Formation to communication

by coelho  

Robert Pen is participating in a meeting organized by the Salesian Social Communications Department in Rome. The meeting will be held at Hyderabad, and will unfold in three sessions: formation, information and production. Robert is due to speak on formation to social communication. We went through what GC26 has to say on the topic. Two major ideas emerged, reading GC26:

1. What is the meaning of forming Salesians to social communication? What might it mean to really prepare people for social communication? - The great temptation is to think that we have to prepare the hodmen: the experts in filming, shooting, camera work, etc. A step up is to think that we have to prepare those who will manage such people. But the true challenge, I think, is to prepare the people who will do the encoding - the people who will create the messages in the media. I always recall George Plathottam's story about the Asst. Director of the Hindi film Black who spent a few days with George in Gauhati. This man told George: Father, do you know how much reading goes into the making of a film like Black?

So the point is just this: do we want to be consumers of media, or creators of media? It is true that we have moved from a linear culture into an image culture, from the culture of word and reading to the culture of images and audiovisuals. But the point still remains: which side does our vocation call us to be on: the consumers or the creators? Too easily this ambiguity is not addressed when the truism is bandied about that we have moved into an image culture. I remember some Salesian communcations expert sneering at the Rector Major Chavez's letter on social communications because he had invited Salesians to read.

2. The great and endemic danger of the image culture, of course, is that it is at the level of 'experience,' just like all propaganda and advertisement. The aim of any form of communication specialized at this level is to exclude as much as possible any attempt to understand and to critically judge and evaluate. After all, the aim is to make you buy without too much reflection. The aim is to sway your opinions without too much of critical evaluation. So this is yet another ambiguity in the 'we have shifted to an image culture' thing. The Salesian educator has to keep firmly in mind that he is called to exercise, and to help young people exercise, a critical function w.r.t. media and everything else. Is that not, after all, the aim of all media education?

If the point about creators rather than consumers of culture is taken, the question naturally arises: what do we want to communicate? Here the great danger is that communicators are so passionate about communication that they want to simply communicate communication. I think the Salesian educator should be passionate first of all about Jesus Christ and his message! That is the pearl of great price, that is his treasure set in a field. That is the passion of Da mihi animas. That is what should animate and drive all his efforts at communication....

And so, when we ask the question: how should we form Salesian communicators? the answer is clear: primarily in the faith, and then in Salesianity perhaps.

So what is the syllabus of the departments of Social Communication at the Gregoriana and at the Salesian Pontifical University? And at our own NISCORT of the Indian Church outside Delhi? That would be revealing to find out.

Yet another thought is the presence of the Church at the cutting edge of communication technology, and by this I do not mean technology in a narrow sense, but in the broader sense of the innovative movements in, I should say, not only the world of media, but the world in general. Is the Church sufficiently present in the Free and Open Software Movement? Is it present in the many other innovative, and at root deeply evangelical, movements? As Julian Fox was pointing out during the Chapter, many of these movements have either a Leftist base or a Liberal base, and because of this, many Catholics are either turned off by them or else they themselves begin leaning either to the left or to the right. This is another great area to be evangelized then!

Let's hope the Hyderabad meeting takes some solid steps in the right directions.


Mirian Oplinger

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25/02/11 @ 12:51
Spring Buckland

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25/02/11 @ 12:51