The last reading, for my current D.Min program: New Media,1740-1915 edited by Lisa Gittleman and Geoffrey Pingree brought back memories of my childhood days and my enchantment and captivation with the dozen or so stills that ran at a single time through the Bioscope. The Bioscope man came through the streets on weekends singing the praises of his contraption that he carried around on his shoulders and I couldn’t wait. They were the same pictures every single time and even though he told the same story time after time, I preferred him to the ice cream man who was also doing his rounds at the same time. Following the viewing, I would then dream about going to see the places and the sceneries that aroused my desire for adventure and meet the people whom the Bioscope man introduced to me. It seemed real and it was long ago; however over the years I have seen the fulfilment of many of those dreams and interactions with characters similar to those embedded in my mind. I am sure the bioscope created aspirations and enhanced my expectations that I was not aware of then as a young lad of five.
The book was a good reminder of several realities concerning media. First it brings to light that all media were once new (Pingree 2004, xii). It is only as they are examined from the present in their historical contexts do we understand the significance and extent of the changes in culture, thinking, attitude and behaviour each of these media inventions wrought. The examples the authors provide are very intriguing and varied: they range from those as unusual and peculiar as the Physiognotrace an instrument designed to trace a person’s profile in the form of a silhouette, that the French call physionotrace; and the zograscope, an optical device that converted a flat picture by providing a sense of depth perception that became more of a parlour entertainment during the latter half of the 18th century; and pieces of equipment that we are more familiar with now such as the telegraph, telephone and the phonograph (Media in Transition 2003). Secondly, the book is not just all about descriptions of these contraptions but people’s interaction with them that makes it quite thought provoking and relevant for today; creating a sense of awareness of the meaning and power of media. We come to understand in depth the manner in which media has created and continues do so in greater measure, space for cultural exchange as well as isolation. To simply say that the world of media has come a long way from then would be a gross understatement.
Thirdly, the book is a reminder that media is no longer a source of entertainment alone but an absolute essential. Today’s media, its use, its importance and implications for everyday life is very different. My introduction and initiation to Tumblr, Disqus etc. during the very first session of my D.Min program comes to mind. I remember struggling with it for a while with even a sense of frustration wondering why all of this was needed for a program related to ministry. I have come a long way too in my understanding of the essence of media and the need to embrace it and harness its power for the Kingdom. To remain on the cutting edge of technology and the cutting edge of media is not an option for a leader; now, I believe it is obligatory. Leadership has a lot to do with influence and transformation, I am learning that media has the power to transform and to create the kind of unprecedented and incredible spaces needed in the process of that transformation.
Media in Transition. 2003. http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/new-media-1740-1950 (accessed April 4, 2014).
Lisa Gitelman and Geoffry B. Pingree,ed. New Media,1740-1915. London: The MIT press, 2004.