Coalition; contributor, NIV Lifehacks Bible
“Read Schuchardt is in the business of telling fish about the water they swim in. We ‘fish’ instinctively breathe, eat, and drink media in all forms, all the time. We hardly notice. Schuchardt helps us notice both the fascinating and alarming. Schuchardt says some crazy things about media that just happen to be true, while pointing to truths in the gospel that may strike us as crazy. It’s why he is such a good person to discuss the media water we swim in.”
Mark Galli, Editor in Chief, Christianity Today
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mercer Schuchardt’s Media, Journalism, and Communication is a great introduction to the importance and implications of media in the digital age. The book begins by explaining how the study of communications is the key to lifelong learning as media technology itself shapes the way we view history, psychology, etc. Schuchardt then goes on to skillfully argue that understanding media is more important now than ever as the average American child spends more time on media than with their parents, teachers, and friends. Schuchardt assesses the dangers of the digital age, listing the following vices of the virtual life: disembodiment, desensitization, narcissism, passivity, ignorance, and instant gratification. His observations here were most helpful for me personally. Such vices, which are both clearly contrary to Christian love and prominent in society and my own life, must be actively identified and combated. In order to avoid the vices of the digital age and effectively communicate the Gospel message in it, Scuchardt calls on Christians to regain the priority of the ear over the eye. Faith comes by hearing and images can tend towards shallowness and the flattening nuance. Given that media itself communicates a message, not only the content that it communicates, Christians must be thoughtful about what forms of media are appropriate and effective to us in communicating the Good News that the Word became flesh that He might indwell in our hearts. The book ends by claiming that media and communications is ultimately under the control and agenda of capitalist conglomerates. While the argument probably has some validity, it seemed a bit alarmist to me and it didn’t seem like Schuchardt was presenting a uniquely Christian response to this fact. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. For the most part it was easy to understand even though I have no background in communications studies. note: I received a copy from the publisher for the purpose of honestly reviewing it.