Of papers and research

I am, by no means, an expert researcher. Although there are days when I can think of nothing I would rather do than lock myself in a room with an unending pot of coffee and read grammars, articles, commentaries, and other similar works on the Hebrew Bible I have not yet had the opportunity to do that. Indeed, at some point I’d need to come out of my room to talk to students (read: adolescents, read: teenagers) about what I’ve been learning. It would be a truly great existence. However, that isn’t the existence that I have. Not that I mind overmuch. But I digress.

I have just had my paper topic fully approved for my Anthropology course. I will be writing on “Technology’s Interaction with Adolescent Identity.” I realized from the start that the topic was quite broad, but I narrowed it down to three areas – The Internet, Video Games, and Cell Phones. I further subdivided those areas into Social Networking and Instant Messaging, Online Multiplayer Videogames and “local” multiplayer video games. However, I’m finding to my utter and complete horror that there is painfully little research on this topic. There is plenty of research on video game violence. Obviously a lot on adolescent identity. A smidgen on technology and adolescents. But very little connecting these areas. I did find a dissertation from TEDS, and a MA Thesis from Florida Institute of Technology. Also, several dissertations from South Africa. I’ve also found a few books and a couple articles that I actually have access to. I’ve managed to get my hands on three of the books through interlibrary loan.

I do understand that I could just change my paper topic. But I’m actually extremely interested in this topic. So, if anyone out there who happens to read my blog knows of some books, articles, reports, memos, interviews, or anything else that might prove useful to me I’d love to hear about them.

For the record, I’m aware of the following resources:

Digital Generations
by Buckingham and Willett
Cyberkids
by Holloway
The Mobile Connection by Ling

As for articles, I’ve found the following:

  • Journal of Youth Ministry Fall 2002 “Entering Their World: A qualitative look at the changing face of contemporary adolescence” Chapman R. Clark
  • Theological Education Issue 1, 2005 “What Does all this (technology) mean for the Church?”
  • Theological Education Issue 2, 2005″What does all this (technology) mean for the Church? –a response” Michael G. Bausch
  • Journal of Theology for Southern Africa March 2005 “The Church and the Culture of the Networked World” Stuart C. Bate
  • Journal of Youth Ministry Spring 2003 “Identity Formation and the Challenge of Individuation in Youth Ministry” Malan Nel

So, anything not listed above I’d love to hear about.

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A Halo for Youth Ministry

So, over the past week or so there have been several posts in the youth ministry blogosphere that deal with using Halo in youth ministry settings. I decided that I would go ahead and chime in. Before I do however, a few disclaimers – I have yet to play the Halo 3. To be completely honest, I don’t have time. I have played through the campaign for the original Halo, and I’ve spend plenty of hours playing multiplayer. I’ve also played, on occasion, Halo 2 multiplayer. I’m also an avid video game fan.

So, to start, we need to acknowledge that someone’s theology is ultimately going to be a huge deciding factor in playing Halo, or other FPS video games at a church youth event. If one is a committed pacifist than I imagine Halo will be less likely to show up at a youth ministry event. On the other hand if one is not quite that committed to pacifism Halo may be more likely to show up. Theology impacting youth ministry is a good thing. We do need to be consistent, overall, between our theology and our practice.

Moving on from theology specifically, I think Tim (linked above) hits the nail on the head when he says that we need to be consistent across our practices. Playing paintball, laser tag, or T rated FPS games and then bemoaning Halo as “violent” (or worse, something crazy like saying it “teaches people to kill”) and saying that it is not a good game to play at youth seems to me a bit inconsistent – but each person will have to sort that out on their own. Tim goes 2 for 2 when he says that Christian video games are really no alternative.

However, I think Brian, over at Rethinking Youth Ministry, brings up an excellent point. If we are using Halo, or other video games, to attract students we need to be careful. If our youth ministries are going to be cut in half if we stop playing Halo, we have done something wrong. I’ve used video games in the past, and I have used them attractionally. In my present ministry we play Guitar Hero and DDR regularly, and may very well begin playing the first Halo, or one of the worms’ games, at some point in the future. These games aren’t used to attract students so much as they are things we do together, as a community. Some students play, others watch, we talk and have fun together. Some might become nervous with the idea that a game console is helping us form community – but I would make that argument. It’s obviously not the only thing that helps us form a community, and it certainly doesn’t define our community.

So, I would agree with Tim that it’s a gray area. I’d agree with Brian that there’s a problem if students are going to drop out of our ministries if we don’t play Halo. In my own ministry I deal with games like this: if they help bring us together, laughing, having fun, talking, being together that’s great, we’ll use them. If instead they destroy conversation, shut people down, and lead to arguing and bickering, then we won’t use them. Case-in-point: Guitar Hero can sometimes, in our ministry, lead to two people playing who aren’t talking to each other and aren’t interacting with those watching. That needs to change or GH may be coming off our repertoire of normal video games. This is also one of the reasons I’d love to get a Wii for the youth ministry. Mario Strikers Charged, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Wii Sports, these are the kind of games I can see us playing together, laughing with, and talking about afterwards.

Video games used to get students to come = bad idea (IMO)
Video games used to build community = good idea (IMO)