Sharing files and sharing lives

When speaking of sharing, Spadaro uses the Web 2.0 model. He speaks of the risk of falling into a sort of ideology of the Web. From this model sprouts the reflection of Cybertheology. George gathered four definitions of this term: (i) a theology of the meanings of social communication; (ii) pastoral reflection on how to communicate the Gospel through the Web; (iii) a phenomenological map of the presence of the religious on the Internet; (iv) understanding the Web as a place with spiritual capacities.[1] Back in 2006, these definitions may have made sense but today I do cringe a bit. Unfortunately we are still seeing the Web through the online/offline mind-set, rather than understanding that we are the Web, and the Web is us. Herring offers a set of activities in cyberspace: “theology in”, “theology of” and “theology for.”

”Theology in” collects theological material available on the Web. Again here we are seeing the Web from a very 1.0 mentality, and thinking of the Web as a library of data, rather than a culture. This exercise is more of a data-mining attempt, rather than an anthropological/sociological one. The “theology of” exercise offers a list of theological contributions to the study of cyberspace. What I do not like about this is that cyberspace is still being seen as distinct from the real space. Another very early Web 2.0 mind-set.

The third method, the “theology of” speaks of a collection of places in which one can form theology on the Web. She speaks of forums, sites, mailing lists etc. Again here she runs the risk of seeing the space as a virtual-physical space, where you ‘enter’ a forum, you ‘join’ a mailing list and you ‘browse’ a site. All the activity is done by you, whereas the road to Web 4.0 is showing us that the onus is on the other: it is the other who is revealing to you what you need to know; a quasi-incarnational experience dare I say? The other, who probably knows you as much as you know yourself, (or more), suggests what is good for you through the symbiotic relationship.

I find Formenti’s understanding of Cybertheology as the closest to what I deem this should be. He says that it is the study of theological connotations of techno-science, a ‘theology of technology.’”[2]

In conclusion to this week’s reflection, I would like to propose a deeper understanding of this term. It is the study of intelligent faith as expressed in this post Web 2.0 culture, a culture that doubts the existence of one truth, shuns the biological, and promotes the individualistic egocentric narcissistic utilitarian. Morality is often learned at the school of the symbiotic-semantic web, twice removed from the Aristotelian didactic school of searching for the good life. Thus, it boils down to how we can translate the Incarnation in a digital world.

[1] Antonio Spadaro, Cybertheology: Thinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet, 2014, doi:10.5422/fordham/9780823256990.001.0001.

[2] 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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