catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 22 :: 2003.11.21 — 2003.12.04


The art of communication

An interview with Quentin Schultze

What originally sparked your interest in issues of communication?

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family that communicated poorly.
Also, I developed an interest in radio, from shortwave to domestic FM,
which was then in its infancy and a very interesting medium. Originally
I was going to study engineering at college, but I quickly got more
interested in the impact of new technologies than in designing
technology. Of all areas of study, communication is to me among the
most fascinating.

How do you perceive the Internet is changing our habits of
communication? What principles should Christians keep in mind as they
work to be good stewards of the Internet?

Communication is an art, not a science. Knowing how to communicate
well is a matter of experience rather than technique. Each situation is
a bit different. So is every person. Moreover, we all have
personalities, gifts and weaknesses that come into play.

I like the monastic expression: "Speak only if you can improve upon
the silence." This would clean up nearly all of the spam, gossip,
rumor-mongering, egocentric Web sites and the like.

I also think we need to balance high-tech and high-touch
communication in our lives. Speaking and listening well in person to
each other is just as important today as it was before digital media.
So is holding hands, walking together on the beach, taking vacations
with those we love, and so forth. Today many families have a television
set on while they are eating meals. That makes no sense to me, since
mealtimes are among the most important venues we have for getting
reacquainted to one another.

In-person communication is critically important for getting to know
others. And we can love others only as we get to know them as distinct
persons. We don?t love in the abstract, only in the particular.

I noticed on your web site
that you typically respond to e-mail within 24 hours and voice mail
within 48 hours. Do you ever find it necessary to "escape" from these
forms of communication? If so, why and what does that escape look like?

First, I do not use email at my office. When I am on campus I want
to be available to talk with people in person. Second, I do not take a
computer with me when I travel. Nor do I seek out a Net connection
while I am on the road. Again, I focus on the people with whom I am
traveling or on the people that I am serving by speaking to their
group, meeting with them individually, and so forth. Vacations are
computer- and Net-free as well. I do carry a cell phone, but I give the
number only to a few people, mostly family, so they can get in touch
with me as needed.

I believe that in the high-tech world we need to spend time with
nature partly to realize the splendor of God. So my wife and I are
birders both here in Michigan and wherever we have to be when we are on
vacation or on the road together for work. We also love walking through
forests, along rivers, around lakes, and the like.

How did your work designing the new communications center at
Calvin allow you to put into practice some of the communication
principles you've come to realize as true in your career?

I think the greatest challenge in the design of communication
buildings on college or university campuses today is how to create
space that will promote both high-tech production and low-tech
community life. After all, communication is part of who we are as human
beings. We do it without technology every day. Our marriages,
friendships, hospitality, neighborliness and the like all depend on
low-tech communication. With that concept in mind we created such
things as:

  1. Audio and video control rooms that are also classrooms with raised seating.
  2. Small meeting rooms with plenty of natural light and round tables.
  3. An office suite of so-called "open" offices so faculty and staff can interact freely and frequently.
  4. A production floor with windows along the hallways, so visitors and
    other campus people can see production in process, even sit in the
    classroom/control room when productions are in process.
  5. A main lobby with an open classroom (really like a small, round
    auditorium or forum with only partial walls) so students' speeches
    literally take place in the public.
  6. High ceilings so all of the "smart classrooms" can have projectors
    that are virtually invisible during class (hung from the ceilings), and
    screens that are in one of the front corners of each classroom rather
    than in the center (this allows us to use technology tosupport teaching
    rather than replace it).


What have you discovered so far in your research on the use of
presentational technologies in worship? What would you recommend at
this point to congregations who want to be "relevant" by incorporating
technology such as Powerpoint and film clips?

The biggest problem is that many churches are going ahead with
presentational technologies when they don't understand worship. They
need to know both how the technology works best and how to use it
wisely within the context of good and fitting worship. This is not a
one-size-fits-all issue, but instead an issue of each congregation
understanding its approach to worship, its place in the wider church,
its own anchor in a particular Christian tradition, and the biblical
basis for worship. My task has been to explain both technology and
worship, including how they should be related to each other in good

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