July 3, 2017

"POPULAR CULTURE, MEDIA & NEWS"--A SUMMARY OF THE PANEL


Orlando, Florida  #CatholicConvo

Panel: 

Bishop Mark S. Rivituso--auxiliary bishop, St. Louis, MO
Bishop Edward Weisenburger--bishop of Salina, KS
Kathryn Jean Lopez--National Review
Catherine Szeltner--EWTN Pro-life Weekly
Mr. Fran X. Maier--Archdiocese of Philadelphia, former editor of National Catholic Register
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp--Daughters of St. Paul




My thoughts:

WHY I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS TOPIC: 

I not only FELL IN LOVE with the ARTS/MEDIA at a young age, I was also able to see (at a young age) the tremendous power and influence that MEDIA/POP CULTURE had on my life for good and for ill. So it was only natural that I enter the Daughters of St. Paul, because I thought: What better way to BRING GOD DIRECTLY into people's minds and hearts than through a radio program, a TV show, a book, a magazine, a song, a film?

Later, when I discovered the field of MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION, I realized that critical thinking skills, discernment and the Catholic Faith could be applied NOT JUST TO evangelization with media, but to all our daily media experiences: entertainment, information, inspiration, communication, education.


LAYING OUT LANDSCAPE:

--Define "classic culture" vis-a-vis "pop culture"--or simply define "pop culture" for audience. Are both organic to some degree? Are both manufactured to some degree?

--Many (esp. young) have no other intellectual/spiritual in-put or reference other than pop culture. It's their whole world. Therefore: need to inculturate Gospel in pop culture (as well as provide alternative pop culture/media).

--Important to see both light & shadows in pop culture. (Will help BOTH the fearful & the overly-optimistic. UNHELPFUL: Not all happy talk & not all doom & gloom. 

--But the lows are quite low: PORN / family life  & conversation / YouTube horrors / Andrew Sullivan: "I Used To Be Human." / uncivil and vicious professional and citizen journalism news media.

--We need to intelligently & prayerfully engage the pop culture & its adherents.

--Seems to be 2 extremes in Church: media-haters/indifferent who stay away from it, and the obsessed/addicted who use media incessantly with almost no limits or strategies for themselves or their children

--pop culture has become more and more a conduit for ideology and a homogenous/monolithic worldview (e.g., even Bill Nye the Science Guy is teaching "gender theory" as hard-core science. See new Netflix series: "Bill Nye Saves the World.")\

--philosophical climate which influences pop culture: postmodernism/relativism/subjectivism/deconstructionism/feeling vs. thinking/scientism (scientific truth is the only kind of truth): concept of "charity" is individual rights based on feelings (feelings are absolute)

--news is anything but objective, but rather polarized, agenda-ized, partisan. "Fake news," purposefully inaccurate reporting is the norm (furthering one's "side" passes for "news")

--SHADOWS: content=mainstreaming of porn, violence and torture as entertainment and other anti-human, anti-sex, anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-life "narratives" are par for the course; usage=family life suffering due to incessant use of devices (media content & devices as family life disruptors--who's really raising/forming youth?)

--LIGHTS: content=there are still many messages of truth, beauty & goodness that come through the pop culture because we are made in God's image and it's in us as human beings to aspire to authenticity and to recognize it when we see/hear it; usage=if quality not quantity, discernment & self-discipline is employed, individuals and families can use media optimally.(This, of course, requires a prior Christian, incarnational, sacramental, embodied worldview.)

EXAMINING THE ("EXISTENTIAL") PERIPHERIES:

--pop culture is often a highly-individualized-24/7-secret-hidden-online-device-world where youth and adults are formed. New media doesn't play by old media rules. It's the wild, wild, West (e.g., Netflix series on teen suicide "13 Reasons Why" ditched suicide-reporting protocol and showed a full-on, DIY, how-to graphic suicide...even against the advice of youth experts).

--young people seek answers, identities in cyberspace from "tribes," both positive and negative: groups that share similar interests in arts, sports, science, etc., or anorexia groups, self-harm sites, sexual identity sites, porn sites. Often these virtual loci, friendships and alliances predominate over IRL (in real life) parents, counselors, faith communities--often in virtue of sheer time spent with them.

"Today it's almost as though we have a third party raising our youth: YouTube. When young people want to know something or have a problem, they turn to YouTube where they can get 'guidance' from other young people (or adults) who have produced professional or non-professional videos--often just people talking into webcams for hours on end. It can be a kind of 'interference' with youth development which used to be guided by the parents, older siblings, relatives, counselors, trusted adults, teachers, the faith community, etc., around them." --Fr. Phil Bochanski, Courage Int'l

WHAT'S STILL MISSING:

--critical thinking skills, logic, philosophy (which used to be taught in high school) are usually completely absent from young people's education. Thinking comes naturally, reasoning must be taught. If it is not taught, young people are susceptible to ideas that "sound good," without being able to critically discern them because they have not been given the tools

--Media Literacy (the Church's official stance toward media since 1992 with the Church document "Aetatis Novae") and includes News Literacy needs also to be taught at all levels. There are fine organizations specializing in both ML & NL.

--"MEDIA"=content, tech, culture, institutions, audiences. HOW WE CHOOSE TO USE FORMS THE CULTURE, FORMS US. IT'S UP TO US. WE ARE IN CHARGE.

"There are those who let themselves be dragged by the current. Others use media in edification &
 joy."--Alberione

--to QUESTION MEDIA (one of the most basic tenets of ML) automatically & immediately empowers media users (esp. youth)

--John Paul II's comprehensive "Love and Responsibility" and "Theology of the Body" needs to be taught systematically everywhere in the Church. It is the best, most "adequate anthropology" for our times to impart an understanding of the dignity of the human person, human love, human sexuality, relationships, beauty, the body, etc. It's breadth and vision is attractive and appealing, takes into account and dialogues with the reality of the ever-morphing Sexual Revolution. TOB also gives us a lens with which to view pop culture/media.

--Theology of the Body also dovetails with how we choose to use media devices. Bodies are not optional. We cannot choose to live pretty much 24/7 in a virtual world. We have to make the hard choices of when and where to unplug. The time for media devices is not 24/7. "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." --Ecclesiastes 3. As a teen said (when asked to develop a media strategy to use media optimally): "Maybe we can use media better by starting to use it less."

--Is some of our media use today actually not "human"?

--parents and families need so much more help in the above three areas than they are currently receiving in the Church. Parents aren't able to form their children in these areas if they don't have the everyday knowledge/skills themselves.


CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES:

--young people misled and confused by pop culture/media/news messages

--young people losing ability to read/write/comprehend written & spoken word (meager vocabularies)

--young people losing ability to express themselves through written/spoken word (University where, in person, face to face, counselors must let students text their answers during sessions because they express themselves best through non-verbal, tech-mediated communication)

--emoji/sticker/GIF culture replacing even few and simple words (texting). It seems communication has been reduced to that most popular emoji: a face that's laughing and crying at the same time because we're just so emotional and so confused. :) 



--in our post-literate times, the return to a visual/audio culture (as in Middle Ages) has opportunities/advantages and gives a new life to images/art/film/music and requires us to be visually literate and use these means more than ever for the Gospel

--with the new media (digital devices, internet, desktop publishing, social media, podcasting, YouTube, etc.), every individual has a potential worldwide platform

--the media itself can be an instrument to restore/establish/enhance the divine order in Creation and society 

"Do to all the charity of the Truth." --Alberione

"Accept nothing as truth if it does not have charity. Accept nothing as charity if it does not include truth." --Edith Stein

WHAT'S WORKING:

--Catholic media* and alternative media and alternative news that is up to the production values, aesthetics, professionalism and other quality-factors of secular media (e.g., LifeTeen has excellent media productions/graphics/social media outreach that is fun and appealing). (EG #14--evangelization is spreading a "banquet')

--Various models/programs taken from "pop culture," Evangelical models, good business practices, etc., can successfully be integrated in ministry with much fruit if they are not ends in themselves, hollowed out of substance. Fr. Rolheiser's book: "Secularity & the Gospel" talks about the Church needed to imitate the "energy of the streets," but I think the street has its own energy & all what's needed in the Church is passion for what and Who we love, not simply to see what the world/culture is doing and try to create imitations.

--There are many fine alternative (Catholic and otherwise) media and news outlets: Ascension Press (Bible & TOB teaching series, YouTubes: "Ascension Press presents"), Spirit Juice Studios (high quality film production for the Church), Relevant Radio (24hr Catholic talk shows, teaching, news & news literacy, also a killer app), Lighthouse Media CDs. Other Catholic media/news outlets can learn from those doing it right/well.

--Science today is rapidly confirming everything God, the Bible, the Church ever taught is good/bad for our spiritual (including relationships, happiness) and physical health.
Vicki Thorn (foundress of Project Rachel) is doing "The Biology of the Theology of the Body"--exposing the harmony of scientific truths and Church teaching. Scientific and other stats could be used much more and to great benefit in our Catholic media content. (#EG 50 & 51--studies, data and stats also need "evangelical discernment")

--prayer specifically for media creators/media/media users

_____
*There also seems to be a kind of "officialdom" Catholic MSM and an unofficial, independent kind of "alternative Catholic" media.







Thoughts of other panelists and audience:

--The schools (elementary and high) are all going digital, teaching through online programs, software, curricula, etc. How is the Church teaching this way?


--The human teacher can never be replaced.


--The role of the teacher--now that students have so much information at their fingertips through the internet and digital media--is to help students find and construct meaning in it all.


--We all know the news media can be "echo chambers": feeding us only the news we want to hear and from a perspective we already agree with. Are we doing this in the Church also? We should be accessing a breadth of Catholic news and perspectives.


--Everything we're talking about today will be obsolete in 10 years. VR and A.I. ARE coming. We need to teach our kids to code. 


--Anything that is bad (in the pop culture) for humanity as a whole should be resisted by the Church. We don't have to just go along. In fact, we have an obligation to resist.


--In our Catholic school system, we don't have STEM, we have STREAM: Science, Tech, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math--in order to blend some humanities in. (Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Buffalo)


--I make all my staff read "Communio et Progressio." The document really holds up through the years and outlines what we need to be doing as Catholics in media.


--I get so caught up in worrying about having the exact right tech and latest tech, and sometimes forget that it's all in service of the message. I forget to spend as much time on the message!


--The joy of the Gospel is the Incarnation! God became man! People want to know their VALUE.


--The joy of the Gospel is the truth of the Gospel, but we Catholics are often so, so afraid to say what we know to be true.


--In-depth discourse, words and print formed our political system. If we lose facility with words and create only oversimplified messages, what will happen? So much of what passes for news in the 24hr news cycle is not important, not really newsworthy. It's white noise to anesthetize us from the hard work of thinking and relating. Laugh tracks on sitcoms condition us to react, to accept certain things as funny, as normal.


--To be human means we're gonna die. The most limited resource we have is time. Our lives our made of time. We need to be in command of our time in so many different ways.


--Periodic unplugging is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. But it's necessary in order to regain control of our lives.


--A good word was put in for the excellent Christianity & culture audio magazine: www.marshillaudio.org  :)


_______________________________________________________________________

I WAS ASKED 3 QUESTIONS FOR AN ARTICLE ABOUT THE CONVOCATION. HERE ARE MY RESPONSES:


1) WHAT INSPIRED YOU THE MOST FROM BEING A DELEGATE TO THE CONVOCATION?
I was most inspired by the hope and the optimistic attitude of all the participants at the Convocation. Everyone came with a kind of eagerness and joy and a spirit of celebration (there were lots of devotional events: a Eucharistic procession, rosary, Confessions, etc.).  We were all wanting to learn from each other and meet new and old friends, explore each other's ministries (there were lots of booths). Since the Convocation was "invitation only"--it simply meant that everyone there was already long-involved in ministry--and such diverse ministries! By sharing our life experience, struggles and "best practices" very frankly and openly, we were able to hear different perspectives and even do some "problem-solving" together.
2) WHAT WERE YOU ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVOCATION AS A DAUGHTER OF ST. PAUL?
My panel was "Media, Pop Culture and News," which is truly our field as Daughters of St. Paul, so I put forth various tenets of Media Literacy, a Pauline approach to media, and some newer reflections. But I also contributed to various conundrums regarding media (e.g., "What is the role of online/digital learning in catechesis?")  I noticed conflicting attitudes in both panelists and audience members with regard to the question: "What is a truly human/Christian use of the newest media and media technology?" Some were more hesitant to engage "new" media, and felt its engagement should be minimal with a stress on "old media," others believed we should barrel ahead and imitate exactly what the culture is doing, with hardly any human/Christian considerations. New media technology are not just "tools" but a culture in themselves (depending on how we choose to use them). Some new media technologies are so vastly different from what has come before, and so transformative of the human body/human interactions, that they are different qualitatively--and are not just "the next stage of media tools."

I was able to use some Pauline and Alberionian principles to guide the discussion: "Some let themselves be dragged by the current. Others use media in edification and joy." "Our media should be worthy in form of the truths which they contain." "Do to all the charity of the truth." "Everything is our and we are Christ's and Christ is God's" (make media work for us and not against us) --St. Paul.
3) WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE CONVOCATION AS AN ACTION PLAN?
I have resolved to work more actively on resolving some of my own conundrums regarding Media Literacy, and the future of media. For example, some younger media professionals in the audience said simply that in ten years everything we're talking about on the panel will be obsolete because everything is going to A.I. (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality--yes, the headsets) and that the Church should be investing resources in these. Other panelists felt certain things should be resisted by the Church if they are not optimally "human" use of technology.
Another aspect I realized I need to focus on more in our media evangelization ministry--something we were highly encouraged to do in preparation for the Convocation--is to make use of studies and stats in our data-driven culture. Studies/stats are very convincing to people and can help pinpoint and clarify needs in the Church as well as offer successful solutions (all with what Pope Francis calls "evangelical discernment").
There were many Theology of the Body style references and resources everywhere (implicit and explicit)--and after attending the panel "The Marginalization of Motherhood," I am even more convinced of the urgency of proclaiming the value of the human person, human dignity, and "the whole truth about man,"  as Pope John Paul II outlined so well and in such depth in his Theology of the Body.
_______________________________________________________________________

Here are some articles that I find vitally important to the conversation:

(You may think I am being anti-media-tech here by sharing these particular articles. I am not. I am PRO-using-media-well, and I just don't see that being done in the main.)

"I Used To Be A Human Being" Andrew Sullivan (notice what he says he thinks the Church does/doesn't need to do): http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html 

"Our Age Is Barbaric Because of Our Inability To Communicate" Remi Brague "Civilization has to do with linguistic communication." "Without communication, violence follows." "Civilization has to be conserved...it cannot be taken for granted.." "A deep knowledge of Western culture and tradition is part of...preserving the culture and passing it down to future generations." "The modern view of discarding the past is turning us into barbarians." "What has to be ultimately salvaged is the talking animal that currently doubts its legitimacy." https://www.lumenchristi.org/news/32

"How To Use Social Media Like a Saint" Josh Canning https://canadiancatholic.net/how-use-social-media-saint

"Father Wants To Ban Sale of Smartphones For Children" http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/gadgets/93861681/father-wants-to-ban-sales-of-smartphones-for-children

"Let's Ban Snapchat for Good from Schools (and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)" "Our capitulation to technology has led to the degradation of many human capacities. School boards should not be complicit in inflicting this damage on their students." Sachin Maharaj
https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/05/19/why-schools-should-ban-snapchat-permanently.html


"Unplugged but Connected: Catholic Schools in the Digital Age" "Unfettered access to information is more important outside of class than in it." "The classroom should be a place of conversation." "The identity of a classroom hinges on the relationship between student and teacher...so who should a Catholic teacher be?" "The with many Catholic schools' embrace of the technocratic pitch 'more technology, better education' is that it ignores the central role that encounter must play in a Catholic environment. Quite simply, the interaction between student and screen displaces the interaction between student and teacher, thereby pushing human relationships to the side." 
"A Catholic teacher is one who leads not simply by disseminating information but by being the vessel through which their students come to desire what is true." "What is the goal of Catholic education in the midst of...screens and devices....? It is to keep the human person at the center of our enterprise."
https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/unplugged-connected


"Addicted to Your Phone? You Could Be Hurting Your Kids" https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20170516/282033327124219 

"Kids Feel Unimportant To Cellphone Addicted Parents" http://www.parenting.com/news-break/kids-feel-unimportant-to-cell-phone-addicted-parents

"Boys Online" Study: "I really wish I didn't have to grow up in a time period like now."
http://nationalpost.com/features/boys-online


"Your Phone Is Not Your Boss" "Our brains need a rest, so stay away from your phone for first and last hours of the day." https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20170307/282016147120582

"For Strong Families, Put Away Cell Phone, Shut Off TV" Pope Francis https://zenit.org/articles/pope-at-audience-for-strong-families-put-away-cell-phone-shut-off-tv/

"Detach and Reconnect" Ideas from an Educator
https://www.steds.org/page/news-detail?pk=914864&fromId=179450


"Teens Who Say No To Social Media"
https://www.wsj.com/articles/teens-who-say-no-to-social-media-1472136877 


"The Inward Emptiness of Social Media" Study: Millenials who use social media most frequently were the most likely to be depressed.
https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20160406/281625304452898


"This Is Your Brain on Snail Mail" Ever wonder why you still get tons of paper junk mail? Study: "The brain prefers tactile experiences because that's just how we're wired." 
https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20151103/281689728685019

"Technology and the Language of Bodily Presence" http://www.getprinciples.com/technology-and-the-language-of-bodily-presence/

"50% of Teens Say They Feel Addicted to Their Devices...and 28% Say Their Parents Are, Too"
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/teens-feel-addicted-to-their-advices-but-say-their-parents-are-the-same-way_us_57291f31e4b016f378940715

"Bored, Porned and Alone: Our Children's Counterfeit World"
https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/bored-porned-and-alone-our-childrens-counterfeit-world


"Setting Household Screen Limits: Consistent APA 'Two-Hour-A-Day' Guideline Covers Internet, Texting, TV, Movies and Video Games"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/how-kids-screen-time-guidelines-came-about--and-how-to-enforce-them/2014/03/31/4a394c10-af9f-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html?utm_term=.0cb9ea4ca0b3


"Help Kids/Teens Learn to Control Their Own Screen Time"
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-x-0107-screen-time-keilman-column-20150107-story.html  One Mom has kids do 2 hours of actual reality activity before screen time is allowed. They're often having so much fun that they forget about screen time.


"Huge Difference Between What Brain Allows Children (and Adults!) To Picture When Reading Words vs. Processing Visual Images Already Imagined & Fully Fleshed Out"

http://www.popmatters.com/article/156251-hunger-games-pits-book-gore-vs.-movie-gore/
The brain is good at protecting us when we're reading, allowing us only to imagine what we can handle.Viewing takes that safeguard/option away.

"Beware the Risk of Smartphones and Tablets in Schools"
https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/04/02/beware_the_risks_of_smartphones_and_tablets_in_schools.html


"Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships"
https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=161554

"How Your Smartphone Is Ruining Your Relationship" (Lapierre)
http://time.com/4311202/smartphone-relationship-cell-phone/



"Society has delegated to educators a most important task, the task of conserving the experience of the human race."
--William Chandler Bagley, Director of the School of Education UIUC, 1908



"We live in a Google and Wikipedia society, and if kids need to know something, they can look it up.
We need to teach kids how to think, analyze, conceptualize, problem-solve,
argue the science and defend their ideas."
--Carol Baker, president of the Illinois Science Teachers Association, 2013


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