I had the privilege to present a paper at the Upper-Midwest Regional Conference of the American Academy of Religion last Saturday. The paper, titled “The Use of Digital Media in PAR and the Implications for Leadership in Suburban Congregations” can be viewed here.
The following is an excerpt from the paper regarding two images for leadership and the use of digital media.
Curation and Mediation
The cultivation and use of positive digital holding spaces for the local congregation requires intentional leadership. In the same way that the leader of the PAR process or communicative adult educational spaces must structure holding environments for constructive collaboration, so too must the leader structure the digital environment. I would suggest that this leadership requires two key elements: curation and mediation.
John Roberto argues that the leader of spiritual formation in the digital age must view her or himself as a curator. There is more than enough quality content that already exists on the internet. Many people suffer from content overload and simply don’t know where to look to find good content. I had the unique opportunity to create my own content for the DITB project, however, this skill is not necessary for the leader of digital communicative spaces. Rather, the skill needed is the ability to (1) find quality content through trusted sources, (2) compile this content into an easy-to-navigate digital space, (3) lead people to this content and cultivate communicative opportunities for people to engage the content in their own time and space.
The second element for structuring digital holding spaces is the art of mediation. When people gather in physical spaces for adult learning there is always a risk that someone in the group may distract or disrupt the positive flow of interaction. The teacher’s responsibility is to redirect the disruptive element and seek to regain a constructive tone in the conversation. This is even more true in interactive digital spaces. One of the dangers of the digital communicative environment is the ability for individuals to hide behind the seemingly disembodied anonymity afforded by the medium and allow their normal social restraint to be unfettered. This can often lead to destructive modes of communication. The leader of digital communicative spaces must be as diligent in this regard—perhaps even more-so—than in the physical spaces. The leader is called to steward the power that comes with the role of leader and curb abusive communication. This same power should also be used to guide conversation and construct helpful questions that will open up spaces for intentional, constructive communication to occur for the mutual benefit of the community.
 John Roberto, Faithformation2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation (Naugatuck, CT: LifelongFaith Associates, 2010), Kindle, loc. 2790.