Briggs and Burke seek to bring us into the historical complexities of dialogue and challenge us to communicate effectively. “This book argues that, whatever the starting-point, it is necessary for people working in communication and cultural studies – a still growing number – to take history seriously, as well as for historians – whatever their period and preoccupations – to take serious account of communication, including both communication theory and communication technology.” Communication is not wrought through syntax and structure alone – it is through cultural sensitivity and an understanding of norms, mores and social interaction that one is able to make an impact and evoke influence.
One of the earliest forms of communication was in the form of icons – these images were used to display the Stations of the Cross to convey a message that spoke to those who were illiterate. “…teaching through visual culture was sometimes under assault, and the images were intermittently attacked as idols and destroyed by iconoclasts (image smashers), a movement which reached its climax in the year 726.” Years I ago, I walked through the hallowed halls of Notre Dame – taking in the magnificence and the life-size icons that encircled the sanctuary. I was in utter awe. Each carving told the story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. As I walked through – inches away from these structures – I realized that I was walking with Christ to Calvary – I was experiencing the same angst and awe as I followed the crowded path. It was a moment of worship – a moment that marked my faith. How could history still breathe life into my faith?
As the years progressed, oral communication became the new rage amongst intellectuals, artists, writers and clergy. Debates ensued and the landscape of London was draped in political, religious and social banter. “There were at least 500 coffee houses in London in the age of Queen Anne (reigned 1702-14). They prepared way for ‘clubland’, for the wide range of establishments that catered for different kinds of customer and different kind of topics of conversation.” Years ago, I spent a semester in York, England. The rain pelted on the old windows and the fire roared, but the elevation of conversation was the loudest. The small pub was packed with political discussion, religious debate and academic dialogue – the small pub still held to the assured history of its origin and invited its patrons to come in from the cold and engage in discussion.
Communication evolved over the years and branched out in reach of culture and society. This progression changed much of society’s definition of class and status. Literacy was improving and literature was being written for the common man. Information was offering influence. Superiority stemmed from a different environment – an environment of proletariat labor in exchange for exponential profits. “It was in the United States that the evolutional biological science of Charles Darwin shaped what came to be labeled ‘social Darwinism’. The ‘survival of the fittest’ prevailed in society as well as in nature. Meanwhile, geopolitics, the geography of the state power, as well as science and economics, took shape in Germany.” The quote prior is not to debate the validity of creationism versus evolutionary theory, but to discuss the side-effects of communique advancement. Communication evolves; therefore, it becomes more inclusive and reachable by the masses. This was beneficial to some, but detrimental to others. Technology was painting a rather grim picture for those opposed to Marxism – WWII was fought over power – it was fought over influence – it was fought for sole communication.
Technological advancement and progressive forms of communication shaped the way leadership was established. For the first time, children and factory workers were no longer ignorant to the world around them. They were given the tools to be heard – across the status lines and across the oceans. Radio was giving men and women the opportunity to engage in their community and create change. The authors declare that, “Children had been exploited in the early years of industrialization. Now they were independent, active, and vocal. They held the future not in their heads but in their ears.” The world was becoming intertwined – men and women throughout the world were one – equal in prominence and purpose.
Today, communication is a movement – it is a hashtag filled conversation with viral consequence. A status on Facebook can ignite a march for racial equality. A post on Twitter can form a world-wide debate. A sermon on Sunday can impact millions. “One study of adolescents finds that success in becoming a leader in the online world is less dependent on age and gender than in the offline world and more determined by linguistic skills and the quality of talk.” As ministers, we have the ability to affect change in our own sphere of influence and throughout the world. The technological innovations of travel and transportation allow us to enter into the homes of peasants and kings. This advancement has provided us with the freedom of projecting our voice over the loud speaker; however, many of us are singing off key. Are we speaking their language? Are we engaging in communication? Influence begins with learning the language of one’s audience – the globalized, cultural, diversified audience – one that desperately needs to be engaged in conversation. Ministry seeks to communicate through words and actions – it seeks to show the love of Christ to all humanity. How are we doing?
 Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), 2.
 Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), 7.
 Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), 25.
 Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), 116.
 Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009), 150.
 Justine Cassell, David Huffaker, Dona Tversky, and Kim Ferriman, “The Language of Online Leadership: Gender and Youth Engagement on the Internet,” Developmental Psychology 42, no. 3 (2006): 436-449.