Books to help you
You may wish to go into Christian communication and media in more depth, perhaps as part of a college course.
John Dyer maintains one of the best listings of mainly recent book titles relating to Christian communication and technology, though some predate the Internet.
This book list below was prepared for the 2004 Lausanne Mission Conference by Wingtai Leung, for their technical discussion group. Note however that Christian media is a fast-changing field, and more recent books are not included here, but are included in our book page and reviewed in our blog.
Books marked an asterisk * will probably be in the library of any seminary offering a media/communication course.
Prices of second-hand books in US are so cheap that it is frequently ordering second-hand for shipment anywhere in the world.
*Old Media New Media: Mass Communications in the Information Age
Longman, New York, 1997
This is an excellent book to explore the impact on traditional media in the emergence of new digital media. The digital media is interactive, hyperlinked, global, with high storage capacity, searchable, malleable etc. These qualities would affect the production process, content layout, and consumption of the traditional media of print and electronic.
Why Narrative? Readings in narrative theology
S Hauerwas and G Jone (Editors)
W B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI., 1989
This is an anthology of articles seminal to the study of narrative theology. It provides the framework of the importance, strength and limitation of communicating truth using narratives.
The Gutenberg Galaxy: The making of typographic man
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967
This is a classic by a media theory master. His thesis is that media technology and communication process would shape our mind and consciousness. This book centers on how the printing press induces linearity within our mind and stimulates logical thinking.
Understanding Media: The extensions of man
MIT, Cambridge, MA., 1971
Another classic by McLuhan, this time he is exploring the media of radio and television in shaping of our mind. Many times we thought that the medium is neutral, the values only depend on the content or message that it contain. McLuhan's asserts that the media forms would influence the audience in a way more powerful than the content or message. In a way the medium becomes the message.
*Hamlet on the Holodeck: The future of narrative in Cyberspace
Free Press, New York, 2000
This is an analytical look at how to tell a good story in the digital age. It first looks at the classics of the past that good narratives went beyond the media form. It then crystallizes the essential characteristics and possibilities opened by the digital and interactive media. Good reference for writing online stories and designing web and CD-ROM narratives.
Vintage, NY, 1995
This is one of the classics written by a pioneer of the digital media. Negroponte pioneered the MIT Media Lab in Boston that featured early works of desktop publishing, virtual reality, animation films, and video streaming. This is a very insightful book on the cultural change of our behaviors and values by the digital media.
Orality and Literacy: The technologizing of the word
T J International, Cornwall, 1982
In the heritage of Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Elizabeth Eisenstein, Walter Ong is exploring how the alphabets affect our thinking, writing, and expression of self. People from an orality culture would relate and think differently from people from a print culture. Communication to visual learners could be different from literate learners.
The Connected Family: Bridging the digital generation gap
Longstreet, Atlanta, 1996
The baby-boomer is the generation in the history of the world that could have more education than their parents. Likewise, the digital generation could be unprecedented in their proficiency in media technology and information seeking. Digital divide exists not only between the rich and the poor, but also between age groups. This is a first look on how to bridge this digital divide within the family.
In Search of Stones
M Scott Peck
Hyperion, New York, 1995
Peck had a unique understanding of the integrity of matter. To him, modern man is over-determining everything, trying to explain everything rationally. However, many things are mystical and mythological. Our human reason has its own limit when it comes to understanding nature, especially beyond the biological and physical aspects.
*Growing up Digital: The rise of the net generation
McGraw-Hill, NY, 1998
This is a quick look at how children brought up in the digital technology would learn, live, buy, entertain, relate etc differently from all the generations before them. This book is a must for any youth workers in the digital age.
The Digital Economy: Promise and peril in the age of networked intelligence
McGraw-Hill, NY, 1996
Don Tapscott has written widely, from object-oriented software architecture to the digital economy. This book is about how the digital technologies revolutionize traditional industries of the media and business. The chapters on print, film, and radio would be valuable to media professionals.
Digital Storytellers: The art of communicating the gospel in worship
L Wilson and J Moore
Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 2002
This book looks at digital communication in the context of church worship. Can we communicate meaningfully to the seekers without too much Christian jargon?
Digital Dilemmas: Ethical issues for online media
Professionals, (Ames: Iowa State Press, 2003
The ethical lissues of online media are seldom discussed systematically. There are issues of honesty and anonymosity, information integrity and pollution, information overload and anxiety, disembodiment of the user and extension of self, flaming and anguish on the net, and other issues. The common danger toward emergent media is either overoptimistic or overpessimistic. In fact each medium has strength and weakness, subject to uses and abuses.
Media Ethics: Cases and moral reasoning
Clifford Christians, et al
Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, MA, 2004
This is a classic of media ethics by a veteran of media criticism. Media ethics can be based on the universal acceptance of human rights. Media ethics include personal use, cultural development, professional ethics of journalism and others. The recent cases of journalistic scandals by the major Western media testify to the importance of media ethics for the future.
*The Humiliation of the Word
W B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1985
Many people are advocating visual learning, using of images and icons for modern communication. Ellul, a French sociologist and theologian, explores the danger of making graven images by the visual culture as forbidden by the Ten Commandment of the Old Testament. He compares the depth and significance of the Word and with the shallow and flashy visual communication. Some people pointed out the visual symbolism in the Bible such as the dove, the cross, and the rainbow, in response to Ellul. However, his warning is still pertinent for today.
*Changing the Mind of Missions: Where have we gone wrong?
InterVarsity, Downers Grove, 2000
This is a Christian classic written by a marketing researcher. Much communication today are missing the target, Christian or otherwise, because we do not understand our audience. This book layouts a psychological profile of the target audience and suggest various media strategies accordingly. Some people found that this is a linear mode of thinking, and communication of the Gospel is like a hyperdemic model of stimulus-response. However, it is worth considering the audience orientation than purely communicator orientation in media efforts.
Building Virtual Communities: Learning and change in cyberspace
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK 2002
Virtual communities could be heaven or hell. Virtual communities can be built among people globally with the same special interest. Build communities in the West and the East have been difficult for many Christian and youth networks. There are key factors such as language, relationship, common interest, and mode of communication. Perhaps the Old Testament Temple is similar to the Cathedral icons. The New Testament synagogue is akin to Christian pulpit. But the pre-Old Testament Garden of Eden has a mode of communication that is more dialogic and communal. Virtual communities are not a new invention in this context.
*Diffusion of Innovations
Free, New York 1995
This is a seminal work on the spreading of new ideas within a society. The new ideas could be agricultural, medical or religious. How people adopt the new ideas differentiate that they are early adopters or laggards. Each of these people groups has certain characteristics. The process of communication could be through opinion leaders or change agents than evenly distributed. The process of decision-making and the influence of the media at various stages of the process is highly insightful. A newer version is titled: Communication of Innovation. Some people found that his model is too linear for social development and transformation mission.
*Post-Modern Pilgrims: first-century passion for the 21st century church
Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN, 2000
Leonard Sweet is a postmodern guru advocating experiential and holistic approaches to Christian ministries, media communication included. This book describes the key factors for post-modern seekers of the Gospel and their religious search. His presentation is quite fragmentary, matching the sound-byte era of popular journalism. Do not expect a systemic thesis on the issue.
The Wired Church: Making media ministry
Abingdon, Nashville, 1999
Wired prayer meetings, wired preaching, wired worship, and wired you know what, has been the trend. Is reality authentic on the virtual media? Are media a threat to Christian authenticity? Can network media be nurtured? The author is an advocate of wired ministries.
Model Specific Reference
Clark, Edinburgh, 1966
This is classic on the subject of interpersonal communication. Do we treat the parties in commune as object or subject? Buber strongly advocated dialogic communication rather than transfer of information and inducing a response.
Questioning the media: A critical introduction
Sage, London, 1995
The media is not only about content and technology. It is also about culture, process, and politics. The production of culture in the form of media is involving many stakeholders, financial backing, power struggle in decision making, and the cultural background for their fruition. This is called ‘supermedia’ by some. The media can also be biased in assumption and presentation, context, and form. Questioning the media heightens our critical sensitivity as media consumers and producers.
*The Technological Society
Vintage, NY, 1964
Another classic from Ellul. His main thesis is that technological society has an inner logic, which he called La Technique, that is everything is technologically determined. Humanity is edged out by the dominance of technique, which will form an autonomous system of its own and permeate every aspect of our society. This is an important book to understand the threat of technology and its pervasiveness.
T J Cornwall International, 1999
Feenberg had written much on critical view of technology. His works include critical examination of feminine technology and communication media. No technology is neutral, all have embedded with values in their design and framing. Any use of the media must be sensitive to that fact.
The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays
Harper & Row, NY, 1977
This is a philosophy of technology. Heidegger could be the first to examine critically the inner logic of technology, the biases of technology and the shaping of our consciousness and values by technologies. Difficult reading but rewarding and insightful.
Hollywood on Stage: playwrights evaluate the cultural Industry
Garland Publishing, NY, 1997
When theatre meets Hollywood film or television, the clash could be between high and low cultures. This book deplores the cultural degradation of Hollywood media and electronic media in general. It is in the tradition of Neil Postman's 'Amusing Ourselves to Death', that the visual media cannot communicate depth. And the performance of Hollywood testified to that. In contrast, the theatre can explore human nature and deep thinking. However, what happened to the rare films Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg, and Lean. Can film and television be entertaining and deeply cultured at the same time?
*The Global Village: Transformations in world life and media in the 21st century
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989
This is another classic from McLuhan, who coined the term 'The Global Village'. He saw that the day would come that we would be equidistant, transcending geographic limitations. That would affect everything we do, we think, and we communicate. If we study human communication, we need to go to these seminal works. Innis, McLuhan, Postman, Eisenstein, and Ong are definitely the pioneers.
*Communication for development in the Third World
Sage Publications, Newbury Park, Calif. 1991
In contrast to linear paradigm of social development by modernity indices such as urbanization, mortality rates, physical health, telecommunication and other hardware construction, Melkote is suggesting more human, social and cultural capitals, before people used these terms. He points to the development of self-determination, social justice, gender equality, economic divide, and other soft-sides of society. Communication for development is a field of study on how communication media and process nurture social development of a region.
Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984
The media has an agenda setting capability. The media shapes the social forum of issues. At an early stage, many views will be presented in the public space. But once a mainstream view is dominating, the minority views will be gradually self-censored. This is what Noelle-Newumann coined the ‘Spiral of Silence’. How could the media present the authentic view of the marginals is very important. Is media reinforcing the status quo or becoming an agent of change?
*Mission as Transformation
Sage Publications, Newbury Park, Calif., 1991
This is a theological anthology on how mission is conceived to be wholesome and mission can be transforming, not only on a personal level, but also on society as a whole. There are many biblical orientations to mission as transformation explored here, including the Kingdom view, eschatological view, healing of Jesus, the prophetic ministry, and the kings and priesthood. Any Christian communication for social impact can learn from this work.
High-Tech Worship? Using presentational technologies wisely
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004
Schultze has been a keen eye on tele-evangelism, youth media culture and now worship technology. In fact such presentation technologies are not high-tech at all. But like all media, they shape our culture and values without we noticing it. Media shape our consciousness, behavior and hence value, by putting limitations to our expression, reasoning, communication, and relational building. Each medium forms its strength and weakness. No medium is neutral. The form affects the content and becomes content itself.
Cyberactivism - Online Activism in Theory & Practice
Ayers & McCaughey
Politics moves online – Campaigning and the Internet
Both look at the campaigning potential of the Web.
Hamlet on the Holodeck – The future of Narrative in Cyberspace
No details available.
Books for scriptwriters
*The Media-wise Family
Chariot Victor, Colorado Springs, Colo., 1998
A handy reference for families seeking choices of media programming and nurture critical viewing.
How the Movie Wars Were Won
An insider's view on the movie business.
*The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis
in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960
This is a classic for dramatic writings for stage and cinema. It analyzes the bone-structure of human characters and how they could be portrayed in drama.
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
Another analytic view of the science and art of screenwriting. This work emphasize on the audience anticipation of screen emotions.
An Empire of Their Own
A close look at the motion picture industry.
No Liberty for License: The
Forgotten Logic of the First Amendment
Spence Publishing Company, Dallas, 1997
Screenwriters and film producers often used the First Amendment to justify their autonomy of creation. However, this book reviews the spirit of the First Amendment to see its framework and boundaries.
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
Another piece of good reference for the screen-writers.
Christ and Culture
H. Richard Niebuhr
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1952
This theological classic suggests six models of relating Christ with culture. A must read.
Making a Good Script Great
Good scripts are evaluated and edited to fit the screen time. The opening and the closing twenty minutes would be the most important screen time in a film.
See No Evil
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1970
A media literacy book.