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The New Media Frontier

As one in the throws of the new media revolution, I was naturally drawn to The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ edited by John Mark Reynolds and Roger Overton and published by Crossway. This book addresses the changing landscape of media from a Christian perspective. In his essay of first thoughts Reynolds defines new media as

any material presented to a person in a digital format that can be cheaply and easily accessed, distributed, stored in a variety of ways, manipulated, and consumed by an average person.

I would make a slight perfection to make it clear that the media need not necessarily be inexpensive to the consumer, though still being “cheap” to access in terms of transmission costs. New media does not require a large budget to produce when compared to traditional media such as television. New media is something anyone using an Internet-connected computer cannot escape. It’s everywhere and it’s impacting the media world and shifting the business models of traditional media companies.

Part one of the book focuses on the landscape of new media. These essays speak of the future of new media and its benefits and drawbacks. Reynolds’ essay on the future of new media is informative and insightful. He lays out the similarities and differences with other technological developments such as the printing press and details his vision for the future.

There is a finite talent pool out there, and the higher the standard, the smaller the pool. There is an ocean of bad blogs, a great lake of decent ones, a pond of [C. S.] Lewis-level talent (if we are lucky), and each generation may produce a cup or two of genius. The good thing about the new media is we will get more, but the bad thing about the new media is that we will get more.

This section also includes introductions to blogging and podcasting. For those familiar with the nuts and bolts of blogging and podcasting, these “beginner toolboxes” will be a little tedious. Regardless, including these sections in the book will be a welcome addition to those new to the field.

Part two of the book moves into engaging new media. David Wayne discusses theological blogging and Mark D. Roberts writes on pastors and blogging. These essays provide insight into how a Christian might best engage these new media. Other essays touch on evangelism, apologetics, teaching, politics, bioethics, and social justice. I found Fred Sanders‘ discussion of the academy and new media to be particularly interesting.

Overall, the prospect of this book is very interesting and the book delivers on many points. However, I wonder if at least for a few of the chapters, a theologically astute reader with the time might better be served by reading several “secular” books on the topic and connecting the theological dots themselves. At any rate, this is a solid book and one those involved in new media should consider reading.

For readers looking for a comprehensive grasp of media ecology, look into Greg Reynolds’ The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures. These titles may also be of interest:

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