Eugene Gan. Infinite Bandwith. Encountering Christ in the Media. Emmaus Road 2010.
What does this book offer that is lacking in recent publications about the relationship between Christians and the media?
Perhaps the good deal of practical wisdom in less than 150 pages. Many works have already been written on the relationship between the way of living out one’s faith and the means of communication. However, this one offers a fresh perspective because it integrates some principles offered in Church documents with the way of personally living out the virtues in the context of global media; and, it includes sound criteria for educating children.
Eugene Gan, Associate Professor for Interactive Media at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (USA) writes from an explicitly Christian viewpoint. The book is geared towards his students and supported by Church official texts. However it provides a valid ethical orientation for those of different religious beliefs because it essentially proposes a series of keys for media users to live out the virtues.
Gan identifies seven keys for living a relationship with the media, taking the different dimensions of the person into account: balance, attitude awareness, the dignity of the human person, truth-filled, inspiring, skillfully developed, motivation by and relevant to experience. The book focuses on explaining each one of these concepts so that they are presented as means for anyone to live out this relationship with the media in an adequate and enriching manner.
Each chapter describes the key concept and its application in five phases: pray, research, ask questions, integrate, and pass it on. The author’s proposals endeavor to explain that, in order to live properly, it is not enough to simply know where good can be found or what the general criteria for acting are. The passions and difficulties to living out one’s faith in a given context already exist.
The book emphasizes that it is necessary to rely on the supernatural means (grace, through prayer) in order to live the virtues. The need for certain human resources are also brought to light, such as reflection, a personal examination on one’s habitual connection with the media (time, relationships, aim, content), and last but not least, the active proposal to share this way of life with others. This is why in each phase the author includes a list of questions and guidelines that cover a wide range of topics and may help the reader’s personal experience. What am I looking for with this media? How does this enrich or limit my relationships with others? How is this affecting me? Do I have criteria for selecting films? How is good and evil presented? What media contents can spiritually or morally harm me? Which ones can enrich me?
Ultimately, the idea that penetrates the reasoning behind the whole book is that the means of communications are wonderful and enriching when we “live” them, as common users or professionals, taking into accounts their moral dimension. In other words, one must consider all that develops the potentialities of the human person and leads him to the good, to the truth. The quality of the media- the truth-inspired content- can enhance the growth of the persons who avail of these media, through a proportional and balanced use that knows how to integrate them into other aspects of life. At the moment of deciding to which media we will approach for entertainment or for the activities that we carry out through them, it’s necessary to analyze what is offered and the way in which it perfects or harms people.
From a different perspective and in the media context, the author in some way reminds us of the three sources of the morality of human actions: the object, the intention, and the circumstances. As support for his moral evaluations, he offers citations of the teachings of the Church that are suitable for the world of communications.
Among the possible drawbacks of the book, it can be said that there is a a definite attempt to excessively fit everything into the seven key concepts. There is some forced reasoning or forced relationships created in attempt to assign a virtue to every key, even adding the three theological virtues and the four cardinal virtues. Without a doubt, the book gives some ideas on how to live these virtues in the media context, but at times, it is difficult to capture the relationship that is established between the virtue and its corresponding key. Furthermore, some examples used to illustrate the explanations are excessively centered on cinematographic movies, including some concepts about the representation of good and evil that would require a deeper and more rigorous analysis.
The book is addressed to a vast public, but is especially helpful for scholars and parents because it looks at the media with sympathy, but without naivety. At the same time, it helps one reflect about the role that the means of communication have in ordinary life, proposing some practical ideas that one can live and use to educate others.