As an elected deputy to General Convention 2012, I get to partake in an interesting exercise in in-box management known as the HoB/D listserv. It’s an email listserv open to all deputies, bishops, and diocesan and Church Center staff (I think).
Thus, many, many people are on this email list. Collectively, General Convention is the second-largest democratic body in the world. (India’s parliament is no.1. We’re no. 2. T-shirts are on order.)
The conversations are great to read, but like many things in these here interwebz, people who read only, and do not post, greatly outnumber those who do post. So most conversations get skewed pretty fast, in my opinion, towards the same few voices who protest.
This week, news broke into general consciousness that several people had been live-tweeting the recent Executive Council meeting. This wasn’t news to those of us on Twitter. But evidently, it’s news to people who aren’t on Twitter, and someone on Exec Council raised a (similarly public) objection.
So for the past two days now, a heated conversation has been flowing forth on the HoB/D listserv on the appropriateness of Twitter in meetings.
I should like to point out the following things:
1.) TWO DAYS. This has been a conversation for TWO DAYS. If the argument is that Twitter distracts from the business at hand, then I doubt you’re making that argument any more cogent by continuing to press it for TWO WHOLE DAYS.
2.) I’m unclear on how tweeting reports of what’s happening is more distracting than taking private notes. And I’m extremely hesitant to launch a blanket accusation of inattention against all committee secretaries. Who would like to go there? Line up, please.
But most importantly!
3.) The argument I keep hearing repeated against Twitter as a source of information is that of bias. Which is entirely true. Twitter reports are biased. It’s one person, or one group of people expressing their take on things.
Right. And now I’d like to introduce you to Rupert Murdoch.
The thing is, this is not at all different from the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Times or Fox News. Or the biases involved in books out of Intervarsity Press or Zondervan. All media is biased. There is no such thing as non-biased media. (Just like there’s no such thing as a impartial narrator. The Great Gatsby should have taught us that.)
The difference is that with Twitter, as with the new social media, there’s a little picture beside the words, with the person’s name, so that you know exactly who’s perspective you’re getting. And with one click, you can get as many different perspectives on the same topic as you want. Presto! Instant variety, instant perspective shift–if you want it.
Of course, that means that no one person/thing has control over the flow of information. Which can be tricky. Information flowing all over the place means that leaders have to justify themselves and their decisions, and explain things so convincingly that people consciously support them. Power suddenly becomes diffuse.
It’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t until the development of Guttenberg’s printing press that the Vatican invented the imprimatur: an official blessing that allowed the book to be printed and read. In 2010, imprimaturs started being applied to iPhone apps as well.
There are ways around this new, diffuse power structure we’re moving into. But they aren’t good ways. And they aren’t Episcopal ways. One of our strengths has been our giant, colorfully democratic method of governance. Now is not the time to sacrifice that.
This is funny. And sad. Really, all conferences have live-tweeting now. It just … is. If there are concerns about bias, church officials can have someone who does an “official” live tweet. I believe those aren’t uncommon, either.
But, really: Oy.