One of the core propositions of this book is that the word “network” characteristically sums up the nature of the internet and the structure by which it’s affecting society. It’s an interesting proposition, and not one I’d thought about in exactly those terms before.
Of course, the internet is literally a network of devices (and of the people who use those devices), so it technically makes sense, but for most folks, I think that technical infrastructure of the internet operates two or three layers deeper than they function within. Since it is not a part of their daily experience of being online, it seems to me like a strange choice to make such a strong focus at the core of your book. It creates an unnecessary hurdle to overcome because, in addition to developing that model of network theology, you now have to help your readers understand why the network even makes sense in the context of their own lived experience.
This is one of the biggest shortcomings of Networked Theology, in my opinion. The authors clearly know the many angles of their subject matter well — which is especially notable because their work occupies the unique intersection of online connection and theology — but their message is muddled in a failure to understand their audience.
On the one hand, they spend a lot of time detailing the history and terms of media studies as if they are writing to a general audience; on the other hand, they continue to use jargon and an academic style that was often difficult for me to wade through, and I have two degrees in this exact subject matter!
The first half of the book lays a groundwork understanding of media theory, how the internet works, and how theological praxis is being impacted by the increasing use of networked tools. The second half builds on that framework by exploring questions like “Who is my neighbor in an online context?” and “How can Christians use technology responsibly?” Unfortunately, while their responses to those questions are well-formed, they are not particularly novel, and they seem to me to be so abstract as to be mostly unhelpful.
It would have been more useful for them to narrow their focus into a particular area of new media and examine that area’s application to the Church — for example, if they would have considered how Christian communities could use video streaming to enrich their sense of community connectedness. Instead, the broad approach in this book only gives us practical ideas that feel incohesive and difficult to apply.