Conference Subjects

THE KINDS OF MEDIA OFFERED BY VARIOUS TECHNOLOGIES TODAY (COMMUNICATIVE AND TECHNOLOGICAL):

  • The new media and their characteristics in brief, with particular attention to social networks.
  • Note of the well-known potential dangers (addiction to social networks, ‘privacy in danger’, technical devices and so on).
  • The plurality of languages.

THE PASTORAL ROLE OF THE CHURCH TODAY (FROM A THEOLOGICAL AND COMMUNICATIVE STANDPOINT)

  • Can the new Internet reality replace pastoral care? Given the rapid expansion of digital media in our lives, as well as the increasing length of time that people spend in front of a screen (computer, mobile, tablet), can the Internet become a useful tool for pastoral care?
  • The inter-personal relationship between the pastor and each member of the flock has always been a nexus in the Church. Can this relationship be sustained in the digital environment?
  • Web pages which, in one way or another, are concerned with pastoral care should not be overweening. When pastoral care is enacted via digital media it must be ‘alive’. It must offer ‘life’, not just texts or other things. How can this be achieved?
  • What is the target group that pastoral theology addresses over the Internet? How can we tell if the audience on the Internet is serious or superficial? Is it enough just to be a user surfing the various sites of Orthodox pastoral care? Does it make them ‘serious’ if they simply scan at a glance what has been posted on the various ‘pastoral’ sites, without investigating and studying more carefully and with a proper agenda? How should the creators of a web page concerned with pastoral theology aim at and deal with their readers/visitors?
  • What is the way the ‘message’ is sent and what is the way in which the ‘message’ is received? How far does it depend on the spiritual/ecclesiastical experience of the user?
  • Does the Internet address the brain rather than the heart? Is the Internet a ‘rationalization’ of the pastoral relationship?
  • The digital revolution affects the way we think. Does it also affect the way we ‘believe’?
  • Pastoral care over the Internet from the point of view of science (psychiatry): How is the ‘message’ understood over a digital medium when someone has depression? How does such a sufferer view a site that transmits ‘joy’?
  • Internet Pastoral Service: the beginning of a new Ecclesiology. It would appear that the possibilities for pastoral service and ecclesiastical presence on the Internet are very great indeed. The ways for every local Church to express itself and take action are many and various. The form of the presence of each Church community is different. The motivation, the aims, the inflection, the limitations on expression and appearance are identical in many ways, yet also differ even to a radical extent. But what is common to all of them is their global impact, beyond their local limits. Will there be some form of common coordination within the Orthodox Church, or will everything be left to the discretion of each individual agent who is transmitting the Orthodox voice on the Internet?
  • How will respect for the spiritual limits of each flock be preserved, given the fact that the nature of the Internet eradicates boundaries?
  • Cyber Culture, or, to put it another way, the broader ecosystem of the digital media, is continually expanding and developing. How can Orthodox pastoral care be exercised in an environment which is continually changing?
  • Youth pastoral care through digital media. In what language should we talk to digital natives, young people who were born when the Internet was coming into its own and who are now ~18 years old?
  • How is the notion of ‘virtual reality’ linked to that of ‘virtual sanctity’, a ‘virtual spiritual life’ and ‘virtual relationships’?

PERSON/PERSONA AND THE INTERNET

  • The matter of identity and personality on the Internet has so far been approached by experts mainly from the point of view of authentic expression of self. The discussion has, for the most part, centred on deceptive behavior or a search for the reasons why someone is drawn to presenting a mask rather than their real face.
  • Orthodox theology is, above all, a personal theology linked to the individual’s persona. Every human relationship is viewed as a personal relationship with great depth and spiritual ramifications. The Orthodox spiritual life sets great store by genuine inter-personal relationships.
  • The Internet is a realm where inter-personal relations can be formed and multiplied to an extent that was once unimaginable.

How far can the individual, personal character of the Christian life influence and be influenced by contact with the Internet?

  • Towards an ascetic practice of the Internet. From the beginning it was observed that use of the Internet often tended towards overuse, which became misuse, leading to actions that were harmful to the person as a whole and, in the end, to abuse. In its investigation into the problems, particularly among the young, caused by Internet obsession, psychiatry has noted the dangers of addiction and morbidity. According to the testimony of spiritual fathers and shepherds of the Church, this is also a danger to the spiritual life. There is already an awareness of the need for an ascetic approach to the Internet; one which will not banish it or limit it to any drastic extent, but which will recognize it for what it is and put in place the prerequisites for using it properly and to the best effect.
  • Need for updates, ‘code of conduct’ for users, the creation of ‘an electronic spiritual agenda’, initiated by particular items of news or events of a social nature from everyday life.

The era of “here and now”

The new forms of relationships are, by and large, horizontal and this translates into an absence of ‘fathers’. This is why the Church has engaged in a dialogue with this ‘world’. Every day, the dialogue should begin among ourselves, before any involvement on the part of those to whom the dialogue is addressed.

Continuous use of the new means of mass communication causes people to become fixated with the present, held prisoners in the ‘here and now’. It casts a shadow over the past and the future, which in turn causes time to contract. The Now Generation: life is now. Priority is given to ‘chatting’, immediacy, to a multiplicity of experiences. Fixation with the present affects the value of tradition. Tradition, which is, beyond any question, a category within the Christian faith, is blocked out, as are the prospects for the future, ‘the Last Days, in the Christian faith’.

The Web can contribute towards the construction of our religious perspective in its own way, since it allows people to communicate and keep themselves informed in their own way: when, where and about what they want.

ORTHODOX INTERNET ETHOS

  • The presence of Orthodoxy on the Internet is now more than obvious. The great question remaining, however, is the extent to which the Church can show its ethos over the Web. Not merely to preach it, but to show how it is lived and to influence the ethos of the Internet generally, on the basis of the Church’s principles. The Orthodox Church might perhaps highlight certain principles of Orthodox Internet Ethos as a lode-star for the orientation of others.
  • Respect for the person, simplicity, modesty, joy, love, solidarity, unity, a spirit of community, philanthropy, friendship, spiritual vigilance and sensitivity, and the Philokalia, are only some of the elements of the Orthodox spirit which could go towards the cultivation of an Orthodox Internet ethos. Prejudice and fanaticism, showing off, narcissism, uncritical consumerism, pleasure-seeking, enticement, selfishness, intimidation and exploitation are some of the negatives of the Internet which Orthodox Ethics might focus on, as part of what makes it different, and could provide a prospect for overcoming them

THE BEHAVIOUR AND CHARACTERISTICS OF TODAY’S USER (PROFILES OF THE DIGITAL GENERATION)

  • With the aim of learning how to speak to people today (communicatively and theologically): the social impact of digital media, web 2.0 communities, the creation of our self and the relations between on-line and off-line.
  • How can we educate ourselves towards proper usage of the social networks? Particular attention is required for specific issues. Consider the notion of friendship: what does it mean to have 1,400 friends? What is the difference between a contact and a friend?
  • Social networks were created precisely for enjoyment. This is why you cannot communicate there in conventional ways. People go to social networks to have fun, to chat, to exchange opinions, to meet other people. Naturally, we need to strike a balance. We want to avoid becoming a laughing-stock, by maintaining an objective, serious stance. And we need to take into account the fact that any discussion on social networks is not private: everybody reads it. We should always bear in mind that our messages travel far and wide, not only to our friends and to those who are sympathetic towards us. It is of prime importance to understand the tool properly, if we are to use it to the best advantage.
  • Digital users with digital knowledge are at an advantage: they know how to move around the digital environment naturally and capably, without the need to learn. But they are also at a disadvantage: they have never become acquainted with a different reality and it is difficult for them not to take the other environment for granted.

THE ORTHODOX PRESENCE IN DIGITAL CONVERGENCE: REALITY, EXPERIENCE, GOALS

  • The Church and the need for education of its staff in digital literacy (with the aim of a better understanding of digital media and their uses in pastoral care).
  • There is no need to concern ourselves solely with how and when we should use the cell phone or the Internet. It will be necessary for priests in the future to understand the challenge involved for people using the means of mass communication. Since the digital world is beginning to change the manner in which we think and present ourselves as people, we need to help everyone to understand that, for the creation of our identity, we do not need to depend merely on the emotions and thoughts transmitted by the digital world.
  • The educational role of the Church through the Internet, in assisting people to orientate themselves, interprets, in a critical way, the phenomena of our times and provides the key for a reading of the various situations in which people can find themselves in the new, digital eco-system.
  • How the notion of ‘Virtual Reality’ is linked to the concept of ‘virtual sanctity’, of a ‘virtual spiritual life’ and of ‘virtual relationships’.
  • Editorial strategies for the selection, creation and enrichment of content and services appropriate to Orthodox pastoral care via the Digital Media. Content in relation to common ‘aims’? demographics? spiritual/ecclesiastical experience/ local needs? and so on.
  • How should the editorial teams of a digital medium of Orthodox pastoral care be organized? Roles, responsibilities, attributes and so on. Is there amateur and ‘professional’ pastoral care?
  • Multimedia content: how can the multimedia platforms/potential of the digital media best be used in Internet television dealing with Orthodox pastoral care, photo collections, web radio, podcasts and so on? Might a visitor to a site of Orthodox pastoral care enjoy ‘textual content’ or would it be better for the whole of the pastoral effort to be chanelled through audio-visual material, because of the nature of the digital medium and the experiences of the visitor?
  • Applications of Orthodox pastoral care through smart phones and tablets.
  • The ‘wherever and whenever’ strategy is an opportunity for Orthodox pastoral care. That is access to the content of Orthodox pastoral theology wherever you happen to be, any time and via any medium. Do we have any such examples in digital Orthodox pastoral care?
  • Search engines and ‘discrimination’. Search engines today, especially Google, ‘control’ the way we seek and find information. How can Orthodox pastoral care, via the Internet, improve the ability to ‘discriminate’ , as regards people who use search engines?
  • How can the success of a digital edition or service of Orthodox pastoral care be evaluated? Is it a matter of measurements and analysis of hits? Is it more the degree of user engagement or audience loyalty? Is it those and others besides? And, as a result of the evaluation of the success, how should this be linked (if at all) to any needs/investments regarding improvement of the results?
  • Is there room for a business rationale in terms of evaluating commercial advertising in Orthodox Pastoral Digital Media so that the venture can stand on its own feet and improve, or should it be supported only by donation strategies?

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