Digital Age Seen as Revolutionary

Vatican Aide Says It Changed How People Communicate

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The new technologies of the digital age have not only affected the tools people use to communicate, but it has revolutionized how people share information and ideas, form groups and obtain knowledge, says a Vatican Aide.

Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said this today at the press conference that released Benedict XVI's message for the 43rd World Communications Day. The theme for the day is "New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

He noted that the message was addressed primarily to the "digital generation." He explained this refers to those who use the new technologies "spontaneously and almost intuitively," and have "come of age in the world of computers, mobile telephones, text and instant messaging, blogging, platforms for video content, Internet chat rooms and online social networks."

The changes of the digital age, Monsignor Thighe said, are more than just technological: "They have also revolutionized the culture of communications. They have changed the ways people communicate, the ways they associate and form communities, the ways by which they learn about the world, the ways in which they engage with political and commercial organizations."

He said in the past the media was a one-way process, where the media passed information onto a "passive" audience. "It is clear that today we must understand the audience as more selectively and interactively engaging with a wider range of media.

"The logic of communications has been radically changed -- the focus on the media has been replaced by a concentration on the audience which is increasingly autonomous and deliberative in its consumption of media."

Pitfalls

The Vatican aide said Benedict XVI in his message for World Communications Day "invites all those who engage with the new media to be attentive to the content they are generating, sharing or drawing to the attention of others. It is inviting them to avoid the creation or distribution of words or images that are abusive or lacking in respect for the dignity or worth of other people."

Pointing to some of the pitfalls of the new technologies, Monsignor Tighe said users need to be "prudent" in what they post on the Internet. "Material posted electronically is not easily removed and no one wants to live with a permanent reminder of youthful excesses or ill-advised utterances."

He said the message also points out how the new technologies that aim to keep people connected can be "invasive and demanding," and in a twist of irony can serve to "isolate people from more immediate forms of social interaction with family, friends and colleagues."

Having said that, Monsignor Tighe said the message also focuses on the positive: It "concentrates on the theme of friendship as a point of contact between all people of good will. It celebrates the capacity of the new technologies to foster and support good and healthy relationships and various forms of solidarity.

"It appeals to friendship as a motive to ensure that the new digital world is truly accessible to all. It finds in friendship a shared reference point with all of humanity that grounds the appeal of the message to promote a culture where there is respect for all and where all are invited to search for truth in dialogue."


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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-24885?l=english