Author: Tony Whittaker, coordinator of Internet Evangelism Day and part of WEC International’s SOON Ministries team in Derby.
“The colour of the world is changing day by day” – Les Miserables
It is mind-blowing to examine the dramatic way that technology is transforming our lives for ever. In the first 50 years of the 20th century, the new engineering arrived: electricity, cars, planes, and sadly, mechanized warfare. Then the second half of the century brought us the new electronic media – radio, TV, tapes and CDs. And finally, affordable home computers, the Internet and ‘go-everywhere’ phones.
An equivalent far-reaching media revolution hit the world 550 years earlier: Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. As books became vastly cheaper and easier to distribute, Western society was transformed. Education, science, the written arts – the Renaissance blossomed. The Bible was unlocked for the masses. The Reformation was enabled. The ministry of the Church was dramatically enhanced and changed. Because it was now easy to codify and distribute concepts and information on paper, the way that people actually thought and communicated – even when not using paper – was transformed too. The West moved from an ‘oral communication culture’  to a ‘print communication culture’.
By about 1950, radio, TV and record-players were increasingly impacting our lives. Communication at a distance was no longer confined to the written word, usually read by one person at a time as an individual experience. It became oral or visual, and was very often a shared experience. However, like print, it was still a one-way linear medium, with the audience as mainly passive consumers. This was the era of the ‘broadcast communication culture’.
The quantum leap came in the last decade of the 20th century. The Web, computers and mobile phones became cheap and mainstream. The speed of adoption of the Web has been faster than any previous medium. Radio took 38 years to achieve the market penetration that TV achieved in 13 years, yet the Internet did it in only four. The ‘digital communication culture’  was upon us. By the end of 2009, researchers claimed that 1.75 billion people were using the Web , and over 3 billion people owned a mobile phone. This is – remarkably – 25% and 50% of the world’s population respectively, with the majority of users outside the West.
Those who grew up with home computers and other electronic gizmos can be regarded as ‘citizens’ of the digital age. To them, digital is natural and instinctive. But over-25 adults came to these things later in life. They are the ‘immigrants’ to the digital world, some of them only occasional, even reluctant, ‘tourists’.
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Evangelism, Mission and that New-Fangled Interweb Thingy
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