How real can you "virtually" be?


Today, Len Sweet posted a link to this article on Twitter and Facebook about companies that are about to market holographic projection technologies to congregations, particularly those who already have multi-site worship settings where the "preacher" is present via video.
No doubt, some congregations (probably wealthier ones) will start deploying this technology. Others may be left "drooling" to do so if they could gather the funds. And still others would find the whole thing distasteful. 

Within the article and several of the comments that follow it, one of the "running arguments" for it seems to be that technology itself is generally a good thing, though it can be used for bad ends, and so we should use advances in technology where we can to achieve the best ends we can with it. Others in the article make the point that for those already doing 2D projection of the preacher, adding a third dimension only represents an upgrade, and nothing more.

Missing from that kind of argument to start with, though, is a deliberation on the nature of Christian community-- real life, flesh and blood, faces to faces. 

That's a question that, frankly, has some ramifications for those of us who read and write on this blog, or have connections via Facebook, or in email groups. Our communication here and through other 2D communications channels is facilitated electronically. In what ways are we a community if we don't actually see each other's faces? Or as the title of this post suggests, how "real" of a community can we "virtually" be-- especially if virtual is the only connection we have with each other?

For those of you who have gathered at either or both of the emergingumc events since 2007, and so have become, if only temporarily, a kind of face to face community-- how do those experiences of being face to face compare with or enrich (or even have no bearing on!) the kind of community you experience as readers or writers of this blog? Or in other venues where your primary contacts are "virtual" and possibly asynchronous, as opposed to real time in flesh and blood?

What is gained? What is lost?

Much to ponder-- and to discuss!

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards