The Washington Post

Where new media and religion meet

Pope Benedict XVI uses a tablet in his private office at the Vatican on June 28, 2011 to launch a new Web site making it easier to access all Vatican news online. (HO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Religion has been getting an upgrade — digitally speaking.

The Pope has sent his first Tweet, and there are any number of religion-themed applications available for download (for free and at cost). However, a new social media application, The Table, may lead to an even greater engagement by Christian Church attendees online, as well as other communities should the start-up choose to expand its scope.

The Table was created to cut down on anonymity, according to an Oct. 11 report by Venture Beat’s Jolie O’Dell. Attendees of larger churches can easily come and go without making community-building connections within the organization. The Table draws on the underlying principles of existing social media platforms, with a few tweaks in order to increase users’ personal accountability.

“The call to extend church community online has as much to do with where we’ve been as it does with where we’re going,” says the narrator on the company’s promotional video. The video goes on to explain that the platform is “about group interaction, not self expression; sharing not broadcasting; openness, not limitations; being personal, not anonymous; intimate, not public; physical, not virtual; local, not global.” The company describes The Table as “a gift, not a product.” While the platform is currently being offered to Christian churches free of charge, the company, according to Venture Beat, is working on a pay-to-play code licensing and customization for other organizations.

The arrival of The Table comes as Twitter begins to reach out more actively to the religious community, according to an Oct. 7 report by Sarah Pulliam Bailey for Christianity Today. The outreach program is happening in light of difficulties religious groups have had with other media companies, including Google and Apple. Pulliam Bailey interviewed Twitter’s social innovation chief, Claire Diaz Ortiz, who called content generated by some religious leaders “incredible,” going on to say that the content they generated had “high engagement rates.” Diaz Ortiz also said that one of her goals was to increase Twitter engagement among religious groups by reducing the number of fraudulent accounts on the social media platform.

(Venture Beat, Christianity Today)

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Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.



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