- A 19-year-old college student races home through the streets of Kiev, Ukraine. He rushes into his flat with an eight millimeter camera under his arm. He flips on the five switches to his home video recorder, CD-Rom player, MacIntosh computer, hard drive and fax machine. The whole room whirs. He begins to “pour” the video tape he just shot onto his CD-Rom disk. Views of a mass baptism of hundreds of young people in the river Dnieper that occurred just an hour earlier are edited. He filters out imperfections in the images. As soon as he edits a 15 minute clip, he dials a phone number in America and transmits the image.
- A 35-year-old lawyer from Bolivia attends a presidential prayer breakfast in Lima, Peru. Two cabinet members – both evangelical Christians – make short speeches on the heritage of Simon Bolivar and the importance of religious liberty. The president signs a document affirming the right of the people of Peru to religious freedom. The document is an amendment to their constitution. All the while the Bolivian lawyer carefully records the event on film.
- A journalism student in South Africa films a political demonstration from her second story apartment balcony in Braamfontein. On the plaza below, thousands of political demonstrators from rival parties shout slogans at each other. Words turn ugly and rocks are thrown. In the center of the street, a young man stands on the edge of a fountain and lifts his voice. Soon the crowds’ foment begins to quell. A supernatural peace pervades the plaza as this man preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- In a mountainous region of north-central mainland China, a group of teenagers sit in a large thatched hut and share a meal. Their fellowship dinner gives way to a time of song, dance and worship of the one true God. They are all poor, but are full of happiness. After an hour of jubilation, the sick people of the village are brought in. They lay hands on them and speak in another language. One woman’s club foot is miraculously transformed into a normal shape. Other people scream and shake violently as the young prayer teams take turns casting out devils. All the while a camera whirs in one corner of the dimly lit hut.
The Fiber-Optics Network
A middle-aged couple sit in their apartment in north central Florida. The phone rings several times exactly at noon and a wall-sized screen only one-half inch thick flashes on. The screen soon divides itself into four sections and shows an image in each quadrant.
Images from China, Ukraine, South Africa and Peru play for a few minutes each and then the screen goes black. The woman sits at a small computer in the corner of the room, clicks the mouse a few times and places each piece of film footage – stored digitally on a CD-Rom superdisk – into a folder on the computer’s desktop. Each image is edited for length.
At five o’clock exactly, the couple stares into three cameras automatically run by a pre-programmed format. The large screen in the background scrolls a script up the wall. As they stare at each quadrant of the screen one camera microphone records their message. They report on five incredible moves of God in countries experiencing a spiritual awakening. No hype is needed; the images speak for themselves.
Unlike many Christian television shows of the ’80s and ’90s, no appeal for money is given. A few hundred faithful subscribers watch the show faithfully each night. The few dollars they pay each month – much in the same way they would tip a newspaper boy – pay not only the couple’s salary but also buy extra cable access. The show is beamed into thousands of other homes for free on thousands of community access stations around the country.
The show is called “Awakenings in the World Today.” Many people are touched by the Holy Spirit just by witnessing these great moves of God.
The Coming Transformation of Media
Does this sound like science fiction to you? It might seem hard to imagine, but – depending on the market and the investments made in technology – this will become reality within five to 10 years. Advances in fiber optics technology – phone lines transmitting light instead of electricity – will enable individuals to transmit larger amounts of information across ultra-thin cables.
Computers will send information in the form of text, graphics, digitalized sound and video across these lines as easily as we now make or phone call or send a fax. Images will be sent instantaneously across the ocean through cable avoiding the cost of satellite transmission. The possibility of transmitting television images from home to home will make every person a television broadcaster.
For the same amount of money that it takes to make a five-minute long distance call, you will be able to “download” hours of continuous video-tape. The information will be compressed so that the actual transmission may take only a few minutes.
CD-Rom super-disks will be developed that can store over 1 million megabytes of information each. Telecomputers will be developed which may put you in touch with anyone in the world face to face. This new ability to send digitalized information will revolutionize every aspect of human life.
Imagine being able to tap into vast resources of information. For a nominal fee you will be able to dial up the Library of Congress and scroll through millions of titles, authors and subjects the same way that you look through card catalogs in local libraries. You will be able to find any book that is in print and order it via telephone line. The entire book will be transmitted through cable and show up on your computer screen. The books you check out will be yours to keep if you choose to store the information. The fee for the copyright will show up on your telephone bill.
Subscribe to your favorite magazine and you will receive not only the usual text, color graphics and photos, but also live video footage, computer animation and a human voice simulator of your choice which is able to read you the articles as the text scrolls up a separate screen. The magazine is less the creation of the publisher than it is networks of information banks which feed digitalized sound, video and other bits of information into your home computer via fiber-optic cable. You will be able to manipulate the feed to choose various types of sight, sound, animation and human voice which will enhance the magazine articles.
Dial another number and choose to view digitalized video from any feature length movie ever recorded. Choose to view an obscure film from the 1930s while your computer automatically transcribes the dialogue on a separate screen and even adds color and music to enhance the action. Choose to view a silent movie from the 1920s and your computer will add voices, color, music, and animation to modernize the film.
Businesses will be revolutionized as well. American, Japanese, German and Russian businessmen will form joint ventures over the phone lines. Multi-screen displays will simulate board meetings and even do the translation work from one language to another. Meeting minutes will be kept by a computerized stenographer. Many businesses in the U.S. will begin to hire more employees on a contract basis. More office workers will base themselves out of their homes saving time on travel, money on office space and clearing up many of our cities traffic problems during rush hour and reducing air pollution.
The biggest changes will come as highly centralized organizations become decentralized. Pyramidal structures will become inverted opening up the way for the average person to become entrepreneurial, self-reliant and individualized. The fiber-optics revolution will further the spread of democracy and free market economics in the whole world.
The top entertainment networks will not be organizations such as CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS. The television networks will not be run by the media elite, but more and more by ordinary people. Soon public television networks will form to produce more viewer supported productions. As people tire of the familiar talking heads of corporate TV, more locally produced shows will become popular nationwide.
We have seen this phenomenon occur on a small scale with cable-TV and satellite transmissions picking up local “superstations” such as Ted Turner’s CNN and local programming that becomes nationally syndicated due to some quirk of mass appeal.
The truth is that the American public is growing tired of television entertainment of the lowest common denominator. Even cable-TV, which offers a wider variety of choices, has not been able to offer a higher quality of programming. That is why we have become deluged by such low appeal listings as Donahue, the Atlanta Braves vs. whomever, Judge Wapner, the Playboy Channel, an aerobics workout, etc. As the fiber-optic network develops, media stars will become less like Ted Turner and more like the characters of Wayne’s World.
Many people who normally despised NBC’s long-running Saturday Night Live show took notice last year when a feature length movie spin-off of a SNL skit grossed $100 million. The premise of Wayne’s World isthat two nerdy, post-teen-but-not-yet-adult, heavy-metal heads do a cable-access talk show from their basement in Aurora, Illinois. Their show is nothing more than youth culture humor in a 10-minute format.
When a TV executive “discovers” Wayne Campbell and his friend Garth, he decides to buy their show for $10,000 and tries to exploit it for its commercial value. But in commercializing the show by employing slick production methods, he destroys its appeal to youth. Soon metal heads and TV execs clash, providing the film’s sole conflict.
The success of Wayne’s World proved that many people will choose something that is unpolished and intelligent over a high budget production that is slick and meaningless. The main reason why Wayne’s World (both the film and the show-within-the-show) was so popular is that it expressed the heart-cry of the baby boomer and younger generation. Today’s youth are tired of TV’s talking heads and want more reality.
As Wayne Campbell says about the TV executive: “Do you ever get the feeling that he isn’t one of us? I mean … it’s as if he wants us to be liked by everybody.”
The nature of mass media is that it gravitates to the lowest common denominator in its demographic search for the “typical viewer.” Meanwhile, people are literally starving for reality. Network executives gear TV shows for mass market appeal and not for quality or artistic value. This is why TV is so homogenized and boring. With the exception of the Public Broadcasting Service, television stifles individual creativity and doesn’t allow truly talented people to gain the spotlight. In order to become successful in any type of mass media, the young professional must first become neutered and domesticated and forced to conform to a centralized, corporate entity.
Renaissance, Reformation, Revolution
The last time a revolution of such a lasting impact occurred was after the invention of moveable type in the 15th century. When Johannes Gutenburg invented the printing press, it supplied the media equipment to set off a cultural revolution in Europe.
But what did Gutenburg produce? Most people know that he printed a copy of the Bible and mistakenly think that this caused a revolution in Europe among the common people. In actuality, this Bible was in Latin and had no relevance to the common man. Gutenburg made his living by the printing of indulgences. A high priced commodity in those days, thousands of Gutenburg’s parchments were sold by unscrupulous monks to the illiterate masses in barter for a supposed absolvence from purgatory.
The Gutenburg revolution actually did not take place until almost a hundred years later when Martin Luther touched off a controversy over his 95 theses. Luther understood the value of the printing press as a medium to reach the common people. Thousands of tracts and pamphlets were distributed by the Lutherans. The Bible was translated into German by Luther himself and this new medium of print in the common language of the the people is what touched off the true revolution.
Like the Christians of the 15th century, our generation has failed to foresee the significance of the fiber-optics network. Until now our use of television as an evangelistic medium has been marred by the scandals of televangelists. Some believe that the effectiveness of television for the evangelical church is over. But our century is similar to Gutenburg’s: it will be the 21st century church that fully utilizes the medium of television.
In any generation there are two types of people who have the means to reach an audience: the Renaissance man and the Reformation man. The Renaissance man is the master of a medium such as art, politics or music. He understands how to hold an audience’s rapt attention. But often, the Renaissance man has no message to communicate. The Reformation man is someone who holds the message. He has the keys to truly revolutionize the world. The problem with the Reformation man is that he often has no audience.
In the middle ages, the Renaissance man would be someone like Michelangelo who painted the Sistine chapel. The Reformation man would be someone like John Hus who was burned at the stake for challenging the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Every so often there appears a rare individual who is combination of each: the Renaissance-Reformation man who both understands his audience and has a message to communicate. Such a man was Martin Luther. He not only had a message as a reformer, but was also a radical innovator of the media. He was a pioneer of a new type of multi-media which combined the skills of the orator, writer, printer, artist and musician. Luther was a true Renaissance man, but he was also the Reformation man. It is this explosive combination that produces a revolution that can change the world.
In our generation the Renaissance man would be a late night comedian like Jay Leno who has mass appeal but no serious message. The Reformation man would be an evangelist like Jerry Falwell, who has a message but no mass appeal outside of his own following.
We are still waiting in our generation for some of these rare individuals to appear who have a revolutionary message to solve many of the world’s problems. These men and women will also relate to their generation in a relevant way. Instead of mimicking the same slick methods of network television, this new breed of Christians will be the pioneers in the new medium of fiber-optics. They will utilize every new technology available to bring forth their prophetic message.
The people who are chosen for this time will be revolutionaries. Those who are destined by God to be a part of this movement will be on the vanguard of a new era of renaissance, reformation and revolution.