The issue of the role of social media in movements dovetails nicely into a lot of my thinking about “online church”. I have long said that there are several avenues INTO Church from online spaces that can and do happen. But the “virtual space” becomes inhabited by the “physical space” as veterans from the physical spaces and events come back in via virtual spaces.
It is this way with churches as much as it is with movements such as Occupy. There is a sense of space and people inhabiting that space that energize the online extensions of that community. This needs to be considered when we consider the meaning of the online church vs the “meatspace church” or “face to face church” (or as some would put it; “real church” – a designaiton I don;t really like that much).
Being at occupation + participating in accompanying social media is strong combo, much more so than exclusively online….the sense of what the movement is like in FTF, electric atmosphere and collaboration comes through to those who have “been there” in the flesh, when they go online, in a way that it cannot to those who are coming in the other way— unless they actually end up coming down and participating in the flesh, and then the online is enhanced in status and experience; as the recall and association kicks in and flavors the online “aura”.
“A collapse of virtual and Physical spaces” is a good way to articulate this. (Max Berger just said that on Net Roots Nation panel entitled “That Won’t Work: What Progressives Can Learn From OWS” )
What many movement organizers and participants will emphasize is that , in addition to “notification” and “meeting info” , online is providing a sense of a mass participation, and a sense of safety in that it becomes a bit less risky (or seems so) due to the group surrounding us and encouraging us to speak up. “Safety in numbers”. But they want us to know that there ARE, actual people and flyers and media and meetings and conversations in face to face space, not simply IDs and avatars and clicks.
I am also encouraged by the integration of video into the Social Media-sphere, re-introducing the element of physical presence (even though only in video), combining or “restoring” the personality and the stories articulated by their conversation. With movements, people are moved by other people, and video and “on the spot” video and even streaming is bringing back some of the lost elements of personal and social communication.