Re-defining space… and the local church

Due to the physical barrier, the Web imparts confidence, permitting us to take personas which we would normally shy away from. “Cyberspace is, to paraphrase McLuhan, a place that is emotively hot, and not technologically frozen as some are tempted to imagine.”[1] Spadaro’s reflection on the internet is spot on, however he sees disconnection from the Net as a possibility. “Certainly, it is enough to disconnect oneself, or to close an application, in order to shut down a relationship.”[2]

The bodily interaction, even if mitigated by many a gadget, is always necessary

He still speaks from a Web 2.0 paradigm and stops at relationship between persons, without highlighting the person-machine relationship, or even more tricky, the augmentation of the physical person. Spadaro rightly highlights human relationships as the focused relationship in Web 2.0.  He describes social networks not as an “ensemble of individuals, but (as) an ensemble of relationships between individuals.”[3] However he notes that such relationships are “always necessarily incomplete.” [4] The bodily interaction, even if mitigated by many a gadget, is always necessary.

The definition of who is the neighbour changed too. According to Spadaro, real life closely mimics that of a videogame, which sees the main avatar responding to stimuli from other characters. This contradicts the Christian definition of ‘the neighbour,’ since surely this is not only the one who arise a positive stimuli. Friendships too have changed. Befriending someone on a game is common. I personally can vouch for this, since back when I was an avid gamer, most of my friends where in-game pals, who we then took our relationship offline – so to speak.

Games such as Pokemon Go feast on the idea of merging the virtual and the physical realities, or rather, enhancing the one single reality which exists

A technology that we are slowly experimenting with, and which is set to enhance proximity is location based services (LBS). He imprecisely calls them “geolocation.” Through such services, “the virtual and the physical worlds are connected, and potentially, the connection can become a chance encounter.”[5] Games such as Pokemon Go feast on the idea of merging both realities, or rather, enhancing the one single reality which exists. This need for proximity comes at the expense of personal privacy, but many are ready to forfeit it for a greater benefit.

According to Spadaro, this merging calls for a new understanding of a local church. A question which personally gave rise to a specific interest given my background in GIS. Spadaro postulates, “Will the local church tend to be a geolocalized church, whose membership will be linked forever to its network of reference, which moves in that territory?”[6] He therefore sees a correlation between LBS and the evolution of the transportation methods. Both redefine the local ecclesial community.


[1] Spadaro, Cybertheology: Thinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Matthew is a Masters graduate in Informatics and is currently reading a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology. He has a strong interest in merging the tech field, particularly Artificial Intelligence and Social Media, with theology. He is also in his sixth year of formation at the Archbishop’s Seminary.

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