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Culture + Technology

I have always had a deep passion for traveling, and the Emerging Media program has helped me form theories and views on how communication differs amongst the various countries I’ve traveled to in the past five years. It’s been a blessing to have guidance in merging these two passions of mine: traveling and online communication.

In May 2012, I visited the underground church in Beijing, China. Though I made several friends on this trip, I have not been able to keep in contact with them due to China’s strict online surveillance policies. Because of the nature of their work, even email is out of the question when it comes to checking in on them…and making sure they are still alive, even. That’s where trust in God comes into play. In May 2015, I journeyed to the heart of Africa and met incredible people, many of whom immediately asked me if I have a facebook…and were shocked when I told them I just deactivated my account. They couldn’t understand why I would get rid of it (and trying to explain the anxiety it brought about seeing my ex having an awesome social life just didn’t transfer well in broken English). This March I will be taking several students to Costa Rica for ten days, and I’m enthusiastic to study how online communication and social media in general impact the people I will meet. And in December, I plan to take another group of women to Cambodia.

The relationship of culture and media is dense, complex, and can even be messy, as David Rowe’s book suggests, but I love studying it. I went to Uganda because one of my readers from my website, theYoungCatholicWoman, simply emailed me and invited me to her house (and to speak at their International Women's Conference). A few months later, a woman in Australia reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in helping to form a women’s ministry in Melbourne. Women from the Philippines, Italy, the Holy Land, and India have contacted me, asking for advice and for prayer. It’s because social media encourages interaction. Tufecki writes in his article, Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships, “Social media allow for such broad and deep conversations *among* the masses, who are reading and sharing rather than being lectured at and advertised to.” I have plans to begin donating a percentage of theYCW’s proceeds to an organization in Cambodia so that when December rolls around and we go to visit those ladies, we will already have a relationship that was forming all year long.

So the cultural impact on media cannot be measured, but it can be compared…and I plan to keep doing just that.


Figure 1 No technology to be found in this classroom! (Photo credit: Carolyn Shields)

Carolyn Shields @cmshields92

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University