This weekend its Greenbelt or #gb16 as its known, for those of us at the alternative Greenbelt its the #notgb16 festival, where we can through the virtue of twitter receive in our timeline – and retweeted by other attendees, snippets and highlights of the inspiration they have from the conference halls, tents and stages of the weekend. Its the same for all of the conferences during the year- especially in the week after easter rush of them (cant christians just go on holiday??) , there’s times on a monday that i head to work and have to remind myself that i actually wasn’t at the #suchandsuch conference for the weekend, it just felt like i was.
And from the comfort of my lounge, not in a muddy tent, or clinical conference hotel, i can relive the best moments from the festival that all my carefully selected twitter followers want to tell me.
Its a bit like the difference between actually going to a football match for the whole 90 + minutes, and just watching the highlights on Match of the Day (or the football league show)- all carefully edited to 3 minutes of goal mouth action, and if there isnt this in a 0-0 draw, the corners and a stray mouse that ran onto the pitch. And not unlike match of the day, this too now has the benefit of twitter (#motd), so that people can join in a conversation, about people having a conversation on TV about highlights of football matches, that theyve only seen on a TV in studio, only the commentators are actually at the matches, and they dont participate in the analysis.
So, as the meat and drink of #gb starts for the weekend, mobile phone signal & 4g will dictate the flood of twitter conversations- either to the audience watching on from outside, or internal communication on the site.
What Twitter does to a conference is broaden its audience, albeit it is able to speak to those who dont attend, and have influence amongst the friends and followers of those attending, in almost real time, yes it means the post greenbelt/springharvest/soul survivor ‘debrief’ need not happen, and the mystery is somewhat gone ‘yes we saw the picture on twitter’ , but real time audience brings watching world into the live performance. Or it does at the discretion of the present guests. Though its hardly warts’n’all – very few tweets from conferences include stories of preachers drinking their water, or the blissful time moving from room to room, they are the projected highlights in the main.
What does it mean to be active in the process of communicating – or as words carry actions- performing to the watching world? words and actions from the conference stage are replicated through another. How does the thought of a wider audience shape the story we project to it – does this mean that everything is a missional endeavour online?
In a way, the guest is not invited to the conference to be in and amongst it, they are receivers of its communication – they are spoken to – (and can communicate back) – but they are not participants who can affect changes in the performance – merely watchers and commentators of the social reality projected through the language. The live performance of the church is a truly interactive one – for those present in the local setting, where the local audience becomes part of the performance. Watchers on are to be intrigued and brought into the drama as it continually unfolds in its scenes.