It was very encouraging to see the Vatican represented at this year’s SXSW today. With SXSW being one of the largest gatherings of creative people across the globe, a stated goal of being a “premier destination for discovery”, and a whole track devoted to “Interactive” (think communication and connections) it was great to have Bishop Tighe, who’s the Vatican Secretary for Pontifical Council for Culture, participate along with a few other Catholic media representatives and give a group panel discussion entitled, “Compassionate Disruption: Innovation and the Vatican”.
What I heard was a very compelling discussion and affirmation that the Church is and does need to be online and engage in conversations online just as in the real world. Bishop Tigue stated the Church is on social media to “scatter seeds not to calculate an ROI”. Later he went on to stay that businesses could make a lot of money on the Internet by tapping in to these fundamental human needs:
- The human desire for connectivity. To connect with other fellow human beings.
- The search for and importance of Truth.
- Fill the need for guidance. At some level, all of us need guidance and/or want to be challenged.
- Satisfy the desire for entertainment. Entertainment can lead to a greater sense of wonder.
I was a little confused by the Bishop’s comment on these fundamental human needs from a money making standpoint. Maybe it was because he was attending a conference that’s primarily about entrepreneurship, creativity, and business startups. I would argue these needs are indeed fundamental human needs and are these are precisely the goals the Church should have online.
Over the past decade, most churches, at least in the US, have went online, however, the majority have done so only in a marketing or content broadcasting way. Our challenge for this new century is follow the current technology trend of a conversational Internet and look to not just post content but rather engage Catholics and seekers online.
I did not hear much in the discussion on innovation and disruption in the Vatican, at the SXSW-level, but I am thrilled to see the direction that we’re headed.